Setting goals is the first step to achieving anything you want out of life, and your career is no exception. Long-term career goals define where you want to be in the future and serve as an overall guide for the decisions you make about your career day-by-day and year-by-year.
This article will explore what long-term career goals are and offer examples and tips for realizing them.
What Are Long-Term Career Goals?
Definition: Long-term career goals are objectives that will be fulfilled over time, anywhere from a few years to a lifetime.
These goals are the big building blocks for your career as a whole, creating the concrete steps you need to take to reach your overarching aspirations. Long-term career goals help keep you on track on the long road to creating the work life you want to have and steer you toward the steps that will get you where you want to go.
However, long-term career goals do not need to be set in stone. They can and should evolve over time as you progress in your career. Many things will change along the course of a career—including yourself—and your long-term career goals should grow with you.
Long-Term Career Goal Examples
Long-term career goals depend entirely on each person’s interests and desires, so they are limited only by individual imagination. However, there are several goals that are very common for people to set. These can include targets such as:
- Landing a leadership position
- Working within a specific company or industry
- Finding a healthy work-life balance
- Increasing earnings
- Working in a specific type of environment, such as a fast-paced workplace or entirely remotely
- Landing a promotion or specific job title
- Earning a degree or certification
- Creating career stability
- Becoming a mentor or coach
- Publishing research, articles or a book
- Becoming a subject matter expert/thought leader
- Starting a business
- Retiring early/comfortably
- Building a robust professional network
Importance of Long-Term Career Goals
Long-term career goals create a framework that you can use to guide you throughout your career. The process of setting long-term career goals can help you articulate what you want out of your career and narrow your options so that they can focus on what’s most important to you.
Once those goals are established, they function as guideposts to influence you to make the choices that will get you closer to your desired career destination. Goals also motivate you to keep going through the work it requires to reach the next step. Finally, achieving these goals brings immense satisfaction and fulfillment.
How Do Short Term Goals Differ from Long Term Goals?
The difference between short- and long-term career goals is just as it sounds: long-term goals take more time to achieve. However, they are both key to accomplishing your objectives. In order to achieve long-term goals, you must create short-term goals that will help you reach bigger goals step by step. And short-term goals should always map to long-term goals so that you are spending your time and energy in ways that lead to your bigger vision.
Some examples of short-term goals include:
- Taking a class or seminar
- Learning a new tool or skill
- Finding a mentor
- Successfully executing a project
Setting Your Long-Term Career Goals
Setting your long-term career goals generally requires self-reflection and research. When you ask yourself the question of “What do I want to achieve in my career?” the answer may not immediately be clear, and it may take some investigation for you to come up with meaningful goals for yourself.
Here are some tips to help you through the process:
- Start with a big vision of what you want out of life, and work backwards from there to set career goals
- Be aware of your personal “why” for your goals
- Learn from others’ career paths
Talking about your career goals with others can be a huge help. Family and friends can offer personal insights, while colleagues and your manager can provide a more professional view. Having a career mentor can be an invaluable resource as well—they are there to help guide you by getting to know you and drawing on their experience and expertise to offer personal guidance.
Assessing Personal Values and Interests
Your long-term goals should reflect your personal values and interests, so it pays to spend some time defining what you believe in and what kinds of things you are drawn to. This applies not only to activities and subjects, but also how you like to work and relate with people and the world around you.
Here are some questions you can ask when you are exploring possible long-term goals to see if they are a good fit for you:
- Do your long-term goals make you feel energized? Overwhelmed? Anxious?
- How much would you have to change yourself in order to achieve the goal?
- Have you made the goal based on your personal vision, or on others’ expectations?
When you have set thoughtful, personal long-term goals, they should feel exciting and achievable, while giving you plenty of room to stretch and grow.
Any kind of goal is more achievable when you make it SMART:
- Specific: Define in detail what you want to achieve.
- Measurable: Make sure you have a way to determine whether you’ve reached your goal or not.
- Achievable: The goal must be realistic.
- Relevant: Create goals that bring you closer to your ultimate objective.
- Time-bound: Your goal should have a definitive time frame.
Using the SMART framework is a standard best practice that sets you up for success in setting and reaching your long-term career goals.
Strategies for Achieving Long-Term Career Goals
While your long-term career goals should be realistic, that doesn’t mean they will necessarily be easy to accomplish. Realizing meaningful long-term career goals takes planning, motivation, and accountability. Setting clear, measurable goals is a great start toward reaching your objectives. But you also need a plan to help you keep moving toward your targets. Here are a few strategies and steps you can use to get there.
Create a Career Roadmap
A career roadmap charts your career plan, outlining how you will get from where you are now to your ultimate target. An effective career roadmap includes the actions you will need to take at each step of your career to reach your objectives. This kind of roadmap offers concrete guideposts for you as you move forward in your professional life. Some benefits of using a career roadmap include:
- Offers guidance in making decisions that affect your career trajectory
- Allows you to measure your real progress against your plan
- Provides motivation to continue striving toward your desired long-term results
However, career roadmaps should also be flexible enough to allow you to change them as needed. As circumstances and goals change, career roadmaps will need to shift as well. Very few people will end up with the exact same roadmap in their later career that they had at the beginning. Align your career roadmap with any career pathing conversations you have with your managers or mentors to make sure your desires are known for your career.
Gain Necessary Skills and Experiences
All long-term career goals involve cultivating new skills and experiences that can only be gained over time. For example, if your long-term goal is to land in a leadership position, you will need to develop several skills, such as “soft” interpersonal skills, communication skills, and management skills. This could translate to actions such as participating in courses or training, seeking out leadership roles inside or outside of the work setting, or participating in a leadership coaching program to learn from experienced leaders.
Networking and Building Professional Relationships
You can’t get where you want to go in your career without the right skills, but relationships with the right people are also key to achieving your long-term career goals. At every stage of your career, a healthy and diverse professional network provides an invaluable resource for career opportunities, learning, support, and collaboration. However, valued professional relationships aren’t one-way. A great network comes with opportunities to help others. This can involve formal situations such as workplace mentoring programs or more informal relationships.
Continuous Learning and Development
Having a mindset in which continuous learning and development is an everyday part of life and work will go a long way toward helping you achieve long-term work goals. This means taking advantage of chances to learn and grow your skills. Often, employers offer these types of opportunities in formal employee development programs, but you can also find myriad ways to learn on your own.
Top Challenges to Reaching Long-Term Career Goals
Everyone faces obstacles on the road to realizing their long-term career goals. These may include:
Changes in the workplace
The pace of change in industries and markets has accelerated over the past several decades, and technology is going to continue to create evolution. That’s why adaptability is so important in setting your long-term career goals; you have to know how to roll with the punches.
Changes in your life
Even with the most detailed plan, life will present unexpected changes, both positive and negative. When these happen, it’s time to take stock of where you are, how new developments have affected your plans, and where to go from here.
Self-doubt or uncertainty
Setbacks or a lack of expected progress can sow the seeds of self-doubt about whether you can really accomplish what you’ve set out to do. When this happens, some serious self-examination is in order, and it’s always a good idea to talk to a trusted mentor or other person to get an objective view.
We all have a limited amount of time, and taking enough of it to accomplish your goals can be a real challenge. It’s easy to let day-to-day tasks monopolize your time. But if you want to reach your long-term goals, you need to consciously make sure you’re spending the time to make them a reality.
Tips for Staying Motivated and Overcoming Challenges
It can be difficult to stay motivated over the amount of time it takes to achieve long-term career goals.
Here are some suggestions for how to stay motivated:
- Set SMART goals from the beginning
- Have a career roadmap
- Breaking up your long-term goals into smaller steps
- Seeking guidance and support from others
- Talk with your mentors about your goals
- Celebrate when you’ve reached your goals and milestones
You deserve to enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes from realizing what you’ve set out to do. A moment of reflection on what you’ve achieved also offers an opportunity to make sure your goals are still relevant, and to recalibrate if they aren’t.
Reach Your Long-Term Career Goals with Chronus
Setting long-term career goals is crucial to creating a career that is satisfying and successful—no matter how you define success. Creating these goals isn’t a simple process, but doing it right lays the groundwork for getting where you want to go in your professional life. No matter where you are in your career, you can benefit from long-term career goals. The time to begin is now.
Learn more about how mentoring programs can help you design and achieve your long- and short-term career goals.