How To Set and Achieve Career Goals (With Examples)

Updated February 27, 2023

Career development goals are a way to gain more experience and improve your skills in the workplace. You can set individual goals or collaborate with team members to enhance your skills.

In this article, we discuss why career goals are important and we provide examples you can use to set your own goals.

Why career development goals are important

Career development goals are objectives to improve your skills and motivation. You can combine your personal interests with skills or performance goals to achieve success at work. For example, if you want to expand your computer programming skills and your manager needs help creating a website, you can offer to learn more on the topic to assist.

Setting career development goals encourages skill improvement. You may learn enough to apply for a promotion or you could change careers based on your new abilities. Creating goals to achieve over a set amount of time gives you the initiative to work hard, get motivated and advance in your role.

Career development goals may make your job easier as you become quicker and more productive based on what you learn. Setting professional development goals also shows your manager you are serious about your job and want to continue to excel in it.

Related: Setting Goals To Improve Your Career

How to set goals

As you consider setting your career goals, it’s important to look first at the long-term goal, and then focus on the smaller short-term steps you’ll need to accomplish to meet it.

1. Identify your goal

First, identify what you want to achieve in your career. Goals usually fall into four categories: productivity, efficiency, education or personal development. Do you want to exceed product or service goals? Do you want to focus on speed, accuracy, consistency or time management? Perhaps you want to acquire additional education or skills? Or do you want to improve yourself personally with communication, networking, self-awareness or leadership skills?

2. Outline short-term goals

Determine the short-term goals needed to meet that long-term goal. Consider tasks that will advance your short-term goals and pick activities to prompt forward momentum or a positive behavioral change. Make sure these are tasks you could imagine yourself performing regularly and won't require a drastic change to your normal routine. It's typically easier to employ small, incremental modifications like increasing your ability to focus or improving your productive output.

3. Use the SMART method

The idea of setting goals can be overwhelming, but there are some tools to help you. The SMART method is one of the most common tools. It stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. Basically, ideas are broken down into smaller milestones that can be easily managed. Identify the short-term and long-term steps, then make sure they are measurable so you can track your progress.

Related: How To Write SMART Goals (With Examples

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Examples of career development goals

Here is a list of 10 sample career development goals to help you create your own:

1. Complete a professional certificate or degree

A great career goal is earning a professional certificate or degree that supports career advancement. Continuing education improves your current skills and can help you apply for future promotions or change careers. There are a variety of programs available in different industries, and many institutions offer evening courses to accommodate work schedules.

Depending on the level of education you are looking to acquire, this can act as both a short-term or long-term goal. You could set a short-term goal of completing a four-hour online class or set a longer-term goal of obtaining a master’s degree.

Some employers offer professional development programs to invest in the growth of their employees. Ask your manager or human resources representative if your company has a professional development program so you can continue to learn industry-related skills.

Related: Setting Goals To Improve Your Career

2. Learn how other departments function

Learning how different departments operate can help you contribute more to the company. When you learn how your role affects different departments, you can alter work habits to make another division function smoother. You could make one of your career development goals to schedule a few hours observing each department that works with your team.

Related: Cross-Departmental Collaboration: 12 Tips To Foster It at Work

3. Ask for feedback

Seeking feedback from your manager and team members is a good way to see how others perceive you. You should strive to be a valuable member of the team, so it is helpful to gain insight from those who observe your work to provide constructive feedback to help identify your strengths and determine what skills you should develop.

Consider setting a goal to periodically check in with a few colleagues. When possible, seek feedback from co-workers you have collaborated with from different areas of the business to gain a variety of perspectives.

Related: How To Ask for Feedback

4. Improve performance metrics

Performance metrics are data collected to measure behavior and activities concerning overall performance. Increasing your performance metrics at work can prove how efficient you are.

Examples of metrics to track include how you help to decrease the company’s overall costs and how frequently you deliver projects by their deadlines. You can set both short- and long-term goals. Consider keeping track of your performance metrics to see how you improve over the year.

You can also include positive metrics on your resume, as supportive material to supplement a request for a raise or promotion or highlight them in a job interview.

Related: 13 Employee Performance Metrics and Why They’re Important

5. Apply for a promotion

One way to challenge yourself is to apply for a promotion. This can work as a short-term or long-term goal. Start by identifying the next role in your career progression and assess your qualifications. If you closely meet the requirements and only need to demonstrate additional skills like leadership, this can be a short-term goal. If you find that you need to gain additional skills, education or experience, this can become a long-term goal.

Seeking a position with more responsibility could help you gain new skills and continue to enhance your career. When you are ready for a promotion, make a list of projects you have completed to discuss with your manager and their impact on the business. You could also mention any skills you are excited to learn, such as leading a team.

Related: How To Ask for a Promotion

6. Enhance your networking skills

Improving networking skills increases your chances of improving your business-related knowledge and building a stronger professional network. You can begin networking by talking to new coworkers or speaking with colleagues in other departments.

Another way to network is by attending professional events where you meet new people with similar interests. Networking events can focus on learning more about a new aspect of an industry or focus solely on a specific topic or skill.

Read more: Become a Networking Expert in 7 Steps

7. Develop your communication skills

Delivering and receiving clear information increases work efficiency. Consider setting a career goal to improve your written, interpersonal and verbal communication skills. For example, to improve your verbal communication skills, take a public speaking class that helps you feel more comfortable delivering presentations.

Written communication is another important professional development goal to work toward. Before you send an email, proofread it to confirm that it is clear, free of errors and concise. Enable an automatic spell checker on your web browser so each email you send is more likely to be error-free and professional.

Related: How To Write a Professional Email

8. Work well on a team

Working efficiently on a team shows your supervisor that they can depend on you. If you are currently on a project team, take initiative and organize meetings to discuss your progress. When you attend meetings, make sure to listen to everyone carefully, then offer your opinion. Considering everyone’s ideas can help increase collaboration during a group project. Additionally, you can try to help your coworkers with any challenges or obstacles they might experience.

Read more: 6 Tips for Effective Teamwork

9. Volunteer to learn new technology

It is important to stay current with your industry’s technology. Learning new software or programs related to your field shows that you are willing to embrace new technology and maximize productivity. You could also learn a new technology that helps your team or supervisor. For example, if your manager needs to correct an error on your company’s website, you could learn the basics of a coding language to find the error and fix it.

Related: How To Learn New Skills Quickly and Effectively Step by Step

10. Create a website

One way to develop professionally is to create a personal website. Personal websites can be used to host your professional portfolio, resume, personal mission statement or blog. When you are applying for jobs, send a link to your website for hiring managers to review additional information about projects you’ve completed and specific achievements. You can also include your contact information on your website to expand your professional network.

Read more: 8 Essential Parts of a Great Website

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