Supercharge 2024 With These 15 SMART Career Goals

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December 18, 2023
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19
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3 key takeaways

  • 15 career goal examples for 2024
  • How to set professional goals for different periods of your career
  • What Teal’s Job Application Tracker with Basic and Advanced Guidance can do to help you reach your goals

The new year is a great time to re-evaluate your goals and aspirations—including ones related to your job and professional growth. Setting personal career goals can give you a little pep in your step and give you something to work toward. And the feeling you get when you finally reach them? The feeling is unmatched. 

Let’s also not forget that one of the most common interview questions is about your short- and long-term career goals and how the goals align with the company’s values and needs. So in 2024, set some professional goals and work toward achieving them. 

Understanding career goals

Career goals are defined milestones you set for your professional development. These are SMART goals, which are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. The goals you set help you formalize what you want and what you’re working toward as you pursue your career path

These differ from personal goals, which focus on your personal development and interests. So instead of “I want to meditate for 10 minutes a day,” some career goals examples might include obtaining a professional certificate, securing a leadership position, or getting a 10% pay raise. 

These types of career goals can also give you inspiration and a sense of purpose, which is a key point in understanding the difference between a job vs. career

Typically, your career goals can be broken down into short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals. That way, you have something on the horizon to keep you motivated but also have a big-picture vision of where you want to go. 

Dr. Kyle Elliott, founder and tech career coach at CaffeinatedKyle.com, explains,

“As you set your career goals, consider focusing on what's important to you and your long-term vision of personal success rather than simply setting goals for the sake of setting goals. While it might be tempting to use the new year to set ambitious goals for your career, ask yourself what's most salient to you and your professional trajectory, and then set your goals accordingly.”

15 career goal examples

Below we break down a list of common goals based on short-term career goals, mid-term career goals, and long-term career goals. Before getting started, review what you want your employment goals to be and what your employer is looking for in the year ahead. 

Elliott echos this sentiment: 

“You might wish to meet with your manager to get clear on their priorities for the year and then develop your own goals that will support them in achieving theirs. This not only helps you make your boss look good but also ensures you have buy-in, which is a win-win.”

To help you brainstorm, here are 15 examples of career goals.

Short-term career goals 

Short-term career goals typically can be accomplished within a matter of months up to a year. Here are some examples of the ones you can work toward. 

1. Learn a new skill 

Adding new skills to your repertoire is always a good idea, especially in a competitive job market. Think of a skill you’ve been wanting to learn for a while. For example, Salesforce or email marketing. You can also talk to your supervisor and discuss hard and soft skills that could use some refinement. 

Then, you can look for online courses, in-person classes, and workshops so you can elevate your skill set. Check out places like Coursera, LinkedIn Learning, Udemy, and others. You may be able to access some of these tools for free with a library card. 

Dedicate time in your schedule and block out your calendar so you commit to mastering a new skill. If you learn online and it’s self-paced, make sure to set a timeline of when you want to complete your studies. Mark your progress each week. 

2. Grow your professional network

An oft-quoted saying by Jim Rohn is, “Your network is your net worth.” Having an active and close professional network can help with referrals, testimonials, and getting new opportunities. 

To grow your professional network, you can take a two-pronged approach–building connections in-person and online. Focus on meeting new people at events with industry leaders, mixers, talks, and conferences. It can feel awkward if you don’t know anyone, but the best way to combat that is to be curious and practice listening more. Relationships are a long game, and no one wants a sales pitch upfront. 

Online, you can engage with others on LinkedIn through groups and posts and connect with others by sending them a message introducing yourself. Make it short and sweet. Say who you are, what you do, and why you’re interested in connecting. That’s it. Don’t ask for favors from strangers; try to build genuine relationships in-person and online first. 

Pro Tip: Before growing your network, make sure your LinkedIn profile is optimized. Try Teal's LinkedIn Review Tool to make sure you're presenting the best version of yourself every time you hit "Connect."

An tool for optimizing LinkedIn profiles to align with 2024 newtorking career goals
Present the best version of yourself with an optimized LinkedIn profile.

3. Create a personal brand 

You can build a personal brand by sharing your interests and expertise with others. Share on LinkedIn, engage in online communities, and have a tight elevator pitch about who you are and what you do. 

What do people think of when they see your name? Building a personal brand can keep you top of mind for certain opportunities and referrals and also establish credibility. 

4. Boost productivity 

As part of your personal career goals, you might want to get more done in less time. Boosting productivity and efficiency can help your job performance and make you feel accomplished by crossing things off your list. 

That’s where improving your time management skills comes in. Use a tool like Focusmate to virtually co-work with others to get things done. Consider using a tool like RescueTime which tracks how much time you’re spending on certain tasks and websites. Block social media using tools like SelfControl, put your phone away, and limit meetings to only what’s needed.

Measurable goals that can help include reducing social media or browsing time by 5 hours, having a cap on the number of meetings, and committing to a minimum of four hours of deep, focused work. 

5. Improve work-life balance 

Is your work life taking over with little to no time for yourself? Are you glued to your computer and wake up to the sounds of notifications? If your personal relationships and mental health are being adversely affected by your professional life, then a good goal for 2024 is to improve your work-life balance. 

Start by identifying the problem areas. If you’re working after hours, commit to a stop time. If you’re answering emails or Slack messages on weekends, consider removing these apps from your phone or blocking them for the weekend. Replace these activities with hobbies, meeting friends, or spending time with family. 

Mid-term career goals 

Mid-term career goals have a timeline between one and five years. They’ll take some time to reach but with some consistency, you can get to the next level. For inspiration, here are some specific job goals examples and mid-term goals to consider. 

6. Take on a leadership role 

After growing your expertise and having years of experience under your belt, one of your career goals may be to take on a leadership role. This could mean a nice promotion, a pay raise, and a different job title with new challenges. 

Consider where you’re at in your current position and where you want to advance in your career in the next three to five years. Identify what leadership roles are in your field and take steps to work toward that, potentially through leadership training. Talk to your manager, learn from other professionals who are in positions you want, and keep learning. 

Pro Tip: If you hope to take on a leadership position at another company, use Teal’s Job Application Tracker to help you stay organized and efficient as you find your next role. With its Basic and Advanced Guidance, you know exactly what to do next—without skipping important steps. 

Teal's job application tracker showing a position with steps for reaching a career goal
Track your job search across every stage so you never miss a beat.

7. Obtain a certification 

You might already have a degree and work experience in your field. But if you want to take your career development goals to the next level, you might need to get a professional certificate. Getting a certification in a particular skill or tool can help you stand out and may get you further ahead. 

The certification you get will depend on your industry. But some examples include a project management certification, certified public accountant (CPA), or human resources certifications. 

8. Find a mentor

At the beginning of your career, it’s all about gaining experience and learning as much as you can in your role. As part of your mid-term career goals, you might want to find a mentor who can offer advice and feedback so you can move up the career ladder. 

A mentor is someone more senior than you who takes an interest in your career success and supports you in your journey. Having a mentor can have a positive impact on your life and career by having someone in the know who can guide you. 

9. Get hands-on experience doing something new 

If you’ve been working for a while, you may hit a plateau and wonder, “What are some good career goals for feeling stuck?” The best way to get out of a rut is to try something new. 

If you’ve ever looked at someone in another department and wished you could learn what they’re doing, maybe now is the time. Take initiative and ask your manager to get hands-on experience doing something new. Whether that’s in a new department or using a new tool or program, trying something new can give you a new perspective. 

10. Become proficient in a language 

There’s no doubt that being proficient in another language can help your employment goals. In certain industries and positions, it may even be a requirement. So, whether you want to be proficient in Spanish, Mandarin, or another language as part of your mid-term career goals, it’s best to start now. 

Proficiency takes a lot of time and practice. Start with Duolingo, consider taking a class or getting a private tutor, and when you watch Netflix, turn on subtitles in the language you want to learn. Practice speaking every chance you get in everyday life, via language exchange groups or travel.  Boosting your communication skills in another language gives you a competitive edge. 

Long-term career goals 

Long-term career goals can take between five and 10 years to accomplish. After investing time into your professional career, you can start to see results. If you’re at a loss for what this might look like for you, here are some long-term career goals examples.

11. Change careers

You may work in your career for many years. But at some point, you may want a career change. Navigating a new career path can be tough but ultimately rewarding. Consider your transferable skills and evaluate what experience and skills you’ll need to make the transition. 

Make a list of career interest examples so you can identify the industry and the position you want to work toward. Will you need to get a specific degree or certification? How can you get hands-on experience in this new field? Start by talking to people who work in that industry and do research so you can plan your second act. 

12. Get a professional degree 

You might have a high school diploma and a Bachelor’s degree. As part of your career goals, you might want to get a professional degree, like a Master’s or Ph.D. Consider how these degrees can impact your career advancement. 

You can see if your current company offers educational assistance benefits or student loan repayment benefits. This can help you reach your professional career goals and pay less out-of-pocket. 

13. Start your own business

Working a 9 to 5 job has major advantages like a steady salary and benefits. But it also means working for others and potentially dealing with office politics and untimely layoffs. When considering long-term career goal examples, starting your own business is a common one. 

Think about what type of business you might want to have and answer the following questions:

  • Who does it serve? 
  • Is it product or service-based? 
  • What is the demand, and what are the upfront costs? 
  • How much will it cost to pay for your own health insurance and other benefits?
  • Do you have six months to a year’s worth of expenses in a savings account?

This can help you get clear on what you want to do and help you prepare for going out on your own. 

14. Work at your dream company 

Everyone has that one company in mind when asked the question, “Where do you want to work?” If there’s a company out there that is your shoot-for-the-stars dream, go after it as part of your long-term goals. 

Get the experience you need to work there, connect with people at the company, and research open positions. When you see a position that fits your skills, you can use Teal’s AI Resume Builder to easily create a killer resume that matches the job description of the position you want. 

15. Become a thought leader 

If creating a personal brand is part of your short-term goals, becoming a thought leader might be part of your longer-term goals. The two are interconnected and build on each other. As you establish your personal brand and expertise over the years, you can establish yourself as a well-known thought leader in the industry. 

Create content on LinkedIn, take on speaking engagements, or publish a book to showcase your expertise.

How to set career goals

Now that you’ve seen a list of career goals, you can take some for yourself or modify them. To get started, here’s how to set effective career goals. 

Step 1: Define your career goals

The first step in creating a comprehensive career development plan is to inventory where you’re at and where you want to go. This will help you create a roadmap so you can reach your short-term career goals, mid-term career goals, and long-term career goals. 

For example, you might be a Junior Account Executive now. In the short term, you might want to focus on key performance indicators, such as increasing sales by 20%. In the mid-term, your goal could be securing a Senior Account Executive role, and in the long-term, you might want to create an agency. 

Define the career goals that align with your vision, personal mission statement, and values—and what supports your workplace and employment goals. Then, write them down someplace that you’ll reference often. 

Step 2: Be SMART 

Once you’ve defined your career goals and written them down, it’s time to be SMART about them. Review them and ensure they’re specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. 

For example, you might have a goal to spend 2 hours per week learning Spanish for the next six months. Make sure your goals are based on the SMART goals framework so you can get clear on the next step in your career. It’s important to be honest with your capacity, too. 

“Now, one of the biggest mistakes people make when setting goals is being unrealistic with their time and energy. Although it's great to set lofty goals, you also want to be mindful of your current bandwidth,” says Elliott. “Consequently, you might find it helpful to not only set your goals for the year but also map out the corresponding steps you'll take to get there. If you want to land a new job this year, you can outline each step along the way, estimate the time it will take, and add them to your calendar, which will help increase the likelihood of achieving your ultimate goal.”

Step 3: Create a plan 

After setting your personal career goals and writing them down with specific timelines, create a plan for achieving your goals. 

What tasks need to be done? What are your next steps? You can break down tasks into chunks and start blocking out your calendar to earmark time for a particular career goal. 

If one of your professional goals is landing a new job, you can use Teal’s Job Application Tracker to help you keep everything streamlined and organized on the same platform where you create, manage, and save your resume—making applications seamless.

Teal's Job Application Tracker interface showing various application stages as part of a career goal strategy
Organize your job search to make applying to new roles seamless.

Step 4: Be open 

The last thing is to be open and flexible with your career goals. Of course, you want to work toward reaching them. But sometimes, life throws other things at you that can get in the way. You might take a look at these career plan examples and have to adjust everything. Also, new opportunities may arise in a different package than you originally considered. 

On top of that, as you grow in your career and personal life, your career goals may change as well. So, always be open to shifting and changing them as needed.

How to measure progress toward career goals

Goal setting is one thing. But to achieve professional development goals and know if you’re moving the needle forward, you need to track your progress. This can help you know if you’re on target or missing the mark and need to switch things up. 

Here are a few ways to measure progress toward career goals: 

  • Break down short-term career goals into weekly tasks that you can measure. 
  • Block out time in the calendar for tasks. 
  • Review your progress on a set schedule, such as weekly, monthly, or annually. 
  • Make changes as needed. 
  • Start to plan mid-term and long-term career goals. 
  • At the end of each year, evaluate progress for mid-term and long-term goals. 
  • Redefine goals as needed. 
  • Celebrate any career goals you’ve achieved! 

Measuring your career goals is a key ingredient when it comes to understanding career progression and helps you avoid those dreaded plateaus. 

Plan your career goals now for 2024

The new year is a perfect time to review your goals and set new ones. You can break them down so you’re clear on what you want in the short term and the long term. Make them specific and set time aside to track your progress. Once you see things moving, you’ll feel inspired and ready to keep going. 

To help with your career goals, check out Teal’s Job Application Tracker with its Basic and Advanced Guidance feature. These tools can help you track your goals and provide feedback on what to do next.

These no-cost tools can act as your supportive sidekick to help you reach your career goals in 2024.

Sign up today; it's free.

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Melanie Lockert

Melanie Lockert is the founder of the blog and author of the book, Dear Debt. Through her blog, she chronicled her journey out of $81,000 in student loan debt. Her work has appeared on Business Insider, VICE, Allure, and more.

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