How to Set Short and Long Term Goals for Your Career

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If you live by the old proverb that states "Man plans, God laughs," you may decide that it is a waste of time to set long-term and short-term goals for your career. Don't make that mistake. An unplanned future will be chaotic. Setting goals will help you have a satisfying career, but that old proverb isn't entirely wrong. Plans don't always work out, which is why you must be flexible enough to change them when the need arises.

Goal setting is a major component of the career planning process. Your goals, and the steps you take to achieve them, will make up your career action plan. This is the roadmap that will take you from choosing a career to working and succeeding in it. In this context, your goals will be your career objectives, for example, a particular occupation, a rung on the career ladder, or an earnings level.

The Difference Between Short and Long Term Goals

Goals can be broadly classified into two categories: short-term goals and long-term goals. You will be able to accomplish a short-term goal in approximately six months to three years, while it will usually take three to five years to reach a long-term one. Sometimes you can reach a short-term goal in fewer than three months and a long-term one may take more time.

For each long-term goal, you must accomplish a series of short-term goals. For example let's say you aspire to become a doctor.

That is a long-term goal. You must first graduate from college and medical school, and then complete a medical residency. Those are also long-term goals. There are several short-term goals you have to reach before you can start working on them. To get into college and medical school, you will have to excel on entrance exams and complete applications.

You can even break your short-term goals down even further. For example you can set a goal to earn certain grades each semester, or even in each of your classes.

7 Ways to Increase Your Chances of Reaching Your Goals

It is much easier to define a goal than it is to achieve it. Your hard work toward achieving it plays the biggest role in your success, but if you don't formulate your goals properly, it will be much more difficult to reach them. Make sure they meet these criteria:

  1. Your goals must be specific. You might say, "I want to be successful." Well, who doesn't? But can you define what success means to you? Success to one person may mean becoming CEO of a company while to another person it may mean getting home from work by 6 o'clock every night.
  2. You must be able to measure the outcome of your goals. When you set a goal, include a time frame for achieving it.
  3. Don't be negative. Make sure your goal is something you want rather than something you want to avoid. For instance instead of saying "I don't want to be stuck in this job for another four years," say "I want to improve my skills over the next four years so that I qualify for a better job."
  4. Keep your goals realistic. Make sure your long-term goals are compatible with your abilities and skills. Your goal shouldn't be "I want to win a Grammy Award next year" if you can't sing or play an instrument.
  1. Is your goal reachable within your time frame? Don't set yourself up to fail. If you have one big goal, break it down into several short-term goals. Remember, you will do better if you take baby steps than one big giant leap.
  2. Tie an action to each goal. For instance, if your goal is to become a writer, sign up for a writing class. 
  3. Be flexible about your goals. If you encounter barriers that threaten to impede your progress, don't give up. Instead, modify your goals accordingly. Let's say your need to continue working will keep you from going to college full-time. You won't be able to finish your bachelor's degree in four years but you can enroll in school part-time and take a little longer to finish. Consider letting go of objective that become unimportant to you. Instead put your energy into pursuing other objectives.