How to Set Long-Term and Short-Term Career Goals for Career Advancement and Personal Fulfillment

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By Shirin Khamisa, Founder & Practice Leader of Careers by Design
May 9, 2023. 11 min read

What Are Short-Term and Long-Term Career Goals?

Setting short-term and long-term career goals is vital to achieving career development success in your professional life. Without a clear direction, it is easy to get lost in the daily grind and lose sight of your ultimate goal. Whether you aspire to reach a leadership position, develop new skills, or change your industry entirely, having a clear plan of action is essential to making it happen.

Short-term goals are usually achievable within the next year or two. Examples of short-term goals may include attending a networking event, completing a training course, or learning a new software program. Short-term goals are essential stepping stones to achieving long-term goals and should align with your broader objectives.

Long-term goals, on the other hand, require more significant commitments and can take anywhere from five to ten years to achieve. Examples of long-term goals include earning a promotion, reaching a specific salary, or starting your own business. These goals require focus and dedication over a prolonged period, and achieving them can be incredibly rewarding and transformative.

No matter what your professional goals may be, taking ownership and responsibility for your career development is critical to achieving success. This includes setting achievable and specific short-term and long-term goals, actively seeking opportunities for growth and development, and continuously learning and improving your skill sets. By doing so, you will create a roadmap to success that brings a sense of purpose to your professional life and sets you up for a life of career fulfillment and happiness.

Why Is It Important to Set Both Short-Term and Long-Term Career Goals?

As someone with experience planning and achieving career goals, I believe that setting both short-term and long-term goals is essential to professional success. Short-term goals provide direction and motivation, helping you establish achievable objectives for immediate progress. These goals are usually more tangible and help you build momentum towards bigger objectives.

On the other hand, long-term goals define your ultimate aspirations and assist in creating a clear roadmap to your professional destination. These goals need more strategy and resources, but when realized, they provide a fulfilling sense of achievement and progress.

Setting both long-term and short-term goals together also helps you ensure that your efforts are productive, and you are headed in the direction that aligns with your values, skills, and interests. This approach enables you to balance your immediate and future needs, and it’s an effective way of staying focused and motivated while pursuing a rigorous career path.

In summary, goal-setting is a vital tool for achieving career success, and it is essential to keep in mind the wisdom of setting goals that cover both short-term and long-term objectives.


Setting Short-Term Career Goals – Step by Step

Whether you’re just starting out in your career or looking to make a change, setting short-term career goals is an essential step in advancing your professional life. By establishing short-term goals, you can focus on achieving small wins that contribute to your long-term objectives. Here is a simple process to help you get started:

1. Evaluate Your Current Skills

Take stock of your current skill set and identify areas where you need to improve to achieve your professional goals. This can involve determining your strengths and weaknesses, assessing any gaps in your knowledge and expertise, and identifying skills that are in high demand within your industry.

2. Define Your Objectives

Once you’ve assessed your current skill set, you can begin to define your short-term career objectives. This can involve setting specific targets for career advancement, such as landing a new job or securing a promotion, as well as identifying areas where you want to develop new skills and knowledge.

3. Create an Action Plan

To achieve your objectives, you need a plan of action. Create a step-by-step plan that outlines the specific actions you need to take to reach your goals. This plan should include measurable outcomes and a timeline for achieving each milestone.

4. Make Your Goals SMART

Your short-term career goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. By making your goals SMART, you increase the likelihood of achieving them.  Follow our handy guide on creating SMART goals here.

5. Monitor Your Progress

Regularly review your progress toward your short-term career goals. This can help you make adjustments to your plan of action, if necessary, and keep you motivated to achieve your objectives.

By following this process, you can set short-term career goals that align with your long-term objectives and help you advance your professional life.

Setting Long-Term Career Goals – Step by Step

Setting long-term career goals is an important part of professional success. By taking time to plan and set goals for the future, you can ensure that you are taking steps towards achieving your ultimate career aspirations. Here is a step-by-step process to help you set long-term career goals:

1. Define Your Ultimate Goals

The first step to setting long-term career goals is to define your ultimate career aspirations. This should be the big picture or outcome of what you want to achieve in your profession. It might be a leadership position, owning your own company, managing a team, or working in a specific industry.

2. Identify Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Knowing your strengths and weaknesses can help guide your decision-making as you set your long-term career goals. By understanding your strong points, you can leverage them to achieve your goals. On the other hand, understanding your weak points can help you identify areas where you need to improve in order to reach your goals.

3. Research Career Paths and Opportunities

Once you have defined your ultimate goals and identified your strengths and weaknesses, it’s time to start researching possible career paths and opportunities. This might involve exploring different industries, learning about different job roles, and networking with professionals in your desired field.

4. Focus on Developing Skills

As you identify potential career paths, it’s important to focus on developing the skills that will help you achieve your goals. This might involve taking courses, attending workshops or conferences, or seeking out mentors who can help guide your professional development.

5. Create a Timeline and Action Plan

A long-term career goal is a journey that will require work over time. In order to stay on track, it’s important to create a timeline and action plan. This plan should be specific, measurable, and achievable, with clear deadlines for each step.

6. Regularly Evaluate Your Progress

Setting long-term career goals is an ongoing process that requires regular self-evaluation and reflection. It’s important to regularly assess your progress towards your goals, make adjustments as needed, and celebrate your successes along the way.

A Professional Career Counsellor Can Help!

Are you feeling lost or confused about your career path? Or do you have a general idea, but not sure what steps to take next? Sometimes it’s helpful to have a professional by your side to guide you through the process. That’s where a career counsellor or career coach can help!

At Careers by Design, our team of experienced professionals can offer personalized support to help you navigate through the ups and downs of your professional life. Our services go beyond just résumé and cover letter writing – we can offer you guidance in discovering your strengths, setting short and long-term career goals, and developing a career action plan to achieve those goals.

What sets us apart is our holistic approach to career development. We understand that your professional life is interconnected with your personal life, so we consider the whole person in our approach. This means we take into account your interests, passions, values, and lifestyle when helping you make career decisions.

Working with a career counsellor or coach can help you gain clarity and confidence about your career path. Our team can help you explore your options, identify your transferable skills, and pinpoint areas that need development. They can also help you prepare for job interviews and negotiate job offers.

Don’t let confusion about your career path hold you back. Seek out the support of a professional at Careers by Design and take the first step towards achieving your career goals. With our guidance, you can create a career that aligns with your values and passions, and achieves success on your terms.

About the author

Hi there, I am Shirin Khamisa, the founder and Practice Leader of Careers by Design, a company based in Toronto that provides career counselling, coaching, and training services to individuals and organizations.

With over 20 years of experience in career development, I am a recognized expert in my field, and I have helped thousands of people navigate career transitions, find meaningful work, and achieve their professional goals.

Shirin Khamisa Founder Careers by Design