How to Set Career Goals to Succeed in Your Professional Life

career goals

Well-crafted career goals will guide you as you embark on your professional journey. They guarantee that you will be walking on a defined path that leads to a successful professional life. These will separate you from the hard workers whose efforts are leading nowhere. So, before you jump into the pool of professionals, you must learn how to set goals for your career.

Nevertheless, do not fret if you already got stuck in a job that is no longer giving you a sense of fulfillment. There is still hope for you. You can turn the tables around and jump-start what seems to be a dead-end profession. Or you can also try learning new and lucrative skills that will give you a more stable and high-paying career.

Regardless of what stage you are in your professional journey, you can make your career goals. However, do not get excited too much…yet. To guarantee that you hit your target, take the time to dig deeper into the subject. Learn how to set ambitious goals that you can achieve.

What Are Career Goals

Having a goal for your career is more than just a dream that you wish to come true in the future. They are clearly defined written declarations of a destination you intend to arrive at in your chosen profession.

Moreover, they constitute your plan of execution to attain your desired outcome. That is why you must know how to set your goals. To be able to do this, you must first learn to classify them.

The 3 Types of Time-Based Goals

If you research what types of goals there are, you will be confused by the various results you will get. However, there are 3 main types you need to focus on. These are short-term, mid-term, and long-term career goals.

1. Short-Term Goals

These are goals that you will be able to accomplish in a short period of time, like in a year or less. Because they have a shorter timeline, they are much more easily achieved. They also do not need constant progress evaluation.

However, even if they seem to be the easiest, it does not mean they are less important. Short-term goals are the foundation for achieving long-term ones.

2. Mid-Term Goals

Mid-term goals are set longer than short-term but shorter than long-term goals. Goals with a target completion of 3 to 5 years fall under mid-term goals. Often overlooked, a lot of people failed to take advantage of mid-term goals.

While the short-term goals serve as the foundation of your long-term ones, mid-term goals are what set things in motion. These bridge the gap between your short-term and long-term goals. These goals are something you need to take leverage from.

3. Long-Term Goals

Goals that take a long time to fulfill are classified as long-term goals. Those goals that have a deadline of more than 5 years are long-term goals. They can even include the end goal you set in your professional life.

You need to constantly evaluate and re-evaluate your long-term goals. This is because your priorities change over time. The long-term goals you set 5 years ago might no longer align with your priorities. Thus, they need regular revisions.

How To Identify What Career Goals To Set

Your goals will only have a high chance of completion when they are a perfect fit for you. It is not enough that you set them, you must make sure that you formulate the right ones too. For you to pinpoint the career that suits you best, you need to do some searching internally.

You must look into and analyze the following:

Your Skills

Identify what skills you have and then target goals that are related to them. This will ensure that your career plan is realistic and attainable. Don’t aim to be a world-renowned multi-awarded musician if you are tone-deaf.

Your Strengths

Evaluate what are the things you can do effortlessly. What field in your profession do you excel in? Your strengths will guide you in what direction your career should be heading.

Your Passion

The things that you are most passionate about should be one of the biggest factors in setting your goals. If you are passionate about writing, then pursue a writing career and set goals focused on that. What you do passionately, you do excellently. 

How To Craft SMART Career Goals

crafting SMART goals illustration

How you formulate your professional goals will pave the way for a crystal-clear roadmap to a successful career. So, it is a must that you craft them correctly. Make sure you are on the right track in making and achieving ambitious goals.

Follow these tried and tested SMART goal-setting criteria:


Specify what you want to accomplish. It is not enough that your goal is to be successful. Different people measure success differently. What you consider as a mere stepping stone might just be the very definition of success for someone else.

Moreover, a specifically laid-out goal will help you determine the right course of action to take to attain it. So, make sure you pinpoint your desired outcome and aim for that.


It is best to set a benchmark to gauge your progress. Not doing so is like playing darts without a dartboard. A yardstick will serve as an indicator of whether you are getting close to attaining a specific goal or not. It will help you ascertain what metrics you have to hit to reach your destination.


Setting attainable goals does not equate to you aiming for just the modest ones. Ambitious goals are also attainable. They will just take more extensive efforts to accomplish. Attainable means realistic considering your situation and how tenacious you are. Set your goals high enough to be challenging yet low enough to be achievable.


To be relevant, the goals that you set for your career must reflect what matters to you the most at a given timeline. You must see to it that your goals are related to each other. Consider also if you have the capacity to accomplish them. Make sure you have the resources like time, money, and energy available to accomplish your goals.


The target date of accomplishment is vital in setting your career goals. Establishing a deadline is as paramount as having a clearly defined path. A deadline creates a sense of urgency and drives you to actually take action and keep going. Schedule a specific starting date and a deadline for it, and stick to your calendar.

Useful Tips to Achieve Your Career Goals

The mere thought of achieving your career goals is overwhelming. Even scientists don’t know why there are people who succeed in their career and there are those who remain at the lowest level of the totem pole forever. However, you have a better chance to succeed if you set goals correctly and devise a method that you can diligently follow.

Visualize Victory

Visualization is a powerful tool you can use to motivate yourself. Do not just visualize yourself being successful, imagine the feelings it would give you too. Practice visualizing yourself attaining your career goals regularly, preferably in the morning. This will put you in a positive mood at the beginning of your day and inspire you to persist against adversity.

You can also create a vision board and place it where you will see it constantly. This will serve as a reminder of what all your hard work is for.

Do Not Trust Your Memory

The human brain is very powerful. However, storing all your goals in your memory alone is not advisable. It has been proven time and again that writing down goals increases the chances of attaining them. When you write them down, you can enumerate the detailed steps you will do to achieve them.

Declare Them to Your Circle

Share your goals with a few trusted friends and family members. Once you state your goals to someone else, you are more likely to do whatever it takes to achieve them. This is because now, other people are expecting you to succeed. It would be a great disappointment if you let them down. This is a great inspiration to follow through on your goals.

Celebrate Small Wins

Everyone wants to succeed, but only a few take steps to be successful. That is why taking steps, no matter how small, towards achieving your goals is in itself a victory. So, make sure you give yourself a small treat every time you become one step closer to success. This will sustain your drive to advance one step further and another step after that one and after that one until you succeed.

Be Patient

Professional goals take time to accomplish. That is why patience is a vital quality that you should possess. Patience will help you face the most challenging situations with grace. Furthermore, it takes patience to acquire skills that you need to push forward in achieving your career goals.

Know Your WHY

Cliche but it is true, knowing your WHY gets you moving. Being aware of the reason why you do the things you do gives you clarity. You become more passionate when you know your purpose. It fuels you and pushes you to reach your goals with much enthusiasm.

How To Tell If Your Career Goals Are Bound to Fail

All those who create professional goals expect to succeed in their career. However, there are perfectly sounding career plans that are still doomed to fall in the pit of failure. Fortunately, there are tell-tale signs you can look out for to avoid carving an ill-fated professional path. You need to redesign your career goals if they contain any of the following elements:


Change is the only thing that is permanent in this world, and your professional path is no exception. Expect your goals to fail if they are too rigid. Your goals should be flexible enough to allow for adjustments and realignments when inevitable changes around you happen.


Setting goals for your career is useless if they are not detailed. It is like you are traveling in a perfectly-paved but pitch-black path without any torch at hand. It is either you get lost or trip and fall along the way. This will greatly slow down your ascend to the ladder of success. You might not even reach the top at all.

Extreme Simplicity or Complexity

Anything excess is not good. This is also true with your career plan. Goals that are too simple will not give you that much gratification when accomplished. You might lose the drive halfway through. On the other hand, those that are too complex will exhaust and drain you too much. Keep your goals ambitious but realistic and attainable.

Misalignment with Lifestyle

Your career must align with other aspects of your life. You are inviting failure if you set goals that do not complement your lifestyle. Professional goals that require you to sacrifice other things that matter in your life are less likely to be achieved. As the old saying goes, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

Disregard to Present Job Role

Mapping out exemplary professional goals is a waste if you do not take into account your current job. Do not overly preoccupy yourself with visions of the future to such an extent that you neglect your present situation.

Excelling in your current position will make way for that promotion you are aiming for. If you fail to realize that, you will be walking on a shiny path that leads to nowhere.


Sometimes, you craft goals based on someone else’s unfulfilled ones. Though these kinds of goals might be well-thought-of, it is not completely your own. It is extremely difficult to achieve career goals that do not match your own values, needs, and beliefs.

The Most Vital Element To Achieving Your Professional Goals

No matter how perfectly crafted your professional goals are, they will not be realized if you do not take action. You do not just set goals and then forget about them. That is not how it works. Having faith is good, but do not wait for the world to serve success to you on a silver platter.

You are the most important element to your success. Your dedication, determination, tenacity, hard work, and discipline are some of the keys to accomplishing those well-defined career goals that you set. You hold them all within you. At the end of the day, success (or failure) lies in your hands. You can also read our article about how to choose the right career for you so you can align set your career goals right. Hope this helps!

Angeline Licerio is the blogger behind After working online as a writer and SEO strategist, she decided to start this blog to give advise to people who would like to earn money online. She is also the founder of SEO Tutorials for FREE, a Facebook community that helps aspiring freelancers and SEO specialists to kickstart their work from home journey.

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