How To Set Short And Long Term Goals (With Examples)

By Chris Kolmar - Nov. 24, 2020
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Goals are the roadmap that takes you to where you want to get in your career. Even if every plan doesn’t work out exactly as you hope it will, determining objectives keeps your focus clear. Establishing what things you’d like to accomplish professionally can help you become a more effective and driven employee in the long and short term.

What Are Career Goals?

A career goal is an objective that you pursue in your professional life. They’re clear statements of what you want to achieve and an understanding of how you plan to get there. Goals can vary significantly between individuals.

Specific career goals can even differ between two individuals in the same industry. Take a lawyer, for instance. One employee of a law firm may have a long-term career goal of making a measurable positive impact on their community. Another is motivated by the eventual end-goal of making as much money as possible. Both are working the same job, but they have very different career goals.

Why Is Goal-Setting Important?

Planning and goal-setting are important considerations to make in your career because they’ll give you insight into whether you’re doing your job well enough to meet these personal expectations. Thinking about what you want to accomplish, in the short-term, and eventually in the long-term, makes you a more prepared, strategic, and focused employee.

Without setting goals, you can never be positive about how far you’ve come. They tell you how well you’re doing, growth-wise, and what areas you may be lacking in. Meeting short-term goals can be a rewarding encouragement of your performance. Accomplishing long-term goals can shape what your professional future will look like.

What Are Short Term Career Goals?

Many people think of short-term goals as the stepping stones to meet the bigger targets you have in the long-term. They’re realistic things, and you can accomplish them in a couple of months to a year with a definitive endpoint. Short-term goals can be attached to a grander scheme or be stand-alone objectives to better yourself and your work.

Review the following list of short term career goals to see if any of them can be a helpful challenge for you.

  1. Learn a new skill. While learning a skill is a process that you’ll have to keep up with beyond the time boundaries you set for your short term goal, it can be a great choice to get the ball rolling. Think about the industry you work in and what position you currently have. Seek out skills that will be beneficial to this role.

    For example, if you work in advertising but don’t have a lot of experience with marketing on Instagram, you could take an online course focusing on this platform specifically. Learning a new skill can be a useful short term goal for keeping your mind sharp and improving your resume’s qualifications.

  2. Make a professional website. Having a digital impact and identity can be very important to your professional success. A potential employer or client interested in knowing more about who you are and the work you’ve done will turn to the web for more details. Creating a website can improve your professional appearance and make you more accessible to new opportunities.

    Examples of where to make a website include:

    Job type you want
    Full Time
    Part Time
    Internship
    Temporary
  3. Take a class to improve your communication. Communicating effectively is a huge part of a business running smoothly. Improving your communication skills can enhance your workplace relationships and productivity. In addition to meeting the necessary goals collectively as a team, communicating effectively with your supervisors and co-workers can also help you down the line in your career.

    Examples of courses that help with communication skills include:

  4. Read a book relevant to your field. Reading books relevant to the position you work on is a practice that can help your learning abilities expand and gather new information about emerging topics in your field. Committing to a book is an excellent short-term goal because the length of time it will take is defined by the number of pages. There’s a clear point of completion and a wealth of knowledge to receive that can improve your work.

What Are Long Term Career Goals?

Long term goals take more planning, commitment, and time than short-term. They’re a trajectory point for where you want your career to go in the coming years, as opposed to months. Long-term career goals are broader than short-term ones. They don’t have a defined timeline and may take many years to reach.

Consider the following popular long-term career goals.

  1. Earn a degree. While a college degree does have a distinct timeline, it qualifies as a long-term goal because it takes many years and a lot of dedication to complete. Attending college and receiving a degree at any level is the first long-term goal that most people set in anticipation of securing their future careers.

  2. Getting a promotion. This is a common long-term goal in the professional world. Receiving a promotion is an honor that describes your work ethic and strong performance over the years with your employer. It shows a distinction that you’ve been successful at your job and is a good barometer to measure your professional accomplishments. Working your way towards meeting this milestone can take anywhere from one year to a few.

  3. Get published. Getting a scholarly journal, article, or book published can be a considerable accomplishment in many fields. It’s a long-term goal that can be off-putting to many professionals because of the effort and time it takes to complete.

    You may not be an expert writer, but you could be an expert in the information you have to tell. If you work in an industry or niche that could have a readership, consider dedicating some time to the pursuit of getting your written work published.

  4. Attain a leadership position. Being offered a leadership role within your company demonstrates a readiness to take on more responsibility for managing other associates. Becoming a supervisor in your industry can take longer than getting a yearly salary increase. But, it’s an excellent long-term goal to set because it can end with you receiving perks such as more professional freedom, decision-making duties, and a potential pay raise.

How to Set Your Career Goals

Setting your short and long-term career goals is a personal matter that depends on what’s important to you and what can benefit your growth as a professional. Establishing goals can be stressful, but doing so can improve your performance and happiness at work.

Consider the following tips for how to set your short and long-term career goals.

  1. Be realistic. One of the key aspects of goal-setting is being realistic in what you’re trying to accomplish. Many failed career objectives, usually short term, are due to a lack of realism. A goal that’s out of reach from the start likely won’t be achieved successfully.

    Imagine you take on the short-term goal to become fluent in Spanish in the next three months without any prior experience. Becoming fluent in a language in this timeframe is nearly impossible. The task is far too large to be done successfully, which will leave you feeling discouraged and defeated.

    Setting realistic goals is crucial for meeting your short-term objectives.

  2. Make the goals specific. A mistake that people make when setting goals is making their objective too broad to be achieved. Deciding that your long term goal is to be happier or be rich doesn’t speak much to the details of what this endeavor will entail. Instead, consider what will make you feel happier or richer, and create an outline for how you plan to get there.

    Specificity makes it easier to follow the path that leads to meeting your goal.

  3. Create a game plan. Strong planning skills account for many professionals meeting their long and short-term career goals. Once you’ve decided what you want to accomplish, you need to figure out how to do it.

    Deciding on the steps of your plan for how to achieve your goals include:

    • Establishing a timeline for completion

    • Creating specific milestones

    • Outlining the smaller steps towards meeting the goa

  4. Take on new challenges. The point of working towards a goal is to challenge yourself. The things that come easiest to you aren’t the situations that make you grow and improve as an employee. It’s difficult tasks and objectives that help your career in the long run.

    Don’t shy away from a long or short term goal that’s challenging to you because that’s probably the one you should go for.

  5. Be positive and flexible. You never know what life will throw at you. Whether it be personal, financial, or professional hurdles, you’re going to face some form of difficulty when it comes to meeting your goals. This can be especially true of long term goals that may span over multiple years.

    Be open to changes that come your way, adapt your plan of action to work towards your goals, and keep up a positive attitude. Perseverance and optimism are the two magic ingredients of accomplishing any long or short term goal.

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Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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