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How to Set Realistic Career Goals

How to Set Realistic Goals
Monica Gomez
Written by Monica Gomez

In order to make the most of career goals, consider the actions it will take to accomplish each step along the way. Do this to move from wishful thinking to success using these helpful tips.

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In order to make the most of career goals, consider the actions it will take to accomplish each step along the way. Do this to move from wishful thinking to success using these helpful tips.


When tackling a major professional change, such as advancing or starting a new career, it is a good idea to have goals. Both minor and major goals are an essential part of this process. However, setting goals is only the beginning, whether you are getting a post-secondary degree in English Lit or planning a future in the healthcare industry. In order to make the most of career goals, consider the actions it will take to accomplish each step along the way. Do this to move from wishful thinking to success using these helpful tips.

Setting SMART Goals

According to eHow, all goals should be measurable using a SMART test. The SMART system was devised by author Ray Silverstein and explored further in “Best Secrets of Great Small Businesses.” This system requires goals to meet the following criteria:

• Specific
• Measurable
• Achievable
• Realistic
• Timely

Goals that meet the SMART criteria are established in such a way that you will be clear and focused on your plans for personal growth and success. For example, a student interested in graduating with a degree in a set period of time might have goals that include:

• Studying for one hour per day, per subject at a minimum
• Breaking final projects into segments to be completed throughout the semester
• Attending seminars and events related to your field of study, but not required by professors, as a way to expand and apply your knowledge and help you absorb the material necessary to achieve good scores on exams, projects and assignments

Short Versus Long Term Goals

Every goal should be definable as either a short or long term goal. For someone setting career goals, an example of a long-term goal might be to move up within a company in order to gain more prestige, responsibility and pay. Short-term goals are those goals set up in order to reach success via a long-term goal. For example, short-term goals that might be set in order to advance within a company could include:

• Taking evening classes at a college or tech school to gain new skills and certifications as related to the industry you are working in
• Finding three people in upper-level positions to determine a list of things that you can do that will help you advance

The idea here is that your short-term goals are stepping stones that lead up to your final goal. In order to set realistic career goals you will need to include short-term goals in your career plan, as noted by Seek Solutions.

Timing Your Goals

In addition to setting goals, you will need to consider the timing of your goals. According to Carrington College life chances and curve balls can cause goals, both short-term and long-term, to be derailed. Perhaps you will experience a move, death, marriage, or birth in your life that will ultimately change your long-term plans. You might discover that you aren’t cut out for the career you have chosen after taking a few classes in general studies in a post-graduate program. Plan ahead for these instances by keeping a flexible hold on your career plans. After all, your short and long-term goals are not carved out of stone, and should be frequently reevaluated.
Research Matters

Additionally, you will need to research your career of choice in depth. For example, you might have lofty plans of starting a career post graduation. Here are some questions that would apply to your research:

• Have you considered the reality of the industry in terms of pay, benefits, workload and organizational culture?
• Do you know of the best cities where you can find employment in your field?
• What are the statistics of new graduates in terms of entry-level positions?
• Do you have all of the educational achievements necessary in order to advance in your chosen profession at this moment, or should you consider continuing with your education?

These are just some of the questions you may be asking that will require you to do some research. Finding the answers to questions pertaining to job outlook, regional employment opportunities, job growth or decline, and educational requirements will help you hone in with short term and long-term goals that will help you move forward with your career goals.

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About the author

Monica Gomez

Monica Gomez

Monica Gomez is a freelance career advancement writer. She likes to help people, especially young women, strive to be their best in their career lives.

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