How to Set Achievable Career Goals

Whether you work in information technology, engineering or any other sector of business, setting achievable career goals can be a challenge. Call it the Goldilocks paradox. Some people aim too high. Some people aim too low. Only a few get it just right.

Striving for something can motivate you in the business world, but when you chase unrealistic expectations, you can get discouraged. And yet, when you place the bar too low, you don’t live up to your full potential.

So how to you determine what goals are realistic for your experience level, drive and education? Use our tips to figure it out.

1. Be Honest With Yourself

Have you ever held a management position before? If not, then becoming CEO of the company within the next three years may not be obtainable. But getting a promotion from junior to senior level may be. Be honest about your potential and your timeline.

2. Aim for Short- and Long-Term Goals

It’s easy to get tripped up when your goals are either too attainable or too far out. Balancing between the two will keep you engaged and focused for a longer period.

You want a few goals you can meet in the near term and at least one for the long term. They might look like this:

  • Short term: Earn a new certification, lead the team on at least one presentation to your department and improve a skill your boss said needed improvement at your last performance review
  • Long term: Take over for your boss, who plans to retire in five years


3. Write Down Your Goals

Visual aids offer a daily reminder of what you want and why you want it. People who write down their goals are 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to achieve them, according to one study. Without a visual, it’s easy to forget why you are putting in overtime or volunteering for extra projects. When you see your goals on display daily, you are less likely to slack or slide off course.

4. Reassess and Readjust

Don’t continue to pursue a goal simply because you set it. Many people find that with time, their desires evolve. Life influences can play a part in this, too. Say you suddenly find yourself caregiving for aging parents while still raising your own kids. You may decide it’s time for a career change to a job that’s more flexible rather than chasing a promotion in your current field.

That’s perfectly OK. Your goals should fit into your life as you live it now, not five years ago. Many people find it helpful to set a reassessment every year when they get their performance evaluation, which can assist with realistic goal-setting. Don’t be afraid to ask your supervisor about what areas you can improve in, and add those to your list.

And if your new list of realistic, achievable goals includes landing a new job, check out our listings to see opportunities available across Central PA.

Other Articles You May Enjoy

Digital disasters like an ill-conceived social media post can come back to haunt you during the job search. Use our tips to avoid such situations.
Are you a hiring manager currently on an exhaustive job search? Feeling as if you've run out of options and are growing frustrated? Here's why it might be time to ease your stresses by hiring a recruiting firm.

Build better teams. Build a better career.

Fresh career & hiring insights

Don’t worry, we never sell or abuse your information. We only use it to send you interesting things. You may output at any time.