Why You Should Set Career Goals
It’s important to set career goal so you can determine the steps that can help you get there. It can be overwhelming to consider thousands of possible paths. Having a goal allows you to focus and be accountable. It increases your chances of success. Research has shown that students who have career goals are more likely to persist in their education. That means having a career goal can help you earn a credential that helps you get a good job and manage debt along the way.
The Most Common Types of Career Goals
You can sort career goals into four categories: professional advancement, personal development, educational advancement, and leadership advancement.
Professional goals are about improving your performance at work. They’re goals for getting better at what you do and climbing the ladder to success.
Short-term example: An accountant wants to become more efficient at processing payments. Long-term example: The accountant wants to be promoted to a senior management position.
Personal development goals are objectives that relate to self-improvement. While these goals are often tied to professional advancement, they go beyond your career.
Short-term example: Making more friends at work. Long-term example: Establishing a strong network of other professionals.
Whether you’re still in school or already working toward a professional career, there’s always more to learn. Educational advancement goals revolve around improving your skills through training courses or degree attainment.
Short-term example: A computer programmer wants to learn a new coding language. Long-term example: The computer programmer wants to go back to school to earn a master’s degree in computer science.
These goals are very similar to professional advancement goals, but they focus on attaining positions of leadership and moving up the ranks.
Short-term example: A sous-chef at a restaurant wants to be promoted to head chef. Long-term example: The chef wants to open their own restaurant one day.
How to Identify Career Goals
The following steps can be helpful in identifying your personal career goal:
Step 1: Do a self-assessment.
What does it mean to you to be successful? What’s your dream career? What are your aspirations? What do you imagine your life will look like when you achieve your objectives? Answering these questions and defining what they mean is the first step in your game plan. Take the BigFuture Career Quiz to connect your interests to possible careers.
Step 2: Identify your work values.
What matters to you most in a job? Do you strongly believe in teamwork or are you more of an individual go-getter? Do you want a type of job that keeps you in the public eye, making a difference in the community, or do you prefer something that’s more behind the scenes? Identifying your work values will help you determine if a career choice is right for you.
Step 3: Brainstorm career options.
Once you better understand your interests and values, it’s time to look at your options and identify a career that will make these goals a reality. If you haven’t done so already, head over to BigFuture Career Search to explore more than 900 possible careers.
Let’s say, for example, that your dream job is to be a marine biologist. For you, success might mean working in zoological facility in Miami where you can train dolphins. One option for you, in this example, might be to major in marine biology as an undergrad and spend a summer working at a dolphin research center. Once you’ve identified your career goals, you should explore various paths you can take to reach them.
Step 4: Research your top career choices.
Find detailed occupation descriptions, including salary, demand, and associated skills, in BigFuture Career Search. Once you have a list of possible career choices, do a deeper exploration of possible jobs. Speak to professionals, watch videos, or take classes in the related subject. Try to answer the following questions:
- What does the day-to-day look like for someone working in this field?
- Are the people who enter this field happy with their career choice?
- Is there room for growth?
- Will you need to relocate for this career?
If you want to learn more, see steps 5 and 6.
Step 5: Consider job shadowing.
Job shadowing is a fantastic way to get a firsthand look at what your career will look like. Job shadowing means following and observing an experienced professional in their field. You can learn many new skills while gaining knowledge directly from the source.
Step 6: Discover internships.
Internships are a way to get on-the-job experience in a field. It can be harder to secure an internship in high school, but more opportunities are available to college students. Look at companies or institutions you would love to work for. See if they offer internships. Your counselors or teachers may know of places offering internships and be willing to recommend you for these internships.
Can Your Career Goals Change?
Over time, your interests, values, and skills can change, and your career goals can change with them. Most people will have many jobs in their lifetime, which means that most people’s goals will change. Make sure you check in periodically on how your long-term goals match your current interests and if the steps you’re taking are still in line with what you what to achieve. Many educational experiences can be foundational for multiple careers. For example, studying liberal arts usually improves critical thinking, which is an in-demand skill for many jobs.