Why Setting Career Goals Will Set You Up for Success

by Pranav Ramesh
May 04, 2022

(Listen to this article)

When preparing for a job interview, there are those familiar questions we come to expect: What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Why do you want this job? Some of these questions indeed seem a bit…dated. But even if we’re not preparing for any immediate interviews, reflecting on these questions can provide us with some guideposts for our careers. This is especially true of one question in particular: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 

Before you prepare for your annual evaluation or consider a career move, take a moment to reflect. Have you kept up with the latest technology and processes? What long-term projects have you completed? Are your skills sharp and up to date? Do you have a strong ally within your professional network? 

If the honest answers to some of these questions concern you, it may be time to set some career goals. Setting and accomplishing career goals can help elevate your career. More responsibility, more interesting projects, and salary increases can all result from the successful completion of career goals.  

What’s your motivation?

We set all sorts of goals for ourselves during our lives. Walking 10,000 steps per day, managing our calorie intake, or making it home from work to put the kids to bed are examples of common, short-term personal goals we strive to reach. We set those goals for ourselves because we want to stay active, lose weight, or make sure our kids see us before they close their eyes each night. Those are all powerful motivators in our personal lives.  

When thinking about career goals, consider what is motivating you. This can help clarify goals and figure out how to best accomplish them.  


Why did you choose this particular career?  

Just because there’s a long history of people becoming doctors in your family doesn’t mean you should go to medical school. Figure out what drew you to your profession in the first place and see if the motivation is still there to challenge yourself and achieve more.  


Why did you apply for the job you’re currently in?  

Was it located in a city you wanted to live in? Did the prestige of the company attract you? Reflecting on why you accepted your current position can help you determine if this job still has opportunities for professional growth that interest you.  


What are your salary expectations at this point in your career?  

Does your salary compare with that of your contemporaries? If you haven’t done much to advance your career goals and make an impression, your salary can stagnate as well.  


What are the risks of not setting career goals?  

How financially healthy is the company you work for? Is there instability in upper management? If you don’t make achieving career goals a priority, you risk becoming irrelevant. This can lead to being passed over for promotions and other perks or being vulnerable to lay-offs.  

 RELATED: Do You Want to Achieve Big? Start Thinking Small


Career goals help sharpen long-term plans 

It’s easy to become sedate when it comes to our careers. Allowing ourselves to fall into a routine and understanding familiar expectations can be comforting. But it can also lead to apathy. American venture capitalist John Doerr speaks often about the value of a goal-setting system1 he’s used and helps others employ called “Objectives and Key Results” (OKRs). This simple system helps us set and execute goals but encourages us to be truthful and bold in our thinking. OKRs can also help us hold ourselves accountable for the career goals we set.  

Once you understand your motivations have defined goals, you can begin to make progress on them. Some goals might be simple, like setting work time aside each morning to keep up with the latest technology and literature in your field. Continuing to bolster your resume with professional development opportunities, like conference and trade show attendance or completing a certification you’ve been wanting to finish. See if your employer has a mentorship program to help you keep on target or access to a career coach for regular check-ins.  


Strengthen your processes

While it is important to set career goals for future progress, make sure you have a solid grasp on all of your current job responsibilities, especially those that are standard across your industry. Do you have the standard IT certifications that one would be expected to have for your position? If you’ve moved into a management position, can you still troubleshoot technical problems with database queries? Make sure your skills are current and you haven’t abandoned the core skills that helped you land your job, to begin with.  


Learn agility and push yourself out of your comfort zone

Becoming agile in your position will allow you to operate beyond the traditional, often bureaucratic, mindset that pervades many industries. Being agile in your position can indicate that you are current on technology and trends in your field, can be flexible in your work style, and focus on team building to accomplish goals. These same principles can be applied to your career. Agility allows you to be adaptable to evolve within the different stages of your career. A well-recognized framework for the past few decades, agility is used by many companies2 to focus on successfully meeting the needs of their clients in markets and environments that change quickly.  

There are many reasons to set professional goals as your career progresses. Understanding your motivations, becoming more agile in your work, and strengthening your processes will help you keep your skillset sharp, and your resume updated. But another reason may be the best: the pride and satisfaction you will feel at accomplishing goals that move your career forward.  


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About the Company:

Peterson Technology Partners (PTP) has partnered with some of the biggest Fortune brands to offer excellence of service and best-in-class team building for the last 25 years.

PTP’s diverse and global team of recruiting, consulting, and project development experts specialize in a variety of IT competencies which include:

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Peterson Technology Partners is an equal opportunities employer. As an industry leader in IT consulting and recruitment, specializing in diversity hiring, we aim to help our clients build equitable workplaces.

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