How to Set and Achieve Long-Term Career Goals (With Examples)

1 minutes

For many ambitious and proactive employees, setting long-term career goals is essential for steering your career in the right direction.

Setting long-term goals can be complex and can get overwhelming if you allow it to. But with a careful, pragmatic approach that puts achievable goals in the front view, you will quell that feeling and enjoy each productive step forwards.

This article explores the importance of long-term goals, introduces a 5-step approach that will change how you perceive goals, and tells you exactly why mentoring is a fundamental piece of the puzzle in goal-setting.

Let’s get planning!

People development header imageThe importance of setting long-term career goals

Long-term goals are essential, especially if you have a specific career trajectory in mind. Without goals, we can easily go off-course and even stagnate in our careers. A solid career plan will reinforce the work you do every day, and imbue you with purpose that takes you where you want to go. Not to mention, keep you focused and on track. 

Before we go on, it’s important to remember that a long-term career plan doesn’t need to be set in stone. Your goals may change and grow as you do and that’s ok. And of course, you can change it at any time, and adjust it as you evolve through your journey. A career plan is there to help you, calibrate your focus, and maintain the motivation you need to achieve ambitious goals. 

In either case, a long-term career goal is a set of milestones that lead you to a particular ‘ultimate’ goal. This might be the CEO of your own company or perhaps you’re striving for a level of financial security or creative expression through work.

In any case, planning is involved to get the ball rolling. To do so, you might prefer to use your ingenuity and smarts to do it yourself, but you can help yourself along a bit by taking a look at how you can start.

📖 Find out more about putting together a career progression plan in our guide, today 📖

Examples of long-term career goals

If you’re looking for inspiration of the kinds of long-term career goals you can set to ensure success, we’re here to help.

Long-term goals can be anywhere from 1-year to 20-years in the making so think big!

Here are 5 top long-term goal examples:

1. Salary

Financial security is increasingly important as the world changes. With the cost of living crisis and redundancies across once secure businesses, prioritising your salary goals is important.

There are many steps you can take to get to your goal salary, showing your management team that you’ve got what it takes. Don’t forget, sometimes being up front with your goals is necessary, so don’t be afraid to communicate your ambitions with your employer. 

Remember, salary is only one part of your work package. Negotiating across the spectrum of benefits is important, for example your employer pension contribution can massively affect your ability to retire securely in future.

2. Retirement

Which brings us nicely to our next point, for many people a long-term goal may actually be when you plan to stop working. Perhaps you want to retire comfortably by the age of 55 or you have a goal of the pension fund you need to enjoy your golden years.

Either way, planning is key to ensure you can have the retirement that you want when the time comes.

3. Mastery

They say that mastery takes 10,000 hours of practice. Mastering a skill can be a fulfilling and rewarding goal that is not focussed on material gain, but on the emotional rewards of progress. Setting this as a long-term goal is a great way to remind yourself why you do what you do.

This may include reaching a level of education or training associated with your profession and works well for careers that have a clearly defined process for certifying skill. Equally, you may find that years or accolades help you understand what mastery means to you.

4. Job title

For some people, their long-term goal is about reaching a certain job role or title. Whether it’s CEO, or Head of Department, there are lots of long-term goals that you can set around rising the ranks in your career.

Equally, you may want to set goals around variety of role or industry – for many a squiggly career is fulfilling and being able to leave your career having reached a number of interesting roles is what you are looking for.

Mentoring, coaching and sponsorship e-book bannerTop tips for hitting your goals

Ready to set you BHAG? (Big Hairy Ambitious Goal!) Then remember these top tips:

1. Make you goal SMART

The SMART goal-setting framework is a classic for a reason – it works.

SMART stands for:

Specific: The clearer the goal, the easier it is to see if you’ve hit it or not.

Measurable: It’s hard to see results if you can’t measure progress so make your goal measurable.

Attainable: Setting goals you can’t achieve is de-motivating! Make sure you can actually hit your goal, however ambitious it is.

Relevant: It needs to be tied into your other life goals and activities otherwise it can easily be sidelined.

Time-bound: Give yourself a deadline and work backwards from there to make sure you can achieve your goal.

This framework helps you to set goals that are clearly defined and achievable, which will help you to stay on track and see progress.

📖 Find out more about how to set goals and achieve them in our guide 📖

2. Find a mentor

Mentorship is vital for hitting your career goals, not the least because it allows you to vocalise your goals and get some genuine, honest advice about how to go about them. Regular meetings will increase your belief in yourself, and keep you on the right track. Plus, it allows you to see how others have achieved their goals. Look into this when you can!

3. Break goals down

It’s useful to break your goals down into smaller goals. For instance, if you have a large overarching goal like “I will become the CEO of a large multinational company”, it should be broken down into achievable sections with clear timeframes. 

Physicality is important here. Write your goals down on cards, or pin Post-it notes to a cork board. One way or the other, stay aware of them each day. 

4. Hold yourself accountable

It’s important to hold yourself accountable for your long-term goals. Firstly, acknowledge that they’re not going to come to you. It’s all down to you. It’s your responsibility. Then look at the cards on the table. How do you proceed? Figure the different avenues of this out and you’ll be well on the way. Then it’s a case of spending the appropriate amount of time per week with each avenue to achieve the results. You can even buy a journal and list weekly tasks with rewards.

5. Celebrate your success

Every successful step forwards must be celebrated. You should do something fun to reward yourself like a holiday or a new book. This self-imposed rewards scheme will give you that extra incentive to keep going so that you remain aware of the steps ahead of you but appreciate every milestone, however small.

The verdict

Putting a career goal into place will transform your working life and reinforce the validity of your daily tasks. The key thing is to stick with your plan once you have identified it and mapped it out, and assess the results and every step towards success. But also, remember to reassess the plan regularly. This allows you to make changes and remove low-priority tasks.

If you need more information about how to handle your career trajectory, then check out our related posts:

Mentors Assemble: The Benefits of a Personal Advisory Board

46 Inspirational Mentoring Quotes

The Importance of Positive Self-Talk

Top Mentorship Goals for Mentees

The Importance of Overcoming Limiting Beliefs 

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