“What are your career goals?”: How to answer, plus examples

Last updated: July 13, 2024
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Janice Reed
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Setting career goals is something that every worker needs to do. Not only does it help you choose the right career path, but it also helps you choose the right workplace that’ll support you in achieving success.

If you haven’t set any career goals yet, you might want to think about doing so before you interview for a new job.

This article will teach you everything you need to know about career goals, including the types of career goals there are, how to set them, and how to answer the famous “what are your career goals” question in your interview.

What are career goals?

Career goals are milestones that you want to achieve in your work life within a specific timeframe. These include things such as higher work positions, learning new skills, and enhancing your knowledge in certain departments.

Career goals are an important part of overall career development.

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It’s extremely important to have career goals since they guide you in the right direction to improve yourself, your career, and your overall way of life.

Career goals can be short-term or long-term.

Short-term career goals

Short-term career goals are targets that’ll take you a few months or years to achieve. Your short-term goals make up part of your overall “roadmap” that you need to follow to achieve your long-term goals.

Short-term goals can include personal development, education, professional development, and leadership training. Because of your short-term goals, it’ll be a lot easier to achieve more substantial career milestones that’ll make a big difference in your life.

Some short-term career goal examples include:

  • Increasing your monthly sales by 20%.

  • Taking a PowerPoint course to improve your presentation skills.

  • Attending a personality development seminar.

  • Signing up for your company’s professional development training so that you can learn new skills.

  • Boosting your networking abilities.

  • Following a new work routine.

  • Enhancing your technical skills.

As you can see with these examples, short-term goals aren’t going to make or break your career on their own. However, with combined efforts, they’ll push you in the right direction to achieve massive success in your career.

Long-term career goals

Long-term career goals typically take several years to achieve. These are the long-term visions that drive your career and professional development decisions.

Often, workers use their long-term goals as motivation in their day-to-day working activities.

For example, let’s say that you don’t like your current job as a sales representative — but it’s necessary for you to learn the ins and outs of sales as you want to become the sales manager one day.

You should use your long-term goals to drive your short-term decisions since long-term goals can only be achieved when you’ve completed certain short-term milestones.

A few examples of long-term career goals include:

  • Becoming a manager in your department.

  • Getting a massive pay increase.

  • Starting your own business.

  • Becoming an influencer with thousands of followers.

  • Changing your career.

  • Becoming a thought leader in your industry.

  • Quitting your 9-to-5 job to have a better work-life balance.

4 most common types of career goals

There are mainly four types of things that employees strive to achieve in their careers:

1. Professional advancement goals

These goals are all about improving your performance and efficiency at work. They help you to work faster and better so that you can deliver exceptional results.

Professional advancement goals will help you climb the corporate ladder so that you can continuously be seen as an asset to your company and become a bigger part of it.

In fact, employees see career advancement as such a high priority that 34% of them leave their jobs due to a lack of growth opportunities.

Short-term example: increasing the number of leads you get for your company by 30% in six months.

Long-term example: becoming a senior partner at your company.

2. Leadership advancement goals

These goals are focused on career advancement and are all about learning how to become an exceptional leader that can steer a team toward success.

Leadership advancement goals help improve your managerial skills so that you can aim for management positions or leadership roles with more responsibilities and higher pay.

Unfortunately, only 18% of companies said that they train their managers using in-person training sessions.

This means that you might have to take the matter into your own hands and attend leadership seminars on your own time at your own expense. However, the reward is worth it.

Short-term example: attending a leadership conference.

Long-term example: becoming the marketing manager at your company.

3. Personal development goals

These goals focus on self-improvement. They’re all about enhancing your personal skills such as teamwork, networking, and public speaking.

Improving these skills will have a positive influence on your professional life, and they’ll also help others view you as a worker with a lot of value as opposed to “just an employee.”

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Globally, around 50% of people working in the learning and development industry deemed negotiation and influencing skills as extremely valuable skills that they wanted to learn.

So, it might be a good idea to focus on developing your influencing and negotiation skills first before focusing on other areas of your life.

Short-term example: becoming more organized by using a diary or a task management tool such as Evernote or Trello.

Long-term example: becoming a master at negotiation.

4. Educational advancement goals

When it comes to work, there’s always more to learn. These goals are all about keeping you up to date with the latest developments in your industry and department.

Educational development can be related to tools, industry knowledge, and any other developments that’ll help you improve the quality of your work and contributions.

Short-term example: learning how to use Photoshop.

Long-term example: finishing a degree, diploma, or certificate in graphic design.

How to set your career goals

Learning how to set career goals effectively will help you achieve your targets far easier since you’ll have a roadmap to follow for each step of your journey. One of the best ways you can set goals is to use the SMART goals method.

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Let’s break down what this is.

1. Specific

The clearer and more specific your goal is, the better chance you have of achieving it, as you’ll know exactly what you’re working toward. This will keep you motivated and focused. Ask yourself the following questions to set a specific goal:

  • What do I want to achieve?

  • When do I want to achieve it?

  • Why do I want to achieve it?

2. Measurable

Having a measurable goal makes it possible for you to determine whether you’ve successfully achieved your goal or not. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How many?

  • How much?

  • When will I know I’ve achieved my goal?

For example, I’ll have achieved my goal when I’ve increased my monthly sales by 25%.

3. Attainable

You need to remember to keep your goal realistic and achievable. In other words, it should challenge you and stretch your abilities while still being possible.

Here, you’ll have to have a clear action plan that can get you to your goal. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How will I achieve this goal?

  • Is it humanly possible to achieve this goal?

4. Relevant

The goals that you set need to align with your life and what you want to achieve. It’s important that your goals support each other. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will this goal make a difference in my life?

  • Does the goal seem worthwhile?

  • Does the goal align with my other goals?

  • Is it the right time?

5. Time-bound

Your goal needs a deadline. This way, you’ll have something to work toward to guarantee that your day-to-day tasks don’t overtake your long-term goals. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • When should my goal be accomplished?

  • What can I do each week to accomplish my goal?

How to answer the “What are your career goals” interview question

After you’ve defined your career goals, you can follow the following steps to answer this question:

Step 1: Research the company and position

You need to research the company or companies that you’re applying to in order to align your goals with theirs. Also, focus on the job description to make sure that you come across as someone who will be able to accomplish all the outlined responsibilities.

This way, you’ll be able to match your career goals with how the company is growing and the opportunities that the job provides.

In your research, you need to look for information about the company, including new developments, the company’s structure, focuses, and initiatives, and its overall mission statement.

You can start by looking at the company’s website and reading its “about” and “services” pages. Next, you can search for the company’s name on Google and add the word “news” to see if you can find any new developments or achievements of the company.

Step 2: Develop an answer relevant to the position you’re applying for

Your answer to this question should mainly focus on your professional goals instead of your personal goals.

However, if some of your personal goals align with attributes that’ll make you a better candidate, such as expert communication skills or speaking more than one language, you can add them to your answer.

Even though salary and promotions make up an important part of career goals, avoid including them in your answer. Instead, focus on the value that you want to add to the company and the experience that you want to gain.

Step 3: Keep your answers short and high-level

Even though there are many details that can be included in your answer, you need to keep it short, sweet, and to the point.

You can do this by mainly focusing on one of your main long-term goals and adding a few short-term goals to strengthen your answer.

Remember to keep your answer broad enough so that you don’t accidentally limit certain opportunities.

Want to gain more insights into interview questions and answers? Read this article that’ll give you a list of the most asked job interview questions and tips on how to answer them successfully.

Example answers to “What are your career goals”

Here are a few sample answers that you can base your answer on. However, keep in mind that your answer will vary depending on the type of position that you’re applying for:

Example 1

“In the short-term, one of my goals is to develop my blog writing skills. I want to create content that attracts and engages prospects.

In addition, I’ve been learning more about guest blogging since I know that being featured on popular sites can create brand authority. I would love to apply my knowledge and skills to create content that makes your company stand out as a thought leader in its industry.”

Example 2

“In five years, I’d love to be a retail industry expert with excellent project management skills under my belt as I look to grow into a retail manager role.

It’s great that your company has a hands-on approach and offers a lot of learning opportunities so that I can continue to grow within your company and deliver excellent results.”

Example 3

“A goal of mine was always to become a financial team leader, and I was fortunate enough to achieve this three years ago. My long-term goal is to have more responsibility in the same department.

I feel like more challenges and authority is the next step in my career. When I saw the responsibilities of this role, I knew I had to apply.”

Ready to set your career goals?

Setting career goals is extremely important because it gives you the insights you need to apply for jobs at companies that can help you achieve your goals.

Want to learn more about how to prepare for your interview so that you can land your dream job? Read this article that’ll give you seven tips to ace your interview.



Raven Dade-Lewis
Bullet point
Mental Health Specialist at Louisiana Methodist Childrens Home

Awesome! Helpful

Anwar Elsayed
Bullet point

Thanks that was very helpful advice 👍