Make this the year you create an action plan for your long-term career goals. We’ll show you where to start.

Unrealistic goals and expectations are never a good thing, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid setting goals altogether. This is especially true for defining career goals. Resolutions and goals are fantastic ways to get yourself motivated to achieve your dreams, and there’s no better time than now. After all, if nothing changes, nothing changes, right?

This is especially true for job seekers. Now is the time to start planning and achieving your goals. In doing so, it’ll also prepare you to answer the common job interview question “what are your career goals?” because you’ll actually have goals established! With the right preparation, you can greatly increase the likelihood of achieving your resolutions. The first and most important step in this process is to define your career goal.

So what is a career goal, and why it so important to define it?

A career goal is a specific statement that explains what profession you want to pursue throughout your career. It is critical to clearly define your career goal so you can develop an effective action plan. It is also of the utmost importance for potential employers to understand your response when they ask “what are your career goals?” during an interview. your career goal. In today’s job-search landscape, nothing will close doors faster than an, “Oh, I don’t know, I’ll do anything” type of response to a question about what kind of job you’re seeking. [TWEET]

To build an effective career goal and establish an effective answer to “what are your career goals?” start with your long-term vision. In other words, where do you ultimately want to end up in five, 10, or even 15 years from now? If you’re unsure of your long-term career goals, give these exercises a try.

For example, you may realize that you want to combine your passion for cutting-edge technology with your desire to take on a senior leadership role that involves strategic planning and has a significant impact on an organization’s profit and loss. As a result, you may determine your long-term career goal to be the Chief Operating Officer for an innovative hi-tech company.

Knowing your ultimate goal allows you to clarify your shorter term goals. When defining your short- and long-term career goals, remember that these goals  should be SMART:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Action-oriented
  • Realistic with Timelines (SMART)

Your goals need to take into account where you are now, where you want to be, and what you need to do to get from Point A to Point B.

Hiring managers look for a combination of education, practical experience, and cultural fit when hiring so once you know your ultimate goal, you can do your homework on what it takes to be considered a prime candidate. From there, it’s a matter of setting and meeting your SMART goals.

For example, if you know you need extensive management experience to be considered a COO candidate, and you don’t have any, your short-term goal should include obtaining a management position where you can begin to develop your management skill set.

It is good to have overarching -- even aggressive -- career goals, provided you are diligent in putting together an action plan and following it. Once you have clarified your short-term goals, you can begin to tailor your resume and job-search efforts to land the right opportunity. If you are very clear on what you want, it makes it easier for your network to help you, and for hiring managers to hire you.

How to answer “What are Your Career Goals?”

The first step to properly answering “what are your career goals” in an interview is first having goals. If you followed the advice above, you should already have this done. Next is learning to effectively communicate them to the hiring manager in an interview.

To start, make sure you have a clear and succinct description of your career goals. This description needs to be phrased in a way that outsiders (hiring managers, people outside your existing career) can relate to and understand. Always remember to frame your career goals in a way that is relevant to the company for which you’re applying – the hiring manager wants to see if you have a future there and if you envision yourself there.

Next, be prepared to elaborate on how you plan to accomplish (or at least work towards) your career goals. Many hiring managers are trained to dig deeper in interviews, and after stating your career goals, this may be a follow-up question to help the hiring manager learn more about you and your vision for yourself.

Want more help on setting your career goals? Click on the following link to review all our articles on goal-setting.

Looking for a new career this year? Let us help!

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