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Goal-Setting: Developing a Vision & Goal for Your Career

Last updated by Swaminathan Iyer on Apr 01, 2024 at 01:09 PM | Reading time: 14 minutes

Albert Einstein believed that a happy life must be tied to a goal.

That is some excellent advice from the most brilliant mind of modern times! But wait, there is evidence to back up his claim as well.

A Harvard Business School survey stated that 14% of the people who have goals are over ten times more successful than those who do not make goals. Imagine being ten times more successful than your coevals! Who would not enjoy that level of productivity and output from life?

Here's what this article will cover:

  1. Why is setting goals important?
  2. What is meant by short-term goals?
  3. What is meant by long-term goals?
  4. Setting professional goals
  5. Examples of typical career goals
  6. How to set professional goals for a successful career?
  7. How to define your career goal with SMART?
  8. Make goal-setting an ongoing practice

Susan and Dean were friends in their final year, majoring in Computer Science. Susan had her life planned out. Dean didn't.

Susan set herself a couple of professional goals. She aimed to work as a front end developer for any e-commerce firm that would hire her. She wanted to consider a career transition into movies during her forties since she loved graphics and design. Motherhood and owning a home of her own were some of her other life goals.

On the other hand, Dean was comparable in skills to Susan, but he never planned a goal. The concept of setting professional goals was relatively unknown to him.

He had no particular liking for any field of study and had no idea of what to accomplish with his life. He just wanted to be hired. Dean was the typical drifter.

College got over. Both graduated and went their separate ways. Susan achieved every single one of her goals and lived a productive, fulfilling, and abundant life. On the other hand, Dean drifted through jobs, did what he was told, married, and lived without realizing that he could have done more with his life.

While their lives might have been different, Susan experienced something Dean didn't. She understood just how fulfilling it can be to set a goal and achieve it. The sense of accomplishment makes one feel a kind of thrill or "high" nothing else can replicate.

So, set a personal and professional goal for the better enjoyment and fulfillment of your life!

According to Andrew Carnegie, if you want to be happy, you must set an inspirational and liberating goal.

Why is setting goals important?

"If you aim for nothing, you'll hit it every time."– Source unknown.

As cold and cruel as that sounds, it is a fact that living a life without goals is tantamount to living life like a drifter. Drifters go wherever the wind blows. They can hardly explain to anyone, least of all themselves, where they are coming from or where they are heading, quite like the wind. But if you want to live a fruitful and abundant life, you should put down deep roots. Doing so will help you to experience life at a higher level.

Here are six reasons why setting goals are essential in today's world and how that can positively impact the quality of your life.

  • Setting a goal helps you to focus on life. A plan demands that you put all your energy into achieving it, which boosts mental productivity. Focus is essential because it creates a better thinking mind, enabling you to progress in your career.
  • Setting a goal can be rewarding. When you work toward achieving something, you feel a sense of wonder, fulfillment, and accomplishment. These three emotions are crucial ingredients in a well-balanced life that sparks mental activity and bolsters confidence.
  • Having a professional goal helps one to stay motivated in the workplace. Burnout and losing interest in one's job are common in the world, especially among software professionals. But if you tie your life to achieving any aim, that will keep you in the grind longer than your contemporaries.
  • Personal and professional goal setting can create a sense of value in life more often than not. While all of us struggle in some way to find meaning and purpose in life, having or setting a goal can give you something to live and strive for. Essentially, it gives you a raison d'etre!
  • Setting professional goals reduces procrastination. Once you commit yourself to achieve a task or meeting a target, you will usually do everything in your power to accomplish the said task. Cutting back on procrastination creates higher productivity in life.
  • Professional goals for work are necessary to increase productivity. Life is short. Hence, we have got to make the most of what we can. To live an impactful and overwhelming life, it is beneficial to set a goal.

With these reasons to set personal, professional goals, you can understand the importance of and the need for goal setting.

What is meant by short-term goals?

"A goal properly set is halfway reached."– Zig Ziglar.

The answer to the above question is quite intuitive and self-explanatory. Short-term goals are those goals that require a shorter period to be achieved. They usually take somewhere between a week to a month or two to complete. And their scope is not very wide. They probably impact a smaller aspect of your life. An idea of short-term professional goal setting examples is learning a programming language for a particular project.

While coming up with professional goals ideas, do not forget to have plenty of short term goals to accomplish. You can liken these goals to rungs on the career ladder. Climbing them step-by-step can help you to reach the top of your career crown sooner.

Setting professional development goals for the short-term can be relatively easy to reach since they require a concentrated effort for a little while.

What is meant by long-term goals?

"If you're bored with life – you don't get up every morning with a burning desire to do things – you don't have enough goals."– Lou Holtz.

Long-term goals usually take over a couple of years to achieve. These goals require you to tick off several short-terms on the list before you can reach them. Some examples of professional goals for work are getting to a particular position before a certain age.

Personal, professional goals for the long run can be quite demanding and require a more concentrated effort. Professional goal setting examples include switching careers in your mid-forties.

Setting personal goals

"People with goals succeed because they know where they're going."– Earl Nightingale.

Setting goals for personal and professional development makes life that much more enjoyable. It brings in the zest, the verve and the joie de vivre that everyone seems to be missing out on nowadays.

Setting goals in your personal life can have far-reaching implications on your work life as well. If you achieve any goal in your personal life, you can use it as an example at interviews to say that you are goal-driven and action-oriented.

Here are some examples of useful personal goals that speak volumes about you in the workplace.

  • Playing an instrument at a professional level
  • Participating at a professional level in any sports
  • Picking up skills of public speaking
  • Taking a short course on management
  • Developing your skill-set in any particular area
  • Studying or furthering your knowledge in some new topic of Computer Science
  • Buying a house
  • Strenuous goals like training for a marathon
  • Getting fit, physically

Setting professional goals

Mark Victor Hansen advised recording your dreams and goals on a piece of paper. This can immensely help you in the process of becoming the person you most want to be.

When you start on your professional career, do not do so with a lukewarm response. Be very passionate about your work since that will, in some way, benefit or impact the lives of others around you. Imagine the impact you can have on your colleagues in a prestigious FAANG organization!

When you wake up in the morning, you should feel pumped up and eager to get to work. If that is not your attitude, you are wasting time. The best way to set career goals is to plan the future out in pencil (since no one can foresee the end) and have something to strive for.

Here are some examples of setting professional development goals at work:

  • A promotion in your area of work
  • Finishing off a large project
  • Solving a complex problem that has your contemporaries worried
  • Improving on some technical skills
  • Making a switch to a different field so that you can pursue two of your most passionate interests.
  • Aspiring to get an accolade, like the Turing Award!


  • Pete Drucker and G.T. Doran were the creators of SMART objectives!

Examples of typical career goals

Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible —Tony Robbins.

So far, we have discussed the rationale behind goal setting and how you can set for yourself certain career goals.

Here is a step-by-step approach to help you draft some career goals for yourself.

Examples of setting professional development goals at work

  • When you first enter the job, you should aim at working correctly in every task you are assigned. Your first goal should be to impress everyone with your work ethic.
  • Your next aim should be to excel at a particular project.
  • Once your seniors at work recognize your talent, aim to be the sole handler of a project.
  • Next, try to be promoted to a team leader.
  • Slowly climb the rungs of the career ladder.
  • When you get to about forty, consider a career switch or setting up your own business.
  • At this pinnacle of your career, you should consider giving back to the profession.

At any interview, especially at FAANG organizations, the interviewer will also gauge you as a goal-oriented candidate besides asking you technical interview questions.

How to set professional goals for a successful career?

Tony Robbins ardently believed that people are not lazy. It’s just that they set impotent goals that have no inspiration whatsoever.

While getting started with your career, you should have professional goals to set for yourself. Doing so makes the work journey more enjoyable and meaningful.

  • Have clear and detailed goals as much as possible.

Knowing where to aim is sometimes more vital than actually letting fly arrows. Similarly, when applying for a job or setting professional development goals, be very specific about what you hope to achieve and heading in the next five years.

  • Define how you will measure success.

Professional goals ideas need to have a measure by which you can gauge whether you have reached the target or not. Once you have planned out your goal, define how you will measure that goal’s success.

  • Are your goals achievable?

Please do not make the immature mistake of setting unachievable goals that put you off from the beginning itself. Set the bar at a level you know you can reach on time. However, do not keep the bar too low since that is equivalent to no challenge.

  • Make sure your goal is relevant

Your goal should be aligned to the long-term plan that you have for your life. If it does not add value to the end game, there is little or no reason to include the goal in your list.

  • Set a beginning and end date

Maintain and keep a timetable of your goals so that you can track your progress. Also, it will help you stay focused and keep you on track.

So, while goal setting professional development, keep in mind that you should be reasonable, the goals should be realistic and achievable.

How to define your career goal with SMART?

SMART is a technique whereby you can set and achieve goals in a 21st century spot-on manner! It is a useful tool that helps to formulate the process of going through the various phases of your career.

The steps of SMART are:

  • Specific

With professional goals to set for yourself, go beyond the rough outline. For instance, “I want to work as a backend developer” can be translated to “I want to work as a backend developer for Amazon.”

Be specific in the goal to the point where you mention duration, position and tasks.

  • Measurable

Standardize specific criteria that measure whether you have achieved the goals or not. For example, to achieve the goal of becoming a team leader, check whether you have a minimum of five projects under your belt.

  • Achievable or Attainable

Setting goals for personal and professional development should be attainable. Several people have burned out by striving and becoming a slave to their goals. To avoid this situation, try to make many small goals that you can achieve. You will get a boost of positivity every time you check any one of them off the list.

  • Realistic

During goal setting professional development, aim to be as realistic as you can. Do you aspire to be a team leader in one year? Surely you are not joking! When you set your career goals, talk to a senior at work and then chart out the plan if you are confused about the number of years it takes to reach a specific position.

  • Time

To achieve your goals, you need to set a timeframe. The best way to do this is by establishing a specific start date and end date. If you achieve your target during this period, well and good! If not, you can go back to the drawing-room and start charting out the course again.

Make goal-setting an ongoing practice

When you set out to chart goals or plan out your career path, remember there are many hits and misses. That is why adhering to Jon Bon Jovi's advice of mapping out your life in pencil is pretty sound.

You can make goal-setting a practice that can be revised at any time, or altered when you find something more exciting and lucrative. However, for better results, try to complete goals before setting out on something new. These also happen to be excellent technical interview prep tips!


Swaminathan Iyer

Product @ Interview Kickstart | Ex | Business Management - XLRI Jamshedpur. Loves building things and burning pizzas!

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