Employee Development

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

Goal setting is the key that unlocks the door to professional success. When combined with feedback from leadership, long-term goals help keep employees stay motivated, achieve personal goals, and establish a fully realized career plan.

Kinjal Dagli

Sr. Content Marketing Manager at Together

Published on 

August 31, 2021

Updated on 

April 3, 2024

Time to Read

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Where would we be without GPS?

Most of us would be lost, or at the very least, sitting on the side of the road trying to read the map. 

So why do we think our career should be any different?

Just like a road trip, a career plan needs a clear destination in mind and a plan for getting there. Long-term goals are the signposts along the way that let you know if you’re on the right track — or if you need to take a different path.

So let’s look at what long-term career goals are and how they can help you shape the career path you deserve.

What are long-term career goals?

Long-term career goals are milestones you set for yourself to achieve over the course of several years. Whereas short-term career goals help you achieve the next step on your career path, long-term goals keep you focused on the big picture. Each short-term goal shoud build to one of your larger, long-term goals. 

In other words, long-term goals are the roadmap to your desired outcomes — both in your career and your life. 

Long-term career goals don’t just put you on the right path for success, they also demonstrate to employers where you are heading. 

Why are long-term career goals important?

Humans are hard-wired to achieve — at least when given the proper motivation.

Locke’s Goal Setting theory supports this idea. In his theory, Dr. Edwin Locke stated that employees achieved more when they set clear goals. But to stay motivated we need to be challenged by our goals and receive feedback on our progress. 

Long-term goals give us something to strive for, a purpose. It provides us with a sense of being the very best we can be. 

With a distinct, specific idea of what success looks like, we’ll be motivated to achieve more. Chris Do, an Emmy award-winning designer and CEO of The Futur, says your goals can’t be fuzzy if you want to achieve clear results. 

“Clear goals, clear results. Fuzzy goals, fuzzy results.” – Chris Do, CEO of The Futur

But our understanding of the relationship between goals, motivation, and success goes even deeper. Enter: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Meeting remote employees basic needs is only the first step in helping them become truly engaged. (Source)

Meeting remote employees basic needs is only the first step in helping them become truly engaged.

Maslow’s work revealed the priorities humans give to their achievements. Once our basic needs are met, we strive for the next level of growth and success. This has a profound impact on motivation, personal development, professional growth and our sense of fulfillment.

Goals keep us motivated over time

Maslow discovered that the more an individual realizes their potential, the more motivated they are to continue working towards self-actualization. In other words, setting goals and achieving them will motivate you to reach even higher. 

Goals give personal and professional growth a purpose

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. 

Goals help us decide what success looks like

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. 

15 examples of long-term career goals

Long-term goals will look a bit different from short-term goals. For instance, in a mentorship program, you might set a goal to learn a single new skill, like one-on-one coaching. But a long-term goal might be to learn all the skills needed for a particular leadership role. 

Let’s take a look at 15 long-term goal ideas that might inspire your own personal or professional goals.

1. Gain leadership experience

Leadership development is a common long-term career goal for employees that want to progress along their career path. You can commit to attending classes, workshops to work on your capabilities, or for more advanced leadership goals, you could commit to mentoring new managers.

2. Gain global experience

Our world is interconnected. Gaining some wider exposure can greatly benefit your career and create a more inclusive workplace. Whether it is attending international 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 your own research

Whether you leverage social media like LinkedIn or have your research published in a peer-reviewed journal, making a name for yourself in your industry can build your reputation and make you more attractive to employers. Look into what thought leaders in your field are writing about. Start sharing their work and offer your own perspective. Over time, you’ll find you have lots of expertise to share and may find a research partner who can help you achieve your goal faster. 

4. Grow 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 but remember to focus on a few key connections that you can cultivate over time.

5. Build new skills

The skills on your resume are what will get you noticed by employers. Work on a list of skills that are in demand for 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), but learning a new language could be a great idea, especially if your business operates globally. 

6. Start your own business 

Creating your own business is a long-term goal that you can start today. Consider 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

Many executives and future leaders choose to complement their training and experience with an additional degree. Before going back to school, do some research into what degrees are most useful (or even required) in your desired role. 

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, especially mentors for women and minorities. 

10. Change careers 

Statistics show that people change their jobs nearly 13 times over the course of their working lives. While many of these are moves made before the age of 25, 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 is not guaranteed. Consider things you can do that will result in you increasing your salary over time, such as upskilling or reskilling

12. Gain problem-solving skills

Problem-solving skills are a type of soft skills used in the workplace to deal with challenging, unexpected, or confusing situations. Problem-solving abilities are a desirable asset to any business, whether you are an entry-level employee or a C-level executive.Furthermore, they prepare you for recurring difficulties, rare problems, and worst-case scenarios. If prepared, you are less likely to become agitated or stop working to undertake damage control.

13. Create a more inclusive work culture

If you have made it to the point your career where you’re in a leadership position team, you’re in a position to affect the lives of dozens, if not hundreds, of employees. By helping all employees to feel like they belong in your workplace, you’ll have higher performing employees who stick with your company longer.  

14. Find a sponsor

Sponsorships help the next generation of leaders to achieve their goals. As you progress in your career, a sponsor can help you make valuable professional connections, set long- and short-term goals, and even groom you to take over their position.

15. Become an influencer

Social media influencers are savvy marketers, but influencer marketing isn’t just limited to consumer goods and TikTok dances. All industries have influencers, and becoming a well-known face in your field can have profound downstream effects on your career. Through social networks, influencers become de facto mentors, who can guide and inspire others.

eBook Not Sure Where To Start? Pick The Best Mentorship Model For Your Organization

How to set good long-term career goals

You’ve probably heard of the SMART framework for goal setting. These five aspects of goal setting will keep you on track, which will be especially important when it comes to long-term goals.

  • Specific - Be as detailed as you can about your goals.
  • Measurable - Determine how you will measure progress.
  • Attainable - Choose a challenging goal but keep it realistic. 
  • Relevant - Keep your career goals related to your career path.
  • Timely - Set a deadline to keep you motivated.

Once you have a SMART goal in mind, it’s time to test it out.

Talk to a mentor about your goals

Having a mentor at work provides you with an individual who can advise and guide you. Mentorships are built around the mentee’s goals and the action they take to achieve those goals. But part of a mentorship can include the act of goal setting itself.

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. 

Do a self-assessment of your long-term goals

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

  • Does your goal give you anxiety? A goal that creates unnecessary stress may be too ambitious. Consider how you can break it into smaller, more manageable goals.
  • Could I achieve this goal tomorrow? Conversely, a goal can be too small. If it’s something that could be achieved in weeks or months, you may be looking at a short-term goal. That’s ok, but make it a stop along the way to your long-term aspiration instead. 
  • What needs to change for me to achieve this goal? Here’s where you start thinking tactically about your plan. What will you need to do in order to achieve your goal? For a career change, you may need to learn new skills, grow your network, or change companies. 
  • Am I energized by this goal? If your goal doesn’t inspire you, you won’t stick with it. If you want to own your own ecommerce company, setting a goal of managing a team of accountants may not be the right path. 
  • What will my career look like? Visualize what achieving this goal will look like. Are you where you want to be?

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

Further reading: books and resources for goal setting

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. Long-term career goals can be the north star that guides our decisions and keeps us progressing throughout our lives and careers.

Mentorships can help your employees achieve their goals

You don’t have to work toward your long-term goals alone. Mentoring software from Together helps employees make meaningful connections with mentors who can assist with goal-setting and career success. 

Mentors offer their mentees the guidance and accountability they need to achieve their career aspirations. 

Book a demo to see how Together can help in your career.

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