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Set Goals That Really Matter for Your Career

Hit your goals and still be happy.

How often have you sat down to establish a list of goals for your career only to find out later that they were about as realistic as your New Year’s resolutions? You wanted to have a six figure salary by your fifth year into your career. You wanted a corner office. Maybe you even thought it would be crucial to increase sales by 20 percent while not taking a good look at the economy during that period.

Goals are important and they can help you keep your career on track. However, the trick is to establish goals that focus in on the things that truly matter in your career first. They may seem too simple, but far too often they are overlooked. Here are five examples of career goals:

Love your work.

Does this even need to be said? Yes. It does. Life is too short to live in misery. If you get up every day and dread the thought of going into your job, you need to do something about it. Is it your field of work that you dislike or your company or even just one manager? Once you can pinpoint the problem, you can start looking for a solution.

If you like your job, but don’t love it, try to figure out what’s missing. It’s probably not the time for a career overhaul. You just need to stop and assess what you do like and don’t like about your current job. Is there something missing? A small shift in focus may be all it takes to make you passionate about the work you do again.

You may not believe it, but there are people out there who truly love their jobs. If you’re not sure if you’ve found your calling, take a career test and see where you really fit. There’s no reason you can’t be one of the happy crowd.

What is your salary happiness level?

When you think about career goals that truly matter, you don’t want to make it all about money. That being said, money matters. Here’s the hard part – you need to figure out what your number really is for genuine happiness. Perhaps you’ve always had the $100,000 mark in your head. In reality, only about 20 percent of American households break the six figure mark. That’s households, not individuals. So if $100K per year is more of a dream salary figure, how do you calculate your happiness number?

Simple. Add up your estimated annual bills. Include everything from phone plans to house payments to insurance premiums. Don’t forget to think about retirement and taxes. Now think about how much extra you would like to have each month for the fun stuff like vacations, dining out, and the occasional night on the town. Multiply that times 12 and add it to your annual bills and there you have it. It's a simplistic look at finances, but it can give you an idea of where you really need to be. There are plenty of resources out there if you want to look at your finances a little more in depth.

Would you like to make more than that? Of course! But sometimes simply understanding what you need versus what you think you need can take some of the pressure off.

Continuing education.

If you are perfectly happy doing what you do and keeping the status quo, then you may happily jump to the next section. For most people, though, it’s important to keep feeling like you’re moving forward. One of the best ways to do that is to keep educating yourself in some way to ensure career development.

If you have weaknesses on your job or on your resume, a continuing education course to bring you up to speed may be just what you need. If you are set at work but have always wanted to take a Russian literature class, do it!

You don’t have to dedicate yourself to a new degree or even a class if you don’t want. There are great professional development books out there to help you boost your career. Learning stimulates the mind and encourages both intellectual and emotional growth. Simply put, continuous learning is a goal that leads to improved happiness.

Work-life balance.

This one can be a very tough one. How do you get ahead at work without burying yourself in your job day in and day out?

If you want to throw yourself into your work and you don’t have friends or family clamoring for more of your time, go for it. There’s nothing wrong with that if it makes you happy. However, when too much time buried in work starts to take a toll on your loved ones or even your own peace of mind, it’s time to make a change. You don’t want to burn yourself out. If your current company won’t let you cut back, it may be time to find another one who is less demanding and values a work-life balance.


It’s really hard for most people to think about retirement. It may seem like it’s so far away that it just doesn’t matter right now. It will matter and in a big way. The fact of the matter is that you won’t be truly happy in your current work situation if you are always worrying about the future in the back (or the front) of your mind.

The simplest and best way to really get a firm grasp on retirement is to see a financial professional who can help you plot out a roadmap to build your retirement funds. Or, if you prefer, you can try to do it yourself online. You’ll have to think about what age you want to be when you retire, how much you want to have to live on at that point, and how much you can afford to start putting towards that goal right now. Banking on Social Security is no longer an option, so it pays to get a retirement plan in place. You’ll be happier for having that goal set.

We all set career goals. Sometimes it’s too easy to let little goals or unrealistic goals cloud our judgment when we assess our careers. You didn’t make the sales number you had set for yourself or you still don’t have that corner office. Before any goals like those really matter, you need to take the time to sit down and set some goals that really matter for you and for your happiness. If you are married and have a family, bring them into the conversation, too.

Finding work you love, understanding your financial needs both now and in retirement, continued learning and finding that work-life balance are true goals. Once you have those in place, you’ll be in a position to make the most of your career and your life.

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Landing your dream job starts with the right plan.

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Landing your dream job starts with the right plan. Download your free action plan now to get the job you deserve.