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5 Steps For Setting Career Goals

5 Steps For Setting Career Goals

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There are a number of different reasons you might be inclined to set career goals. You may be dissatisfied with your current job or you may see a bright future on the career path that you are on; some people find themselves in a job, and before they know it are in a career they didn’t actually set out on. Whether you want to make a career change or create a plan to take your career to the next level, one good strategy is to establish career goals. For such an important venture that most likely contains short- and long-term actionable items, here are five steps for setting and reaching your career goals.

Related: S.M.A.R.T. Goals For Job Seekers

Reflect On Your Values And Passions

What matters to you? What are you passionate about? What could you envision leaping out of bed to go do every day? These are a few questions to ask yourself while you reflect on what is really important to you. No matter what stage you are in your career, it is always helpful to call a timeout and analyze where you are and where you want to be based on your values and passions.

Analyze The Big Picture

Take a macro-level view of the different variables that could affect your career. Think about the global marketplace for your profession, as well as the types of training that is necessary. Is there new technology on the horizon, would you benefit from formal training, are there lessons you need to learn on the job, or would it be a good move to pursue additional education? For instance, if you were an aspiring journalist 20 years ago, you could have focused on traditional print media or you could have explored blogging and social media, recognizing new opportunities that were on the horizon.

Consider seeking out a mentor in your field, someone who has been there, done that, and is happy to share his/her experience and perspective with you. Goal-setting is a forward-thinking process, and while you can’t predict what the future will hold, you want to be as prepared as possible.

Determine Small Pieces To Bite

Once you’ve analyzed the big picture, there’s a good chance you have a long career to-do list. From training to education to experience, all of those could be things you need or want to accomplish. There is also a good chance you will be pursuing multiple avenues at the same time, but take the time to figure out what makes sense for you. For example, talking to your boss about getting exposure to other aspects or functions of your business is generally less difficult (and financially risky) than enrolling in a graduate program.

Your organization may have the ability to provide greater breadth of experience for you; or maybe the opposite is necessary, you are seeking to increase your depth of knowledge. If your organization can’t provide that, perhaps a move to a different role, position, or organization is in the cards in the short-term to get you closer to your long-term career goals.

Take Action

Once you determine the initial steps toward your career goals, you have to start making tangible progress. Start making connections with your professional network, have that conversation with your boss, submit your resume to positions aligned with your goals. Some of these will come easy, others may not, and many will require time, follow-up and persistence on your part. Keep your steps visible to you and, perhaps even more effective, consider letting your mentor or other confidant know your plans so they can hold you accountable.

Learn & Adjust

Even the best plans rarely go off without a hitch. If yours does, that’s fantastic; if it doesn’t, don’t be shocked and be ready. Learn along the way and prepare to be resilient, which may mean adapting your approach or even modifying one or more of your goals altogether. The more you learn, the more informed you become about where you want to be. They’re your goals, it is okay to re-visit them and make modifications as you move along your journey.

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Michelle Riklan | CAREEREALISM Expert

About the author

Michelle Riklan gained extensive HR leadership experience at Fortune 500 companies such as Sony Entertainment and John Wiley & Sons. With a combined 20 years of in-house corporate and targeted consulting experience, Michelle currently services large corporations, small businesses, and individuals in all aspects of Human Resources and Career Management. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter or call her at 800.540.3609 for more information.


Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a CAREEREALISM-approved expert. You can learn more about expert posts here.


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Michelle Riklan Michelle is an internationally recognized, award winning résumé writer and a member of several prestigious career, training, and résumé writing organizations. As a Certified Professional Résumé Writer (CPRW) and Certified Employment Interview Consultant (CEIC), Michelle has written hundreds of résumés and coached clients through all phases of the job search. Her résumés get results!