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You’ve probably been asked this question during a job interview, but it is also a question that you should ask yourself.
To be honest, this question sometimes makes me cringe because I don’t always know where I see myself in a week, much less five years. However, I also know the importance of having a sense of direction in my career and knowing what tasks need to be accomplished in order to turn my career aspirations into a reality.
Furthermore, I know my five-year plan is a living document. I change things around pretty regularly. I may add in a goal if I learn about a new area in my field that really interests me and I may push some things off for a few years that become less urgent on my priority list.
Potential employers will likely ask about your five-year plan to explore your long-term vision and career goals to see if you would be the right fit for their company. How well does your answer align with the company’s goals? However, there are benefits to answering this question for yourself even if you aren’t job hunting.
Being goal-oriented about your work (as opposed to being task-oriented) will not only help you establish a plan for ultimately landing a career that you enjoy, it will also prevent you from feeling like you’re spinning your wheels at work.
In this article, we will talk about career goals and then I will give you 17 examples of solid career goals that you could have and talk about in a job interview.
First, let’s talk about what a career goal is.
What Is a Career Goal?
A career goal is either a short and long-term milestone that you want to hit as you move forward in your profession. This goes beyond the amount of money you want to eventually make or the title you want to hold, and focuses more on your potential accomplishments along the way.
Your career goals are the things that will keep you motivated to get up and go to work every day and get ahead of the competition. They help set your focus and encourage you to continuously improve and learn.
Having solid career goals can not only help you land a job in an interview, it can also help you advance in your current career.
When trying to come up with your career goals, there are a few things that you can keep in mind:
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Want to set goals you can actually achieve? Then watch this video that provides a quick overview of SMART goals with 21 examples.
Having the right career goals can spark a sense of intrinsic motivation in you that allows success to just happen on its own. Let’s look at some examples of career goals that you could set to talk about in a job interview or if you’re trying to advance your current level of employment.
17 Career Goals Examples for an Interview or Job Advancement
1. Earn a Higher Degree
“While I have just earned my master’s degree in _______, my long-term goal is to eventually earn a doctorate degree. I plan to work full-time in this field for the next few years to gain the necessary experience to be able to excel in a doctorate program.”
This answer shows that you see yourself as a lifelong learner and you want to stay in the field you’ve chosen in the long run. If you’re setting this career goal for yourself, it will encourage you to stay up-to-date with the current trends or news in your industry so you can remain a competitive applicant to doctorate programs.
While your experience, work ethic, and dedication to your job will help you move up in your career, research shows that having a formal education is standard for those who end up in executive positions. This suggests that if you really want to excel, you will have to invest the time and money in order to set yourself up to do so.
2. Become an Expert
“I hope to become a true industry expert in this field through successful end-to-end project management practice and hands-on experience. I look forward to engaging in continued learning opportunities so others in the field think of my name when looking for help in solving industry problems or needing a second opinion.”
Wanting to become an expert in your field is also a great motivator for continuous learning. With this goal, you’re likely to seek out learning opportunities and eventually have other people who want to work for you.
Your expertise will gain you respect and prestige in your industry and make other experts want to collaborate with you. Whether you're an HR professional, an administrative assistant, or a nurse, work with the long-term goal of becoming an expert in your field so you can position yourself to be a better teacher and problem-solver than anyone else.
3. Start Your Own Business
“I consider myself to be a visionary and I know I would be successful in creating something of my own. I hope to start my own business one day so I can incorporate my own creativity into our industry to fill unmet needs.”
Demonstrating a desire to start your own business shows potential employers that you believe in your leadership potential and you’re confident in your ideas. It is also a good indication of your work ethic and dedication to your job.
Maintaining that pioneering mindset in your current position will encourage you to think outside of the box and find solutions to unanswered questions so you can fill an unmet need in your target market one day. Having this mindset will set you up to work well individually and help you get used to being a self-starter.
4. Improve Processes
“I hope to improve low-functioning processes in the business. I have always valued efficiency and I believe I can be an asset to any team that is looking to reduce unnecessary expenditures and labor.”
Businesses are always looking to cut costs and reduce labor. If this is something you are passionate about and you enjoy problem-solving in this sort of way, this is a great goal to set.
Your work in creating efficiency could have a huge positive impact on a business, but you can also make this career goal more personal to your position. Whether you find a more efficient way to do your job or you look for things that you can cut out in order to open up time and space to increase your capacity at work, improving your processes and finding ways to streamline your work will always be beneficial.
5. Gain New Experiences
“My goal is to never become complacent in my career. I want to always have something new to look forward to and continue to gain experience in multiple areas of this field.”
I don’t think anyone is truly happy or fulfilled in their career if they’re running on auto-pilot. Show potential employers (and remind yourself) that you know there is always something new you can experience that will help you grow as a professional.
Whether you take the time to volunteer in the community or at your office, join a professional association to network with others in your area, or reach out to specific people in the field that you never cross paths with, having new experiences will help continue to spark your passion for your career.
6. Obtain a Leadership Position
“I look forward to being in a leadership position because I want to help other people become successful in this field through offering constructive feedback, teaching, and offering the necessary resources for achievement.”
This answer shows that you care about the future of the company and the field that you have chosen. If you love helping other people grow and feel like being responsible is one of your strengths, obtaining a leadership position in your career could be a great fit for a career goal.
Having this goal in mind will help you perform in a way that shows leadership potential when you’re working. This includes having clear communication skills, having a positive attitude, and stepping up to help with projects, even if they’re not in your job description. Be receptive to other people’s ideas and set a good example for new employees by being proactive in your work.
Having a sense of personal responsibility is also critical if you want to be in a leadership role some day, so make sure to stay accountable for any contribution you make to the team–whether it’s good or bad. These actions will help set you up to reach your goal of being a leader.
7. Be Satisfied
“I know that I need to gain a sense of satisfaction from my achievements at work in order to remain motivated, loyal, and fulfilled. Working in a position that I find to be satisfying will benefit both the company I’m working for and myself because the company will gain a long-term, dedicated employee, and in turn, I will get the satisfaction of knowing my work is valued and meaningful.”
Companies want their employees to feel satisfied because they don’t want to end up with a high turnover rate. And you obviously want to feel satisfied in your career so you’re able to live a happy and fulfilling life. Studies have found that in order to feel satisfied in your career, there are a few key factors that need to be in place. These include having a positive attitude, feeling challenged, feeling a sense of purpose, connecting with other people, and being good at your job.
Without striving to have a sense of satisfaction in your career, you’re likely to settle into a life of mediocrity without advancing past a basic level of success. And, because there is a statistical relationship between one’s feelings of satisfaction at work and the prestige of their position, knowing that you’re aiming for satisfaction will keep you motivated to keep advancing yourself in the professional arena.
When talking about your need for job satisfaction to potential employers, make sure to offer clarity on how your goals align with the company’s. This will ensure the company will hold an interest in your needs to feel satisfied because they will want to retain you as an employee.
8. Establish a Personal Brand
“One of my goals is to establish a personal brand to develop a name for myself in this industry. I plan to create a website and social media pages by the end of the year and hope to gain my first 100 followers within one month of going live.”
This career goal demonstrates to potential employers that you’re confident in your knowledge of the industry–so much so that you are seeking to gain exposure for your expertise.
Having the goal of establishing a personal brand will help you feel a continual need to find new content for your followers. Not only will this help you in your own personal development and learning, it will also lure employers who want to have a trailblazer of some type on their team.
Establishing a personal brand is a proactive way to control your own career development and help determine how your clients and colleagues will perceive you. With this goal in mind, you can establish your uniqueness so you can stand out from the crowd and draw people in.
9. Become a Thought Leader
“I want to help set the pace for this industry by becoming a trusted thought leader. I want to inspire innovation and see my ideas be implemented.”
Obtaining the status of being a “thought leader” is certainly a lofty goal that many executives strive to achieve. But if you use the right strategies and have a strong sense of determination, patience, and a growth mindset, you could be able to influence other people in your industry and become a respected source of intelligent insight.
In order to be a thought leader, you have to publish materials on a regular basis that are educational and come from a unique, first-person (your own) perspective. People are able to gain valuable, actionable advice from reading the content published by thought leaders, and in turn, this builds a sense of trust with your clients and colleagues.
Having this goal is a great way to show potential employers your drive to make a positive contribution to your industry. Thought leaders are able to evaluate the past and the present, and forecast the future to build a thorough, unprecedented, and inspirational view of some aspect of their profession.
10. Make Essential Connections
“One of my career goals is to make personal connections with the leaders in this industry whom I highly respect. Not only will this help me continue to develop my own leadership skills, it will also allow me to interact with industry figures whom I strive to emulate.”
By seeking out leaders you admire in your field, and creating connections with them by setting up meetings or attending panel discussions, you’re setting yourself up to learn from people who have gained the success that you crave. Making connections to strong leaders can help open new doors for you along your career journey and improve your skill set.
Staying connected will also allow you to stay in the loop of the latest industry trends, keep an eye open on the job market, meet potential new partners and clients, and have access to the resources that you need to help foster your professional development. This career goal has clear benefits in building a career that you love, and it also shows potential employers that you’re proactive in making connections with other businesses, which could ultimately result in new business for the company.
11. Win a Prestigious Award
“My goal is to be recognized with a reputable award for my efforts and accomplishments. I feel this goal will keep me motivated to stay on top of my game in order to become a distinguished member of the team.”
Of course everyone wants to win an award, but if this is a specific goal of yours, you will be constantly motivated by the thought of winning this award. Telling your employer (or potential employer) that you’re especially interested in a specific award can also help them keep you in mind when the time comes to honor someone with that award.
This will help you continue to do your best work, even when completing minor tasks, and it will allow your employer to know they have a motivated team member who doesn’t want to get by with just doing the bare minimum. Rather, you want to excel and be competitive, not only with other corporations, but also within your own organization.
12. Change Career Paths
“I am looking to change career paths and this one is calling me. I have gone as far as I possibly can in my current field. The path I want to pursue has been a passion for me since I was young and I believe that now is the best time to take a leap of faith and pursue that passion.”
This explains to the interviewer why you may be seeking a position that doesn't match your past experience. It also shows that you are a person who is willing to step out of your comfort zone and take a chance in order to grow.
13. Work towards Personal Development
“I am always looking for ways to improve personally because I want to bring my best self to the table. Only by becoming my best can I do my best. I want to bring as much to the table as possible.”
This kind of statement allows the interviewer to see you as a person who won't be satisfied with less-than-ideal work. You will give it all in regard to effort, creating an atmosphere that will encourage others in the company to improve and do their best. A person who understands that they are not perfect will seek to learn from those who know more.
14. Improve Sales/Productivity Numbers
“I tend to compete with myself, aiming to break my personal records. Once I reach a new goal, I higher the bar and try for things like a higher sales record or getting a greater number of products made this week than last. I find that competing with myself offers me the toughest competition I can get.”
You are telling the boss you don't plan on playing office politics. That includes stepping on others to look good. You won't be happy with a mediocre performance and are likely to expect the same diligence from those under your supervision.
15. Become a Mentor
“I find I am often happiest when I see a young person achieve a new goal or succeed in reaching a milestone. I want to be the one young people in an organization look to for guidance and advice. I believe everyone has greater potential than they realize and I have been told I have a knack for bringing that potential to the forefront.”
This shows that you are not only a team player, but are also a leader. You would make the kind of supervisor that would bring out the best in each employee under your command. This will help not only individuals succeed but will benefit the organization because successful employees are often the happiest and most motivated.
16. Write a Book in My Field of Expertise
“My plan is to write a book that explains this industry in terms the typical layman can understand. By increasing customer understanding, I believe they will value our services more. Finally, I would like to see the book as part of the required reading for classes.”
This shows you have confidence in what you know. It also shows your ability to train new employees and teach them in a manner that will allow them to fully appreciate their position. The mention of increasing customer knowledge shows that you understand that appealing to customers is the best way to get them on board with what you do.
17. Get Appointed to the Board of Directors
“Eventually, I would like to be appointed a seat on the Board of Directors of this company. I believe that is the best position I could have to help this company grow in new and unique ways. With this type of position, I can work with other board members to design policies that benefit everyone in the company, from the top downward. This will allow us to attract the best job candidates and take our company into the future as an industry leader.”
This definitely shows ambition. It also shows that you plan on sticking with the company for the long term. Your concern for the company as a whole and each employee individually shows that you would be an empathetic leader that understands what employees want to stick around and make this a career.
Final Thoughts on Career Goals
Having strong career goals helps link your passion to your income. Your career goals–especially when they’re specific–can help you land the job that you want, succeed once you’re in the position, and continue to grow into a role model employee.
Knowing your career goals is an important factor when walking into a job interview or when you’re trying to convince a current employer that it’s time for you to move up within the company. However, it’s also important to have career goals for yourself so you’re working with a sense of purpose and you’re spending your time doing something you love.
Break your career goals down into shorter-term objectives so you can make a concrete plan to meet your goals. If you need some help with wording your goals or planning them out, here is some great information on how to set SMART goals and here are some SMART goal setting templates.
If you're looking for SMAT goals examples, check out these articles:
If you're looking to make a plan for more than just your career, check out this guide on how to create a ten-year plan for your life.
And for some inspiration, check out this roundup of the best movies about getting a job.
Finally, if you want to take your goal-setting efforts to the next level, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals.
Connie Stemmle is a professional editor, freelance writer and ghostwriter. She holds a BS in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she is not writing, Connie is either spending time with her 4-year-old daughter, running, or making efforts in her community to promote social justice.