Setting Good Career Goals

A new year has started. With this comes the desire to make changes to your life for many people. One of the most effective ways to do this is to set goals – targets that define what you want to achieve at the end of a specific process. Setting good career goals can be done in many areas of your life – your personal life, your finances, or your career, just to name a few. In this article I’ll be outlining the importance and the process of setting good career goals.

Why Should I Set Career Goals?

The reason you should be setting good career goals is so that you are able to achieve satisfaction with your career. There must be a reason why you joined the IT industry. Do you have a certain job title in mind? Do you want to work for a specific company? Do you want to have a certain annual salary? As mentioned in a post on setting long term goals for your IT career, if you don’t know where you’re going, then you won’t know when you get there.

Setting good career goals will help you work out where you want to be, what you need to do to get there, and how long it will take. I like to set both long-term and short-term goals for my career, as well as other areas of my life. For example, my long term goal is to become an experienced IT project manager. Knowing this will help me make choices that align to that goal.

Setting Long Term and Short Term Career Goals

It’s recommended to set both long-term and short-term career goals, because it gives you something to aim for in both the short and long term. Generally, short-term is defined as anything up to three years, and long term is anything greater than three years.

Start by setting long term goals. This should be what your ideal image or picture of your career is when you feel the most satisfied. This is something that you’ll be aiming for in at least three years. It could even be longer than that – it could be five, ten, or twenty years – as long as it’s your own goal. As mentioned above, my long term goal is to become an experienced IT project manager.

Short term goals come next. These are the goals that will allow you to get closer to your long-term goal. They generally have a target date of less than three years. They should align to your long term goal and follow the SMART method mentioned below. Using my example above, a short term goal for me could be to get a junior project management position.

Using both short and long term approaches is an effective method for setting good career goals.

Setting Good Career Goals The SMART Way

One of the most effective ways of setting good career goals is using the SMART method of goal setting. The SMART method is actually an acronym. Each of the letters stands for one part of the goal, and while there are several alternative meanings for each letter, the general message is the same.

  • S – Specific. The goal must be a specific one, as it has more chance of being achieved. It should answer the questions of “who, what, why, when and where”. A goal such as “Get a promotion” is not a specific one. A more specific goal would be “Get promoted to a Senior Network Administrator in my current company”.
  • M – Measurable. The goal you set must be able to be measured, so you know that it is on track and when it is completed. A goal such as “Get a raise” is not very measurable. A more measurable goal is “Get a gross salary raise of $5,000 after my annual review this year”.
  • A – Attainable. The goal needs to be achievable. It needs to be not too easy, but not impossible to get. When you realize that a goal is attainable, then you begin to focus on it more and this gives you the confidence that you need to succeed and achieve the goal. The goal above of getting the $5,000 raise may be attainable – a goal of getting a $50,000 raise most likely wouldn’t be attainable.
  • R – Relevant. A goal must be relevant to you and your career to be effective. It can meet all other criteria, but if it doesn’t provide the satisfaction to you or get you further towards your long-term goal then it isn’t relevant.
  • T – Timely. The goal that you set needs to have a time constraint applied to it. It needs to have a deadline or target date as to when it needs to be achieved. This is done to motivate you, to allow you achieve the goal in the given time frame and move on to the next one. Goals without times are just visions or dreams – they have no set date and therefore no concept of failure. When you set goals, place a time constrain on it – it could be the end of the year, within six months, a specific date in the future. As long as it has a date (which also meets the Attainable criteria) then it is timely.

Setting good career goals, both for the long-term and short-term, should help you advance your career and allow you to focus on what’s important to you. I hope you’ve found this information useful, and I encourage you to set goals for your career if you haven’t done so already!

Do you have any suggestions for setting good career goals?