The top 9 ways to create and manage career goals – examples and strategies

by Amara Pope
career goals

Career goal examples are important to know when going through an interview process and even when you are 30 years into your career.

When you set out for an interview, one of the first questions the hiring manager will ask you is “what are your career goals?” If you are looking to land the job, whether it be an in-house or remote position, then you better have an answer ready.

Setting your own career goals will also keep you focused and move towards a career path that you design for yourself. With many jobs out there and an increasing number of changes in your day-to-day work environments, within our fast-paced society, it is important to create long term and short term goals for your career. This will help you stay on track and remind you of what you want and what you are working towards.

This article will present the top 9 ways you can create and manage your career goals to help you along a steady path of continued growth and happiness.

1. Find your calling

 Do you roll out of bed and dread the work day ahead?

No matter what stage you are in life, if you don’t love what you do, it will be difficult to stay motivated. In fact, according to recent research, 65% of millennials say that they will look for a job based on how much it fosters personal development, rather than how much it pays.

The first step in creating and managing your career goals is to find the best career for you and figuring out what kind of job makes you happy.


Whether you value pay over personal development or not, setting career goals can help you understand what kind of job you are looking for. Remember that these two are not mutually exclusive, but finding your calling is very important if you want to do something that allows for much personal development.

Quiz time!

Ask yourself these questions to help identity what career path you should follow:

  1. What do you enjoy doing?
    1. What are your hobbies/ passions? What makes you happy?
  2. What are you good at?
    1. What are you naturally talented at doing and what skills have you worked hard to develop?
  3. What role does work play in your work-life balance?
    1. How many hours a day do you prefer to work? Do you have a significant other or family to also care for?
  4. What educational requirements are required for the job you want?
    1. What forms of schooling and skill training have you completed? Have you attended any relevant workshops or conferences?
  5. What are your networking opportunities in this field of work?
    1. Who do you know in the industry? Do you have any friends or family in this field of work?
  6. What challenges you?
    1. What do you find difficult? What skills would you like to develop and what type of work would you like to avoid?
  7. Where do you see yourself in a month, a year, 5 years, 10 years?
    1. What do you want to accomplish now and where do you hope to be in the future? What will it take to complete these short term and log term goals?
  8. What sacrifices are you willing and not willing to make?
    1. What are you willing to give up in order to complete these goals and develop the required skills for this position?

If you are having a hard time, don’t rush. Take some time to think these through. If you are many years into a career that you don’t love or doesn’t excite you, you might even want to consider a career change. This can be scary at first, and a huge step to take, but review the questions above to help you determine what sacrifices you are willing to make.

If you are unsure of how to answer these questions, there a ton of online personality quizzes, and skill assessments online. Some online assessments, like the Myers-Briggs Test, are highly reputable and the results from these tests can even help employers determine whether or not you are a good fit for their team. These tests won’t make all your future decision for you, but they can help point you in the right direction. They may even be a good point of conversation for an interview or a good indicator of who you are to a potential employer.

2. Set aside time for education

 Education isn’t just about hitting the books or going back to school…regardless of what kind of career you decide on, you will need to set aside time to fine-tune your skills and research more about a potential job or career change. Attend workshops or seminars: they can prepare you for an interview, make you more marketable in the workforce, or help you figure out what you want to do.

learning and schooling

You may be required to go back to a traditional education setting like college, law school, and business school, or your new job could also require some sort of trade school and/or apprenticeship. If you are looking to work remotely in the tech world, then you may also need to complete some online training, certificate completion, and/or extended training. There are several online programs for people who desire to become programmers, designers, freelance writers, and more.

No matter what career you decide to pursue, part of your goal setting will include getting the necessary education to help you acquire the necessary skills as well as really stand out in the crowd.

Additionally, as you are setting career goals, remember to weigh the costs against the benefits.

For example, if you are interested in corporate leadership, determine how much it would cost to get an MBA and how much it would increase your earning potential. If the amount is significant, then it may be worthwhile to make the sacrifice.

Furthermore, you may have a passion for art history, but if your career goals include becoming a software developer, it may not make sense to study art history in a college over enrolling in computer courses.

Learning to separate all of your interests between your personal hobbies and work skills are a big part of setting career goals. What skills do you need to develop and what skill sets do you already have for your potential career?

When you set career goals, make sure you match them against your education.

 3. Develop a robust skill set

 You need to stand out amongst the crowd. “How do you do that?”, you ask. Well…when it comes to standing out in a crowd of several talented recruits, what will help you distinguish yourself is the skill set you bring to the table.

For example, let’s say you are a freelance copywriter looking to land higher paying gigs. If an employer sees a handful of equally qualified copywriters, but one candidate brings infographic design, editing, and proofreading skills to the table, then guess who is going to get the job? That’s right—the skilled schmuck who has it all.

stand out among the crowd

Even if you are underqualified in certain areas for a position, your skill set may actually be the reason why you could be chosen instead of someone who has all of the requirements for a position. Maybe you want a sales job with no sales experience, but have a killer portfolio of branding experience and a strong education in related fields like communication studies. Guess what? You might beat out all of the competition with your passion, education, and work experience. So, be the best you can be at whatever it is you are passionate about and continue to build on the skill set you have.

Of course, that may not be true to all positions and some requirements on a job posting may be mandatory. So, as you sit down to make your career goals, take the time to work developing a broad skill set into your plan. Not only will this make you more marketable, but it will also bring you more satisfaction and help you really learn all the ins and outs of your industry.

4. Align your career goals with your life goals

 When talking about setting career goals, it’s silly not to talk about life goals as well. After all, much of what you choose to do with your career will largely depend on what you want to accomplish in other aspects of your life, and vice versa.

There is nothing wrong with working to establish a solid work-life balance.

work-life balance

What is important to know is what that balance means to you, which will depend on what you want in life.

For example, if you have an overwhelming passion for travel, leisurely time, flexibility in your work schedule, then you probably don’t want to opt for a profession like a physician. Why? Because it takes a minimum of 10 years to become a doctor, and once you land a job at a hospital, there are several strenuous demands on your time. If, however, you value science, research, hard work, helping others, and prefer to spend the majority of your days furthering the cause of medical science, then a physician is a great fit for you. It really all depends on what you want your lifestyle to be like, and what your long and short term goals are.

This sentiment applies to all professions. If your life goals demand more flexibility in your schedule, then your career goals could include working remotely and/or building your own business. Similarly, if your life goals include quickly paying off student loans and building a house near your parent, then you can align your career goals and set your sights on a local and high-paying job.

When you align your career and your life goals, you’ll find you are less stressed at home and at work. You will also help to clarify what your expectations are for yourself and lead the type of balanced lifestyle that you want to live.

5. Be clear about your goals

Studies show that the more specific you are with your career goal setting, the more successful you are likely to be. Why? Because when you know exactly what you are working for, you can set metrics for measurement.

Pinpoint exactly what you want to accomplish, how, and by when you can complete them.

You will know exactly what you need to do to hit the goal, and when you have achieved them.

Here are some tips to make sure you are setting clear career goals:

  • Write down what you want to achieve and when you want to achieve it. For example, “I want to become CSS certified in 6 months.”
  • Set up measurable steps for achieving the goal. For example, you may write down registering for your class, enrolling in the class, and the date you will start and complete your CSS class.
  • Track your progress with a calendar or a tracking app.
  • Make sure you are accountable for your progress by creating commitments and tracking fulfillment.
  • Be willing to re-evaluate your goal if you feel like you are off-track or not working towards your ultimate goal.

When your goals are clear, they are easier to manage, which makes it possible to actually reach your long-term career goals.

6. Be realistic when setting a goal

Let’s be frank. If you just graduated from college with a business degree, and are expecting CEO jobs to coming flying right at you, I commend you for your confidence…but make sure you are being realistic here. Rather than shooting for the stars with your goal setting right off the bat, take the time to set short term goals first. That will help you realistically land where you want to be in the future. To ensure that you position yourself to get that CEO job, whether it be in a year or a few years from now, track your goals step by step. You must crawl before you can walk, or walk before you can run young grasshopper.

This is not to say that you won’t eventually become the CEO of a huge company but make sure you break down your goals, step by step, to ensure success and get to where you want to be. Differentiating what are short term and long term goals will help you to think of all of the steps you need to follow to get where you want to be.

For example, if you do want to become a CEO, your goals may include something like graduating from college, landing some awesome internships while you are enrolled in your university, performing well during school, applying to graduate school, networking during school, landing a job with several promotion opportunities, differentiating yourself by initiating cool projects, etc. Those goals are kind of vague, but you get the idea—when setting goals, it’s important to be realistic and take the proper steps to help propel you forward to the next echelon of your long-term career.

7. Challenge yourself

 Why take the easy way out if it’ll bore you?

When setting career goals, make sure you are being realistic, and that you are also challenging yourself. Why? Because it will help you grow in ways that you never thought possible. I am not saying set goals that will make you miserable and continually stressed out but, do something that will help you grow, allow you to learn something new, and maybe even spark new interests.

Here are questions you can ask to make sure the goal you are setting is challenging, yet realistic:

  • Will you get easily bored? VS Will you get burnt out too quickly?
  • Does this goal help keep you focused on an end-result? VS Are you constantly working towards an unattainable future?
  • Do you feel that you live a balanced work/play lifestyle? VS Are you spending too many hours working or twiddling your thumbs?
  • Is this goal measurable? VS Are you unsure of where you are headed or what you have accomplished?
  • Are your short-term goals helping you work towards your long-term goals? VS Are you unhappy with your short term goals and losing sight of your long-term goals?

If you are more inclined to agree with the second option in each pair of questions, maybe try to re-evaluate your goals and determine whether or not you are still working towards something you will enjoy.

As you draft career goals, make sure they are challenging enough to help you move forward, but that they aren’t so challenging that you get frustrated and quit. Remember if you set a goal that is too challenging, there is nothing wrong with scaling back, breaking it up into smaller pieces, and making sure your goals are still achievable.

8. Get feedback and the value of a mentor

 When setting career goals, getting feedback has two meanings. First, you want to get feedback on the actual goals you are setting. This means taking your ideas to a mentor and letting them know where you want to end up and if your goals make sense in helping you get there. Your mentor is ideally someone who is currently in the career position you want to end up in. Your mentor can look at your goals and help you decide which ones are of value, and which ones need tweaking.


Not only do you want feedback on your goals, but you also want to get feedback on your progress. This is another reason it’s important to have a mentor. Your mentor can take a look at your goals as well as your work, and offer progress reports. When you have a mentor giving you feedback, you aren’t left in the dark or on your own, and you have someone guiding you through the process. A mentor can help steer you towards your success and be that extra set of ears and ears to help you reflect on how you are doing and where you want to go.

Remember, getting where you want to be is often also about the connections you make on your journey. Use your goal setting and working on achieving your goals as a time to develop relationships with mentors who will see your passion for your industry as well as your work ethic.

9. Reevaluate your goals often

Remember achieving success isn’t just always about setting goals; it’s also about managing your goals. One way to manage your career goals is to reevaluate them often. This means setting several goal sessions throughout the year to make sure you are on track, that your goals are measurable, and that the direction you are choosing is actually placing you on the path to where you want to end up. If you set a goal that isn’t helping you get where you want to be, remember there is no shame in scraping the goal, reevaluating, and setting new goals. Not only can you reevaluate your goals but you can ask one of your mentors to look at your goals and reevaluate them with you.

As you follow the tips listed above, you’ll be well on your way to creating and managing your exceptional career goals.


Set up your goals in a series of steps.

Use quantifiable dates and times to check off your goals as you complete them.

Constantly reflect on your progress and do not be afraid to rewrite your goals.

Make sure you differentiate your long-term goals from your short-term goals.

Align life goals with career goals.

Do what you love while being aware of where you need to improve and how to improve your skill set and education.

Career goal setting can be fun, challenging, and rewarding so enjoy it and be honest with yourself: What do you really want to do? What aspects of your career are important to you?

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