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How To Set Actionable Career Goals: Our 8 Steps to Advance Your Career

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Ever feel like you’re just drifting aimlessly through your workday? Sure, we can all have those days, but if this is your consistent sentiment, then you might need more than just a cup of coffee. Enter–career goals. 

Research consistently shows us that setting specific and challenging but achievable goals leads to higher performance than setting no goals at all. 

In the context of professional development, those who set specific career goals are more likely to achieve higher success in their field. This is because goal-setting helps you remain focused, track your progress, and make informed decisions.

Fortunately, in this Thankbox guide, we’ll explain the importance of setting career goals and walk you through a step-by-step process for doing so. 

Let’s get started!

What are career goals?

Career goals are specific objectives that you aim to achieve in your professional life. These goals provide a clear direction for your career path and vary widely depending on your aspirations, skills, and interests.

Your career goals can be short-term, aiming for immediate and near-future achievements, or long-term, focusing on more distant and substantial accomplishments. They often include milestones such as securing a coveted job title, mastering new skills, earning a certain income, or achieving a significant professional impact in your industry.

Setting career goals is more than just a box-ticking exercise—it's a critical step towards pursuing your passion and achieving professional growth and job fulfilment

Trust icon Show Your Appreciation with Thankbox!

As you pursue your career goals, send a Thankbox to express gratitude for the guidance and support of those who helped you along the way. A simple note can make a big difference in their day, and maintain a positive relationship for the future.

Why is setting career goals important?

Setting career goals is essential because it helps structure your professional journey and ensures that you actively work towards desired outcomes, rather than just drifting through opportunities. 

Here are a couple more reasons why setting clear career goals is essential:

Focus and Efficiency: Career goals help you prioritise your activities and allocate your time and resources in the best way. By knowing precisely what you aim to achieve, you can avoid distractions and focus more on tasks that directly contribute to your objectives.

Personal Growth: Setting and pursuing challenging career goals encourages you to develop new skills, gain knowledge, and push your limits. This continuous learning and adaptation process is crucial for maintaining motivation and can help you remain competitive in your field.

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How to set your career goals: A step-by-step guide

Whether you're just starting out in your career or looking to make a significant pivot, having clear objectives can guide your decisions and help keep you motivated when you feel bored at work

Here’s how you can set effective career goals to navigate your professional journey with purpose and clarity.

1. Reflect on your values and interests

Before diving into goal-setting, take time to reflect on what your values and interests are. By understanding what truly drives you and aligning your goals with your passions, you can ensure long-term satisfaction and success in your professional journey. 

Take the time to ponder what aspects of your current job or past roles you have enjoyed the most and what you would prefer to avoid. This self-reflection will provide the clarity you need to set meaningful objectives that will guide you towards professional growth and fulfilment.

2. Conduct a self-assessment

Evaluate your current skills, qualifications, and experiences–but make sure to stay honest. Identify your strengths and areas where you might need improvement or additional training. 

This self-assessment will help you determine realistic and achievable career goals based on your current capabilities and the gaps you need to fill.

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3. Research career opportunities

Once you know your interests and have assessed your skills, research potential career paths that align with both. 

Explore industries and roles that excite you, and identify the qualifications required for those positions. Networking with professionals in your desired field can also provide insight and advice on how to achieve your goals.

4. Set SMART goals

SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Using this framework ensures your goals are well-defined and trackable. 

For example, instead of setting a goal to "become better at marketing," a SMART goal would be to "complete a digital marketing certification by Q3 to improve my SEO skills."

5. Break your goals into smaller parts

Large goals can seem daunting, so break them down into smaller, more manageable steps. 

Outline what actions you need to take monthly or quarterly to progress towards each goal. This could involve taking courses, attending workshops, or gaining specific experience in your field.

6. Seek out mentors (and thank them!)

Finding mentors who have achieved similar goals can provide invaluable guidance and support. The right mentors can offer practical advice, help you navigate challenges, and provide networking opportunities that are critical for career advancement.

Networking

When maintaining relationships with mentors, it’d be helpful to keep them updated on your progress. 

One unique way you could show your appreciation to them is by giving them a Thankbox, which can include sentimental messages, photos, videos, and more. You can select a ‘thank you’ e-card, choose its style, and customise it with a vast selection of designs. 

An image of a sample Thankbox card showing appreciation to someone

But that’s not all. If you want to give your e-cards an extra special touch you can also include a flower delivery or choose from any our digital gift cards, perfect for anyone, anywhere in the world. With a single click, you can add a gift card collection to your Thankbox, choosing from over 700 global retailers like Amazon and prepaid Visa or Mastercard options. 

By integrating Thankbox into your mentor-mentee interactions, you’re sending a clear message that you value the professional bond you’re building. 

7. Prioritise your goals effectively

Not all goals are created equal. Some will naturally be more important or urgent than others. Prioritise your goals based on their relevance to your ultimate career objectives and their impact on your professional development.

8. Review and adjust regularly

Your career goals should be dynamic, not static. As you grow professionally and as industries evolve, your goals will need to be reassessed and adjusted. Regular reviews—say, every six months—can help you stay aligned with your career aspirations and make necessary changes.

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7 examples of career goals

Career goals vary widely depending on one's profession and aspirations, but here are a few examples to get you started:

  1. Achieve a Leadership Position: Aim to secure a managerial or executive role within the next five years through skill enhancement and network building.

  2. Gain a Professional Certification: Complete specific industry certifications, such as PMP for project management or CPA for accounting, to enhance expertise and credibility.

  3. Switch Industries: Transition into a different industry that aligns more closely with personal passions and values, preparing through relevant courses and networking.

  4. Improve Technical Skills: Master advanced software tools relevant to your field, such as Salesforce for CRM or advanced Excel for data analysis.

  5. Improve Communication Skills: Focus on becoming an excellent communicator, both in writing and speaking, to improve interactions with colleagues and clients.

  6. Start a Business: Launch a startup in a chosen field, beginning with market research and a viable business plan to secure funding.

  7. Expand Professional Network: Commit to building a stronger network by attending industry conferences, joining professional organisations, and connecting with peers online.

Trust icon Show Your Appreciation with Thankbox!

As you pursue your career goals, send a Thankbox to express gratitude for the guidance and support of those who helped you along the way. A simple note can make a big difference in their day, and maintain a positive relationship for the future.

Wrapping up 

We just walked you through a step-by-step guide on how to set career goals along with some examples. Hopefully, you now have a great foundation to get excited about your career progression. 

If you’ve already begun your career development journey, why not consider creating a Thankbox to keep in touch with the people who helped you along the way?  

It’s a fun way to show appreciation to those who have helped you on your path, and it’ll likely lead to more support down the road! Career advancement requires you to cultivate your professional relationships. So, make sure you send a thank you to mentors, colleagues, and even your boss once in a while.


Images: Cover | Colleagues shaking hands in office | Desk covered with papers | Networking | Group of people having a meeting