How to Set Achievable Short-Term Career Goals

Setting Goals

Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? There’s a pretty good chance you’ve had to answer that question at some point in your career, whether it was in an interview or in a performance review. And while having long-term goals is important, short-terms ones can arguably be more beneficial.

Short-term goals can ladder up into your long-term goals, but they are also likely more attainable. If you want to be a manager in a few years then smaller, incremental goals can help you get there. But, how do you set goals that you can achieve in the near future?

Make a List

First, make a very comprehensive list of what you want to achieve. No goal is too big or too small, just do a brain dump of everything you’d like to do in your career or professional life. Seeing everything written out on paper can give you a different perspective and help you group certain things together.

If you have a lot of professional development goals written down, is it because you love your current role and want to expand, or could it be because you want to ultimately switch lanes into a new industry or role?

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After everything is written down start to prioritize. Think about what goals can be categorized together and what ones aren’t realistic right now. Then rewrite your list in the order of how you want to achieve them. Now you essentially have a goal “to-do” list.

Break Them Down

Once you know what goals you want to work towards, consider the steps you need to take to get there. Do you need help from a co-worker or a manager? Is there a class you can take? Make a plan to accomplish your top goals by creating smaller tasks to get there.

Be Accountable

Attach a deadline for each of your goals. If you want to take it to the next level, give the smaller steps a timeline, too. Holding yourself accountable is key to accomplishing what you want to and in a timely manner. It’s all too easy to say you want to do something and then let other priorities get in the way.

Check in with yourself at the end of every week to see what progress you have made and what you want to complete the following week. This can be as simple as doing research on a course or as big as enrolling in graduate school.

Celebrate the Wins

Don’t discount the small achievements you’re making on the way to accomplishing your ultimate goals. This doesn’t mean popping a bottle of champagne because you sent an email to a mentor (but more power to you!). However, giving yourself something to look forward to can make finishing something you’ve been working on that much more satisfying. It can also act as a motivator — never discount the power of a prize. So, build in a few milestones where you’ll treat yourself when you pass them. While the ultimate prize will be the feeling you get when you accomplish something you’ve been working towards, having small wins along the way does wonder for keeping you going.

So next time you feel stuck or don’t know where to start in goal setting, take a step back and follow these tips for accomplishing short-term goals.

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