Setting goals is an essential part of planning your career. Whether you’re just starting out or want to leave a less-than-fulfilling job and chart a new course, you’ll need to set career goals to provide you with a roadmap to reach your desired destination.

By setting and achieving your goals, you will reap the many benefits, including increased satisfaction at work and in your personal life, and higher self-esteem. To get the most out of your goal setting, you should have both short-term and long-term goals.

What’s the Difference Between Short-Term and Long-Term Goals?

Goals are typically classified into two categories: short-term and long-term. Most people can reach a short-term goal in a few months to three years, while the longer-term variety usually takes three to five years to accomplish.

Completing your long-term goals is predicated on reaching several short-term goals along the way. For example, if your long-term goal is to work as a CNC Machinist, completing an apprenticeship or vocational training could be one of a series of short-term goals that you would need to achieve first. Getting high grades in the math courses or blueprint reading within the classroom training could be other short-term goals on your way to the ultimate goal.

In each step, you will define your goals and develop a plan (your roadmap) to reach them.

Give Yourself the Best Chance for Success

Consistent hard work will play the most prominent role in your success, but if your goals are not expressed correctly, it will be much more difficult to accomplish them. Your short-term and long-term goals must meet the following criteria:

  • Start With a Specific Goal: “I want to have a successful career” is too vague. “I would love to work as a Human Resources Specialist” gives you a specific long-term goal toward which you can begin planning.
  • Your Goals Must Be Realistic: If you get queasy at the sight of blood or hated your biology classes, your goal of being a surgeon probably isn’t the most attainable. Set realistic goals to increase your chances of reaching them.
  • Your Goals Must Be Measurable: Set a timeframe for achieving your goals and have a way of determining when you have reached them.
  • Each Goal Should Be Coupled With an Action: For instance, if your goal is to become a proficient public speaker, you can become a member of toastmasters.
  • Don’t Be Negative: State your goal as something you want. “I want to gain a skill over the next two years” is better than “I don’t want to be trapped in this boring job any longer than two years.”
  • Be Flexible: Sometimes life happens on the road to achieving your goals. Don’t give up if you encounter a barrier that hinders your progress. Instead, adjust your goals accordingly and move in a new direction! Flexibility means letting go of goals that are no longer significant and channeling your energies into pursuing new ones.


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