How to nail your career goals

Your career may be moving, and fast, but is it going in the right direction? It’s important to take a moment to step back and assess what your goals really are and if you’re heading to a place in your career where you really want to be. But how? 

Plan it out

There are lots of reasons to pull together a personal development plan (PDP) - a written account of your career plans, goals, aspirations, and history. Not just for when you hit a junction in your career and need guidance on which way to turn, but also to reflect on where you’ve come from for the occasional career confidence boost or to get back on track.

Your PDP could include:

  • Your career aspirations

  • A timescale of career goals

  • Identified professional strengths and weaknesses

  • Targeted areas of improvement and a plan of how to achieve them

  • Personal development and self-improvement goals

  • Skills you want to gain.

Search for handy templates online or create your own to suit you.

Make it achievable

The career ladder is called that for a reason - there are rungs to climb to reach the next level. To turn your career aspirations into a success, ensure that each step is achievable by setting realistic rungs, or goals, along the way.

Include a timescale for each rung and regularly reflect on where you’re at to keep you motivated and moving up.

Be strategic

It’s all well and good to write down that you want to gain some skills, do some professional development and get a promotion. But are those goals strategic enough to get you where you want to be?

Here’s how to be strategic in your career goals:

  • List your skillset and compare it to others in similar positions to you. Where do you need to upskill?

  • Look at job descriptions similar to yours. Would you qualify or do you need some development or training to stay relevant?

  • Ensure you’re up with the latest changes in your industry, software and other developments by choosing key strategic areas of professional development to focus on.

Make sure it’s measurable

It’s important to measure progress so you know how you’re doing. But how do you measure your own career success?

One way is to include a clear timescale in your personal development plan as a guide. Make a list of your achievements as you go along – these could include:

  • Promotions

  • Professional development courses

  • Quality indicators

  • Products you’ve launched, innovations you’ve led, projects you’ve managed

  • How often are you called on for help, professional advice or to lead a team?

  • Where are you now compared to five years ago?

Aspire to be great

Research shows that the more you aspire to greatness and expect to get there, the more likely it will happen. So, while it’s important to keep a level head on what’s practical and achievable for you, it’s also key to push yourself and have high expectations of where you’ll go in your career. Having confidence is half the battle to getting places personally and professionally.

Think about what strengths you bring to your work and what makes you great, and channel that into a confident attitude at work.