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How to Set Career Goals

Short-term Career Goals

Now that you've thought about where you want to be a few years down the line, it's time to shorten the scope and think about the things you should be doing now in order to achieve those long-term plans. These intermediate steps are your short-term goals, or things that can be achieved in a short period of time.

Just as you did with your long-term ambitions, you'll want to consider both conceptual and operational short-term aims. When deciding on conceptual short-term objectives, think about things you need and want that can be achieved in five years or fewer.

Ask yourself questions like these:

  • What skills do I need to have in order to achieve my long-term aspirations?
  • What knowledge do I need?
  • What industry should I focus my attention on?

Some examples of short-term conceptual goals include gaining more responsibility in a current position, furthering your education to make you more qualified for a position you want or even finding a source of money to pay for school. Remember, your short-term targets should support your long-term objectives, so you should constantly compare them to make sure they line up.

The last piece of this planning process is developing your short-term operational targets, which are the specific things that you can do in a short period of time that help you achieve not only your short term conceptual ambitions, but all of your long-term objectives as well. These types of goals might include applying to five different publishing companies for an entry-level position, taking a computer class to learn how to design a Web site or asking for an opportunity to lead a project at work. Your short-term operational plan includes the small steps you'll focus on day to day. It'll act as a benchmark for measuring your progress, help you to stay motivated as you accomplish it and go a long way toward helping you achieve your long-term career vision.

We've talked about the planning process -- what to think about first and what to focus on now -- but when it comes to actually naming your goals, how do you make sure they're realistic and that they work for you? On the next page we'll look at a few of the ways you can make sure your career objectives are realistic and, most importantly, achievable.