How to set career goals
Goal setting is associated with increased self-esteem, motivation, and autonomy, as well as better goal outcomes. A study by psychologist Gail Matthews found that people who write down their goals are 33% more successful in achieving them than those who only formulate goals in their minds.

Goals that you think about don't actually exist. They are unspecific and, more often than not, do not lead to real accomplishments.

In this article, we'll look at how to set career goals the right way.
career development
A woman develops a career plan. All images are generated by Midjourney
What is career goal setting?

Career goal setting is defining professional goals and objectives and developing an action plan to achieve them. It involves determining where to go and working out the steps necessary to achieve those career ambitions.

Career goal setting defines your success criteria for yourself. Research published in Frontiers shows that clarity in determining career success criteria (CSCC) positively impacts career satisfaction, personality and job fit, and subjective well-being. This emphasizes the importance of clearly understanding what one is trying to achieve in one's professional life.
Why is goal setting important for a career?

A study conducted in sports rehabilitation and training found that groups that followed a specific action plan were more prepared, had higher self-efficacy, and were better organized in their approach than control groups that did not use goal-setting techniques.

How does this relate to your professional accomplishments? Having a plan will significantly affect your results. Goal setting plays a key role in career development and motivation.

Career development without a goal and a plan is like traveling without an itinerary. Your path might even be an interesting one. You're bound to get somewhere if you keep going. But you'll end up in an unpredictable place, and the road probably won't be comfortable.
Short-term and long-term career goals

Short-term goals are usually limited to one year or less and are often more specific and achievement-oriented. They may include objectives such as learning a new skill, obtaining a professional certification, or completing a project.

Long-term goals usually last more than one year and can be more ambitious and strategic. They may encompass getting a promotion, changing careers, starting your own business, or achieving a high level of excellence in your field.
Analyze the market for goal-setting

When setting goals, focusing primarily on yourself and your desires is important. Unfortunately, you will also have to consider the current market situation.

Understanding current and upcoming trends helps you determine what skills and specializations will be in demand in the near future. This, in turn, allows you to adapt your professional plans and goals to changing labor market conditions.

What is necessary to pay attention to? First and foremost, your awareness:
  1. Keep up with market trends. For example, you should not take training from an outdated program that is no longer in use. To keep up with changes, you should read community news from people in your field. This is an obvious tip, but many ignore it, thinking everything is already evident.
  2. Regularly review job openings on specialized job sites and social media to see what skills and experience candidates require. This will also help you determine salary levels and other working conditions.
  3. Connect with professionals in the industries you are interested in through professional networks such as LinkedIn and participate in industry events and webinars. It's best to make attending them a part of your routine as part of your job.
How to set career goals?

Setting the right goals is critical because overly ambitious goals can lead to frustration and decreased motivation. Too simple goals will be uninteresting to accomplish, and you won't feel challenged.

Setting realistic goals helps you stay motivated and maintain a sense of achievement, leading to gradual professional growth.
SMART Technique

To set the right career goals, you can utilize the SMART technique. This approach helps formulate goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

So, SMART is:
  • Specific: Your goal should be clearly defined. Avoid generic wording and specify what precisely you want to achieve.
  • Measurable: There should be a way to quantify your progress. This will help you know if you are getting closer to your goal.
  • Achievable: The goal should be realistic. Make sure you have the necessary resources and skills to achieve it.
  • Relevant: The goal should align with your broader career ambitions and be pertinent to your professional development.
  • Time-bound: Set a clear deadline for achieving the goal. This creates a sense of urgency and helps organize the process.
Examples of SMART goals

We've prepared examples of what the right goals might look like for different professions to help you understand the concept of SMART goals.

Within the next 3 months, complete a course in cognitive behavioral therapy to improve skills in working with clients suffering from anxiety disorders.

Over the next 6 months, create and publish a portfolio of 10 web design projects to attract at least 5 new clients seeking design services.

Product Manager
Develop and implement a new feature for the mobile app over the next 4 months that will increase user engagement by 15%, based on preliminary analysis data and feedback from current users.

Setting career goals is not merely an act of ambition but a strategic approach to professional development and satisfaction.

Whether you're just starting or reassessing your career path, remember that setting the right goals is the first step toward success. This path can seem confusing and challenging, so Affi is there to help you through the challenges!
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