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- Elon Musk, Investor & Entrepreneur
6 min read
By Nick Bell

How to set career goals?

Career Guide

If you want to have a successful career, it’s important to have a roadmap of what you’re hoping to achieve in both the short term and the long term. And the best way to establish such a path is by setting goals. A series of well-crafted career goals can help you decide in what direction you want your career to head and identify the steps you’ll need to attain your objective.


You can break your goals down into two broad categories: short-term goals and long-term goals. Generally speaking, short-term goals are more immediate and can be achieved anywhere from six months to three years. Some may take even less time. Long-term goals, on the other hand, might not be realized for three years, five years, or even longer.

Generally speaking, achieving a long-term goal requires bringing several short-term goals to a close. It’s helpful to think of short-term goals as milestones or stepping stones on the path to your long-term goals.


When it comes to setting goals to ensure you stay on-task in your career, it helps to be smart. Or in this case “SMART,” an acronym that can help you approach your goal-oriented plan with precision and focus. SMART stands for:

  • Specific. When writing your goals, avoid being too general or nebulous. Each goal should have concrete, easily recognizable details. Try to write each goal with clear and well-defined objectives.
  • Measurable. If something’s important, measure it. In order to determine a goal’s success, you need to find a way to mark that goal’s progress. This may mean asking quantifiable questions like “how many?” Or “how much?” Or “how long?” Sometimes this means setting smaller goals or milestones within a larger goal. Knowing when each goal is accomplished goes a long way to success.
  • Attainable. You want your goals to be ambitious. At the same time, don’t set yourself up for failure. Make sure your goals are something that you can achieve in the time you’ve established. Think about how you intend to complete each goal and what steps are involved. Is that something that you can actually do?
  • Relevant. Make sure the goal helps you build your career. Each goal you write should help to push your career forward. Make sure your short-term goals build toward your long-term goals. If a goal doesn’t move your career forward or isn’t worth the time it takes to do, take it back to the chalkboard.
  • Timely. All your career goals should happen in a defined period, whether that’s one week, one month, or one year. Setting both a starting date and a completion date helps to create a sense of urgency to move the goal forward. But before establishing a firm end-date, look at all the steps and ask if you’ll encounter any barriers that will prevent you from completing the goal.

Staying positive is another important consideration when writing goals. If you’re in a bad working environment, it can be too easy to let negativity creep into your goals. You’re more inclined to act on a positive goal than a negative one.

Also, your goals should be challenging. You want to push yourself out of your comfort zone a little.

Writing SMART goals is an active process. A good idea is to keep a notebook for just your career goals and refer to it regularly.


Now you’ve got a notebook full of SMART goals that will take your career to the next stage. This isn’t necessarily going to be easy. Achieving your goals takes work and dedication. Here are a few tips to help ensure you reach your goals.

  • Outline the steps. Take the time to think about the steps you need to take in order to complete the goal. Sometimes this might mean one of your short-term goals might help you achieve a long-term goal. Often, this information can be gleaned from the “specific” part of your SMART goal.
  • Keep deadlines. You wrote your deadlines in the “timely” part of your SMART goal. It may also help to write a deadline for each step you list above. And then stick to them. This will help you keep yourself accountable and make sure you attain your goal when you need to.
  • Don’t go it alone. Completing career goals is hard work. It can be easy to let them slide. So it can be helpful to enlist a friend or co-worker who’ll work with you to keep you on task. Sit down with them and discuss your goals, then report back when you’ve moved your goals forward. As a bonus, you can provide the same service for them.
  • The reward system. Human beings are motivated by rewards, so when you complete a step toward completing your goals, give yourself a little present. After all, completing career goals is hard work, and you deserve it.


Staying committed to your goals is a key element in achieving them. You are more likely to succeed in your goal if you think it’s important to your success. If you’re consistently missing your goals, you may need to go back and take a closer look at the steps you’ve outlined. It might be time to re-write that goal to make it more in line with what you want to achieve.


Don’t give up on your goals if you run into roadblocks, and don’t double-down on a goal if it’s just not working out. No plan is perfect, and you will hit some bumps as you travel down your career path. Instead of giving up, go back and modify your goals.

Sometimes this is as simple as updating the time frame. Other times you may realize that what was once an important goal is no longer relevant. If that’s the case, it’s time to let it go and turn your focus toward goals that prioritize success.


Setting career goals is a critical step in mapping out your professional development. Writing good goals requires a little effort, but doing so can really propel you in your career. If you haven’t tried establishing a set of career goals for yourself, there’s no time like right now.

About the author


Co-Founder of Lisnic.com 🔥 & Founder of 12 digital agencies 🎯
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