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Employee Development

Long Term Career Goals: How To Choose And Achieve Them [With Examples]

During times of unprecedented change it's no surprise we question what our long term goals are and why we're on the path we are. In this article, we'll explore different long term career goals and how you can choose a path that's right for you.

Ryan Carruthers

August 31, 2021

“What are your long term career goals?”

This is a question many of us are asked by others or we ask ourselves - especially during times of change. In a period of over a year our world experience a lot of unexpected change. Collectively, all of us were forced to adapt the way we work and go about our lives.

The effect of abrupt change led many of us to question what our goals are and reprioritize. Many people decided this was an opportunity to pursue a new career path. Cumulivately millions of people left their jobs in what is now known as the great resignation.

You may be in a similar position trying to determine what your long term career path should look like. This article will outline what long term career goals are, examples of goals we may decide to pursue, and a framework for setting SMART goals. By the end, we hope you’ve been equipped with a better understanding of your goals and the path you want to take. 

Let’s begin.

What Are Long Term Career Goals?

Long term career goals are milestones that you set for yourself to achieve in the long term, not in a few weeks or months, but years. They are the key to keeping you focused on your career path. Consider them the blueprint to helping you achieve the outcomes you want to see in your life. 

Long term career goals put you on the right track for success, and they also demonstrate to employers what path you are on and where you are heading. 

Goal Setting Theory

In the 1960’s some important research was done on goal setting, which resulted in Dr. Edwin Locke’s Goal Setting theory. It stated that the more clear the goals were and the more feedback employees received on their progress, the higher their motivation was to achieve those goals over long periods of time. Locke also found that the more challenging and specific a goal was the more people worked to achieve it. 

Locke’s research was collaborated by Dr. Gary Latham and they published a book together that defined the best practices for goal setting in the workplace. 

In a similar vein to Locke's work, Chris Do, an Emmy award-winning designer and CEO of The Futur he breaks down in his video why your goals can’t be fuzzy. He says “clear goals clear results. Fuzzy goals, fuzzy results.”


Why Is It Important To Set Long Term Career Goals?

Having long term goals gives you something to strive for, a purpose. It provides you with a sense of being the very best you can be. Setting long term goals will motivate you, lead to growth, and fulfillment, according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Motivation

Maslow discovered that as people worked towards self-actualization, motivation and self-efficacy increased. That is, the more an individual realizes their potential, the more motivated they are to continue working towards self-actualization. Setting goals and achieving them will motivate you to reach even higher. 

Personal and professional growth

Each individual has an inner desire to grow, both personally and professionally. We want to be proud of what we do and our accomplishments as well as build a good reputation. Achieving long term goals helps us grow and cultivate our reputation. 

Fulfillment

According to Maslow’s work, fulfillment looks different for different people. We define goals according to what we feel is most important. For example, one person may define fulfillment as being a good parent, whereas another might see fulfillment as earning a certain level of salary. The long term goals we set for ourselves are those that we will feel most fulfilled when accomplished. 


Covid-19’s Effect On Our Goals

The past year has undoubtedly been challenging for people to say the least. The pandemic has caused us to shift how we work, socialize, and even reconsider what is most important to us. It has given us an opportunity to reflect and redefine our long term goals in different ways. For example, many of us may desire:

  • More flexibility in our work 
  • More meaningful social connections
  • A better work-life balance

More flexibility

Jobs with flexibility have always been sought after, but the pandemic demonstrated just how important workplace flexibility is to employees. For example, parents who work from home are better able to manage childcare challenges. Employees are also able to curb the number of sick days they take by reducing the risk of infections and illnesses. 

Social connection

The pandemic has also shone a light on the importance of social connection. We need meaningful relationships with others to feel happy and grounded in our lives. A flexible workplace enables people to spend less time working and commuting and more time cultivating those important relationships. 

Work/life balance and wellbeing

Many of us realized how much our work/life balance was out of whack when we began working from home. Having a successful career is a good long term goal, but sacrificing other areas of your life to achieve it was something many of us began to reconsider. Now, many individuals are reprioritizing their lives and long term goals to achieve a healthy work/life balance.

11 Examples Of Long Term Career Goals

Here are 11 different examples of long term career goals you can have. Which ones inspire you the most? Which are most applicable? For the ones that apply to you they shouldn’t feel like they’d be easy to accomplish. Instead, they should stretch you and require you to grow to achieve them.

1. Gain leadership experience

Honing our leadership skills is a common long term career goal for employees that want to progress along their career path. You can commit to attending classes or workshops to work on your capabilities. 

2. Gain global experience

Our world is interconnected. Gaining some wider exposure can greatly benefit your career. Whether it is attending national workshops a couple of times a year or getting involved in an international charity, gaining global experience can help you grow your career. 

3. Publish professional articles

Having your articles published can build your reputation as a thought leader in your field. You can define how many articles you’d like to have published each year, depending on your unique circumstance. 

4. Build your network

Networking can help you gain access to new opportunities by putting you in touch with contacts who can help you reach your career goals. These social and professional connections are people that you can exchange information with and discuss insights in your field. Make it a priority to increase the number of professional contacts you have each year. However, remember to keep it realistic. 

5. Build new skills

Your skill sets are what will get you noticed by employers. Work on a list of skills that will be valuable in the position you ultimately want to attain. In other words, ensure the skills you are building fit into your professional development. For example, learning martial arts may not be the best skill to reach your career goals if you’re an accountant (we’re open to being convinced, however.)

6. Start your own business or side hustle

Creating your own business or side hustle is a long term goal that you can start today. The internet essentially allows anyone to advertise their products and services to attract customers. You need is to know what you’re passionate about and what you have to offer clients. Then look for ways to connect with those who need what you have. 

Brendan Hufford from All In recommends Overlap by Sean McCabe to learn how to start a business while working a full-time job. 

7. Earn a new degree

Going back to school is a commitment to a long term goal to earn a new degree. Many executives and leaders choose to complement their training and experience with an additional degree. However, it will take a lot of time and money, so be sure that heading to school is the right step for you at this time. 

8. Become an expert or thought leader

Taking the time to master knowledge in your field can set you up as an expert or thought leader. This will make you very valuable to your employer and open up opportunities for your career. To be a thought leader you must understand the issues enough to come up with the most helpful solutions to challenges and point to research or information that backs you up. 

9. Become a mentor or coach

When you have reached your career goals, you’ll be in a position to give back and help others reach their goals. Being a mentor to another individual allows you to advise and guide someone else’s career path. The experience can also boost your skills and capabilities, enabling you to be a more valuable employee. The reality is that we need mentors now more than ever

10. Change careers 

Statistics show that people change their jobs about 12 times over the course of their working lives. While many of these are moves made before they are 25 years old, you can change careers at any time. The key to doing so successfully is to research and understand what skills you need in your next job. 

11. Increase your salary

There are many good reasons you may want to earn more, none of which have anything to do with greed. You may have plans to buy a home, provide for your family, and save for the future by achieving financial security. Higher earnings help you do this. But remember that a raise needs to be earned. It’s not guaranteed. Consider things you can do that will result in you increasing your salary over time. 


How To Set Good Long Term Career Goals

Now that you have almost a dozen examples of long term career goals to work towards let’s look at how to set good goals.

Follow the SMART framework

When setting goals, use the SMART framework, which stands for: 

Specific - be as detailed as you can about your goals.

Measurable - have some way to measure your progress towards your goal.

Attainable - a goal needs to be something that you can reasonably attain. 

Relevant - career goals should be directly related to your career path.

Timely - set a deadline so you know when you will accomplish your goal.

Talk to a mentor about it

Having a mentor at work provides you with an individual who can advise and guide you. Mentorships are built around the mentee’s goal and the action they take to achieve the goal. 

Even if you don’t expect to reach your long term goals before the mentorship is over, you can still talk to your mentor about them. Whether you accomplish your goals in the next few weeks or the next few years, your mentor can play a crucial part in helping you get there. 

Ask yourself these questions

As you attempt to define your long term goals, consider the following questions:

  • Does it give you anxiety? Does this mean it’s too out of scope?
  • Could I achieve this goal tomorrow? Is my goal too small?
  • What needs to change for me to get achieve this goal?
  • Am I energize by this goal? How will I maintain this energy over the long term?
  • What will my career be like after I achieve this long term goal? Visualize what achieving this goal will look like.

Finding the answers to these questions will help you focus on what you want to achieve over the duration of your career. 

Books And Resources On Setting Goals

One article isn’t enough to get you on the path to achieving all your long term goals. To work out a proper plan and build up enough motivation to sustain you over time you’ll need to be armed with as many resources as you can get your hands on.

Along with these books on goal setting, talk with a trusted colleague or manager about your plans. A manager can be instrumental in helping define a career path you can move along to achieve your career goals. We all need goals and an aim to shoot for. Long term career goals can be the north star that guides our decisions and keeps us progressing throughout our lives and careers.

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