Your career goals matter to only two people; mainly you and your employer. While it helps you navigate through your career with more ease and clarity, it also allows your manager to see how your growth will fit within their company.

Whether you already have an idea of what your future will look like 5-10 years from now, the way you set your career goals can either make or break your plans. Those who say, “I want to be a successful writer.” may have a more difficult time achieving it than the ones who say, “I want to become a bestselling author.”

The difference?

The former career goal is too vague, while the latter career goal is specific.

Everyone has a different way of planning their careers. But to make sure that you keep a steady rhythm, follow these steps on how to set realistic and achievable career goals.

Examples of Career Goals

Career goals are personal visions of your professional life. They have to be: specific enough to motivate you to stay consistent, flexible enough to let you change direction when necessary, and realistic enough to achieve it within a specific period of time.

Not everyone has the same calling. Some people may want to become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, while others may dream of owning a hipster coffee shop. But no matter how big or small your career goals are, it’s important that you structure a well-thought game plan around them.

Here are some of the best career goals examples:

Gain a job promotion

Job promotions lead to career growth. But your career advancement depends on how ready you are to take on extra responsibilities in the workplace. So to get a promotion, keep these milestones in mind:

  • Learn new skills required for the role
  • Seek advice from industry mentors
  • Sign up for an internship program

Make a career change

Changing careers is not always easy. It requires you to evaluate your situation to make the switch as smooth as possible. To make this happen successfully, you need to establish these first:

  • Research your career options
  • Fill in your skill gaps
  • Update your application credentials

Become an industry expert

An industry expert or thought leader is a person of influence in a specific field. A thought leader offers valuable information and expert opinions to the public. To become a person who explores forward-thinking strategies, aim to accomplish these short term goals beforehand:

  • Attend industry conferences
  • Advance your degree
  • Build a community on social channels

Have a stable career

If your career goal doesn’t revolve around an upward career path but more on stability, these are the things you need to work on:

  • Build strong work ethics
  • Enhance your work-life balance
  • Get a job with good benefits

Expand your professional network

No business thrives without having a network of professionals supporting your endeavors. That’s why having this as part of your career goals is crucial to success. Here are some things you must do to expand your network:

  • Hone your communication and listening skills
  • Grow your network on LinkedIn
  • Attend networking events

How to set realistic, achievable career goals?

There is a famous quote that goes, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” And as it turns out, a study made by Prof. Gail Mathews proved this saying to be correct.

Based on Prof. Mathews’ research, people who set actionable steps and report their progress to a friend are 40% more likely to achieve their goals. This goes to show that setting career goals is useless without a detailed and realistic action plan.

So if you have ambitious dreams but don’t want to overwhelm yourself, below are the 5 tips on how to set realistic and achievable career goals:

Gain clarity on your priorities

The first thing you need to do when you set career goals is to clarify what you want. Don’t hesitate to ask yourself tough questions such as:

  • What am I willing to sacrifice and compromise to achieve this career goal?
  • What kind of company culture do I see myself growing?
  • What’s the nature of what I want my job to be like?

As you peel through several layers of yourself, you’ll begin to find your main priorities. Write them down and be specific about what you really want to get out of life.

Set deadlines and milestones

People tend to put off their work when there are no due dates. They procrastinate because they think they can always do it tomorrow or next week.

As the weeks become months, you realize you haven’t done anything. So give yourself deadlines and milestones to hold yourself accountable for your actions.

Remember that procrastination is the only thing that will hold you back from attaining your career goals.

Come up with a status update

Think of your career goals as an ultimate life project. And like any project, it comes with a progress report, so you’ll know how far or behind you are with your development. This will give you accurate documentation of your professional growth. You may even show this document to a mentor or an advisor so they can advise you on your next steps.

Request for feedback

Sometimes people need to make better judgments of themselves. So it’s better to use someone else’s eyes to give you a good sense of your career direction. Since their views are different from yours, they can provide you with better insights into your strengths and weaknesses in your development.

Be kind to yourself

The most forgotten part of setting career goals; is showering yourself with some kindness.

The journey to enriching your life will take a lot of work. There will be U-turns, dead ends, intersections, and speedbumps. But suppose you keep pushing yourself beyond your limit. In that case, you’ll eventually burn out, making it harder to fulfill your career goals.

Kindness, however, will empower you and maintain your focus and momentum.

Create the atmosphere for success

No one else is responsible for your growth and success but you. Bear in mind that self-improvement is not an end goal. It’s a journey towards becoming better every time you achieve your desired outcome.

So to successfully achieve your lifelong career goals, here are the key takeaways to think about:

  • Write them down
  • Be realistic about your wants
  • Create a timeframe
  • Hold yourself accountable
  • Ask for help when needed
  • Reward yourself for your hard work

Don’t stay adrift without setting your life’s purpose for too long. Because the moment you decide to reach your goals is when you transform your life for the better.