Imagine that it’s a Monday morning, and you’ve just arrived at the office. You sit down at your desk, ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work.
Now, tell me this: What’s on your mind?
Are you thinking through the meetings on your schedule? The emails that need to be answered? The tasks that must be completed that day? All of the above?
If so, you aren’t alone. Our workdays are busy, which means our minds are often consumed by what’s right in front of us. We take things day by day.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with that (after all, that stuff does need to get done). But here’s the problem: It’s far too easy to become overwhelmed by those immediate things, that we neglect to zoom out and get a broader view of what we’re actually working toward (beyond completing that day’s to-do list).
This is exactly where a career goals statement comes in handy. It reminds you of your main objective and gives you a greater sense of direction. So let's look at some career goals statement examples!
What exactly is a career goals statement?
As the name implies, a career goals statement is your personal vision for the future of your career. Think of it as the ultimate target that you’re aiming toward.
For example, perhaps you’re currently employed as a marketing analyst, but your long-term career plan is to start your own marketing agency that primarily serves software clients. Your career goals statement should formally document that objective.
What exactly is meant by “formally document”? Put simply, your goals statement should be written down—it’s not just something that lives in the back of your brain. We’ll talk more about why that’s important soon. But with all of that in mind, here’s what that career goals statement could look like:
I will start my own agency that provides an array of marketing services to clients in the software industry by the year 2025. I will accomplish this by maximizing any marketing position I fill in order to refine my skills, getting involved at community and social events to strengthen my connections, and scheduling informational interviews with current agency owners.
Many graduate schools actually require that a goals statement (otherwise referred to as a personal statement or statement of purpose) or a similar essay be submitted with a student’s application materials.
However, for the sake of simplicity, we’re going to focus on career goals statements that are used personally—for people who want to formalize their objectives and increase their understanding of what they’re working toward in their careers.
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Why does your career goals statement matter?
At first glance, a career goals statement might seem like an unnecessary formality. But make no mistake, working on your own career goals statement comes with several benefits.
1. It forces you to ask yourself the hard questions
Chances are, your average workday is full of questions. Should you do this or that first? Where’d you put that important file? What should you grab for lunch? Do you have time to snag another coffee ahead of that meeting?
Yes, you’re asking yourself plenty of questions—but you probably aren’t taking any time to reflect on the really important ones. When’s the last time you’ve checked in with yourself about things like:
- What do you envision for your career in another 10 years?
- What more can you do to work toward that vision?
- What tasks or projects make you feel most fulfilled?
- What tasks or projects make you feel most drained?
Those are exactly the types of questions you’ll need to answer when creating your own career goals statement, and that chance for reflection is valuable for ensuring you don’t get caught up in the minutiae of your day-to-day.
2. It gives you a sense of direction
Have you ever felt sort of rudderless in your career? Like you were just clocking in and out each day for nothing more than a paycheck?
This is another benefit of creating your own career goals statement: It breaks you out of the monotony, dangles a carrot in front of your face, and renews your sense of motivation.
That’s because, as the Goal-Setting Theory explains, goals themselves are incredibly motivating. You feel much more inspired to get to work when you actually have a clear idea of what you’re working toward.
Additionally, focusing on the end game allows you to get a stronger grasp on what skills you’ll need to develop or refine in order to make that goal a reality.
3. It increases your accountability
There’s something almost intimidating about writing your goal down, isn’t there? You’ve documented it—it’s real, and now there’s a greater sense of accountability.
As frightening as it might seem, that’s actually a positive thing. Research shows that people who are able to vividly picture or describe their own goals are anywhere from 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to actually achieve them. What better way to get that clarity than by writing that objective down?
Plus, doing so will help make that goal stick. Other studies show that writing things down improves your memory of them.
5 tips to write your own career goals statement
A career goals statement offers numerous benefits. But what do you need to know to write one for yourself? Let’s cover five tips you should put into play.
1. Invest the time in reflection
Remember when we talked about the opportunity for self-reflection above? Before jumping right in with scribbling down your career goals statement, make sure you actually take the time to do that
This will help you avoid setting a goal that you think you should have and instead focus on one that you want to have.
That’s the most important piece of a goal: It should be something that you actually want to achieve. Setting one only because you think it’s expected of you ultimately won’t do you any good.
2. Get specific
In order for a goal to be impactful and provide the necessary sense of direction, it needs to be specific. Something general like “climb the ladder” or “earn more money” is too ambiguous to ignite any motivation.
When establishing your career goals statement, try using the SMART goals framework. Here’s what that stands for:
Specific: Clearly state what you plan to accomplish (i.e. “start my own marketing agency focused on software clients”).
Measurable: Similarly, outline what your benchmark for success is so that you know when you’ve actually achieved your goal.
Achievable: You don’t want to set yourself up for disappointment, so make sure that your goal isn’t so lofty that it’s unattainable.
Relevant: Ensure that what you want to accomplish is actually relevant to you (this is where that self-reflection really comes in handy!).
Time-bound: A goal is nothing without a deadline for when you plan to achieve it by. Your career goals statement should be somewhat long-term (and not something you want to accomplish by next week). But “long-term” can mean six months to some people and 20 years to others. Get clear on exactly when you want to reach this objective.
3. Use confident language
Your career goals statement isn’t the place for wishy-washy and noncommittal phrases. There’s no starting with, “I really want to...” or “I really hope I can…”
Open your career goals statement with a certain and confident, “I will.” Not only does that phrase further remove any ambiguity, but it also gives you a nice nugget of encouragement whenever you refer back to it.
4. Develop an action plan
Setting a goal is a great start, but setting a finish line for yourself means nothing if you don’t understand what you’ll do to cross it.
The latter part of your career goals statement should outline the steps you’ll take to accomplish that goal. This gives you a roadmap that you can follow, rather than just saddling yourself with an objective and feeling clueless about how to get started.
5. Be flexible
Here’s one more thing that’s important to recognize: Goals change. Of course, the very purpose of your career goals statement is to give yourself something long-term to work toward, but that doesn’t mean it’ll always be set in stone.
What if after talking to some other agency owners you decide that business ownership really isn’t for you? Or what if you have personal circumstances come up that require you to remain in traditional employment for a while—meaning the 2025 deadline is no longer realistic? Or what if you achieve your goal and need to come up with a brand new one?
Whether good or bad, these things happen, and you need to be flexible and willing to roll with the punches.
If and when your goal shifts, don’t completely trash or delete your previous goal. Instead, keep it and write an entirely new one. It’s interesting to see how your objectives evolve over time, and that progression can actually be quite enlightening and motivating.
Get inspired: 5 career goals statement examples you can learn from
Nothing helps provide some clarity like a solid sample. So with all of the above tips in mind, let’s take a look at a few different career goals statement examples that you can use as inspiration for writing your own.
Career goals statement example #1:
I will be promoted to a Project Lead at CompanyXYZ within the next five years. To do so, I will refine my project management skills, obtain my PMP Certification, and express my desire for growth and advancement to my current supervisor.
Career goals statement example #2:
I will land a job as a Data Analyst at a large financial institution by the end of the year. To accomplish this goal, I will improve my skills in Excel and PowerQuery and connect with other Data Analysts in my network to find out more about their job search processes.
Career goals statement example #3:
I will foster a positive reputation and secure a public speaking gig for a session of over 300 attendees within the next calendar year. I will do this by continuing to refine my public speaking abilities and networking with conference planners in my industry.
Career goals statement example #4:
I will pursue and complete a career change from a Graphic Designer to a Web Developer within three years. To make this happen, I will return to school to get my Associate Degree in Web Development and complete online courses that cover all of the major programming languages.
Career goals statement example #5:
I will gain a Certified Public Accountant license within a year. In order to achieve this, I'll create a study plan and I'll take a CPA exam review course. I'm going to study each day for 2-3 hours after work to pass the CPA exam.
What should you do with your career goals statement?
You did it—you implemented the tips and followed the examples, and now you’re equipped with your own career goals statement. Uhh...now what? What do you do with it?
Keep it somewhere safe. Better yet, keep it somewhere you can easily accessible so that you can refer to it whenever you need a gentle reminder of what you’re working so hard for.
Whether you had a bad day or just need to be encouraged that your career is about so much more than churning through your daily to-do list, your career goals statement will help you step back and get the perspective that’s so easy to lose sight of in your everyday life.
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