Building a successful career takes thought and planning — and that means setting goals. But where do you start? And how do you stay on track? Here’s how you can set goals, make progress and build a successful career.
Why Goals Matter for Your Career
It’s very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day tasks of a job and forget about the big picture — your career plans. Take some time to map out your career path so you know where you’re headed. Think about where you want to be in 5 to10 years, and then outline how you’ll get there.
With a clear picture of your career progression, you can more easily set professional goals for your current job. All of your short-term goals should lead to your medium-term goals (five years from now), which should lead to your long-term goals (10+ years from now).
There are many types of goals you may set as you strive to advance your career. You may need to develop specific skills, such as upgrading technical skills, or it may be more important to hone soft skills such as leadership or effective communication. One of your goals may be taking on new responsibilities or projects in your current role in order to broaden your experiences and set yourself up for the next step in your career.
As you go about goal-setting, make sure your goals are specific and consider a the amount of time required to achieve those goals. This will ensure that you have a clear plan of what you want to achieve and a timeline for getting it done. You can always make adjustments if you need to (we all do!), but a clear plan is always better than a vague idea.
As long as your goals align with your role, it can be useful to share them with your manager. A good manager or employer should want to support your goal-setting because it means you’ll be an active team member. It also helps the manager align your interests with the needs and goals of the company — a real win-win situation.
Resources to Help You Achieve Your Goals
It’s paramount that you find the right support so you can grow and achieve your goals and this can often come from within your company.
Many workplaces have formal mentorship programs or resources for skills development and some managers even have a budget for training, so talk with your manager about what’s available.
If there aren’t any formal opportunities in your organization, seek out your own. Ask a respected manager or a director if they would be open to mentoring you; they can help you stay on track and provide feedback at each stage of your progress. If your goal is to develop specific skills, ask a colleague with those skills if they would be willing to share their knowledge and experience with you.
Your manager can also play an important role in helping you progress in your career. Assuming your goals align with your current role, check-ins with your manager can offer you useful feedback on your progress, as well as areas where you could improve.
It’s a good idea to look for external professional development opportunities, too. Conferences and workshops can help you grow your knowledge or skills, and they’re also a great opportunity to network. And don’t discount the optics of being at industry events — managers notice when their employees attend a conference and it signals to them that you’re engaged, want to improve yourself, and have an opportunity to apply new knowledge and insights to your work.
Regardless of your industry, setting goals and seeking out the support you need to achieve them will help you stay on track for a successful career.