Career 101: How To Set Realistic Career Goals

What do you want from your career? Creative adrenaline? A nice bank balance? An authoritative role? A relaxed lifestyle? We wouldn’t embark on a journey without a real idea of our destination. So why wouldn’t we do the same when it comes to our career?

Something I’ve noticed around the blogosphere lately and on Twitter  is how people are getting really fed up of hearing the words ‘dream job’. I recently spoke about how we’re made to think that we’ll all get our dream job, no problem – but it just doesn’t work that way. 

When I was job hunting I became so discouraged. I hadn’t set any goals, so I had nothing to work towards. Now I think differently.

There are many variations in setting goals. But setting them realistically means creating goals that are actually achievable. We only have so much time, energy and interest in developing our career paths, and you may feel disheartened if you don’t set goals that you can realistically achieve. 

Realistic goals will help you succeed in your career. So today I’m sharing how you can set these goals, from my own experience.

Why Set Career Goals?

Athletes, CEO’s and fashion designers all set goals. It gives them long term vision, which is something we all want to focus on. Goals help you organise your time in order to achieve what you want to achieve. And realistic goals help you measure your achievements and take pride in your progress. Even by noting down small tasks you get done each day – these are still things you have achieved that will better yourself and the business you’re working for.

Determine What Is Important To You

Work atmosphere, location, working hours, high earning potential – all of these factors contribute to choosing a job. The best way to start is usually by thinking big. Ask yourself what you want for your career over the next ten years If you identify everything you want to achieve, you can then break these down into small targets that you need to achieve over time.

Recently, I’ve answered some questions that have really helped me become more motivated in pushing myself in my career for the long term:

  • What does my ideal career look like?
  • Do I enjoy what I’m doing now?
  • What kind of money do I want to make?
  • What’s my ideal work setting?
  • What specific job do I want?

You’re bound to find something in common with all your answers to these questions.

What’s important is to take the time to answer them and think about what you really want.

A reader commented on one of my career posts saying that it’s really important to make a list of things that you aren’t willing to compromise on. Sometimes, it can be helpful to answer these questions on a reverse scale – what would be your worst work setting? What’s the least amount of money you’d be willing to make? That way, you’re narrowing it down even more, which means your goals could be even more realistic.

Analyse Your Skill Set

Setting realistic career goals is also about performing a realistic self-assessment of yourself. You know what you’re qualified and skilful enough to apply for. Maybe you’re brilliant at writing but not so good at design. Maybe you’re a brilliant listener but don’t enjoy speaking out loud as much. Source roles that describe your natural talents.

What I’ve found to be really helpful is looking for jobs in my industry that have the highest salary. I make a note of the skills needed and aim to learn all of these skills. There is always room for us to grow and improve – developing a full, varied skill set is how we go about doing that. I heard a story once about someone that applied for a job that asked for video skills – the person that applied didn’t have any and didn’t get the job. Being specific with your skill set will make your goal setting process a lot easier.

Think About Your Available Time

We have to put effort in to make things a part of our routine. It’s like exercise – we have to purposefully do it until it becomes natural to us. It’s the same with career goals. What I’ve found useful is to plan out every hour of my day and see where I find a natural break. Some days I might not have one, and that’s okay. We’re all individual and it just depends on how much time you personally have to put into fulfilling your career goals. Remember, you’re doing this from 9 till 5 anyway, so don’t push yourself too much. You could base this on the amount of jobs you can realistically apply for in a certain amount of time. It’s all down to you.

Share Your Ideas

You can always count on your loved ones to be honest. So it’s really useful to ask them for an honest assessment of your goals – do they think they’re achievable? An important decision always needs an outside perspective from people that know you best. Don’t be afraid if you think they’re too big. If you ask someone for a true reaction, they’ll give it to you. And don’t lose hope if you don’t get the answer you want. Everything happens for a reason.

Set Realistic Dates

It’s no good having goals if you don’t give yourself some sort of deadline, especially when it comes to your career. Each date can act as a benchmark of some sort of success. This could be anything from earning a promotion within your first year, to finding a job within your chosen field three months after graduating.

I find it more helpful to give myself more than enough time instead of not enough. It’s like I always say when I cook – better to have too much than not enough.

I know it’s daunting, but I know you’ll have set goals for other aspects of your life. So why not do it for your career too? Your goals can help you get what you want. It might take a while, but you’ll get there. I promise.


I'd love to know, do you set career goals?

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