How Setting Career Goals Can Solidify Your Career Aspirations

How Setting Career Goals Can Solidify Your Career Aspirations
Jobstreet content teamupdated on 28 July, 2022

If you’re a job seeker, you will most likely get asked this since it’s one of the most common job interview questions. A decisive and well-constructed answer will assure the interviewer that you have gauged your skillset as a professional and have panned out a comprehensive career plan. Being unprepared to answer this may leave a bad impression.

Even if you aren’t in an interview, it’s still necessary to learn how to set career goals and objectives. You must retrospect and find out exactly what you want to achieve. Not only will it help your recruiter envision your role in the company and how you will progress, but it will also offer you specific options for your professional path.

What are career goals?

Typically, when you start thinking about having a career, what you will have in mind is an end goal. The end goal is your career aspiration. Career goals are the small steps that you take in order to reach your career aspiration. They are like markers on a map, the endpoints of a journey that will help you determine your professional fulfilment.

When you are fresh out of college and on the hunt for your first job, possibilities are limitless. You can take any step you want, and it will eventually lead you to a certain career.

Just like life, there is no single predetermined path for a career. There are many routes that will lead to the same destination. This is why while your career aspiration is important, being meticulous about your career goals will make a significant difference, especially regarding how quickly you will reach your desired destination.

When you know what you want to achieve in life, your career will have a stronger sense of purpose, enabling you to make better decisions in line with your aspirations. Having a clear direction can also help you leapfrog in your journey, helping you get closer to the finish line.

Career aspirations vs. career goals

Career goals and career aspirations may sound similar at first. After all, they are both personal targets you aim to achieve in your professional life. Both are necessary to provide your career with direction. However, you must understand the differences between them as this will help you plan better and smarter.

Career goals are your more immediate targets in your professional life. They are concrete milestones that drive you one step closer to attaining your career aspirations. In contrast, achieving your career aspirations does not happen overnight. It can take considerable time, experience, and effort to get there. Along the way, you have career goals to hit that can tell you that you are on the right path or that you are halfway there.

You might think that earning a high salary, moving to a key location, or receiving more perks are career aspirations. While these are admirable milestones, you must look at the bigger picture. What if these are career goals that can lead you closer to a greater purpose?

Below are tips on how to make and streamline your own set of career goals:

Set goals to achieve aspirations

Your goals are the specific objectives you can do, whereas your aspirations are the motivations to achieve those goals. Once you know how to set career goals and objectives, you have better chances of achieving your career aspirations.

For example, you enter the advertising industry with the career aspiration of becoming an award-winning creative director. Getting promoted to this role requires time and experience, and winning awards takes your best creative efforts.

Working backwards can help you determine the career goals you need to accomplish to achieve this aspiration. Here are some examples of career goals:

  • Aim to get promoted to associate art director in two years
  • Seek a master’s degree or close mentorship with a prominent industry figure
  • Expand your network in the industry and join at least one association
  • Win at least 50 pitches
  • Submit entries to international competitions and aim to win at least one within a year

As you can see, reaching your career aspirations requires more time compared to completing goals. Your career aspirations can look like anything from aiming to retire before 50 to reaching a C-level position within your organisation. Your long-term aspirations will motivate you to achieve your short-term career goals. This is why it is important to pin down those aspirations just when you are building your career foundations.

Before anything else, be SMART

Having goals is a very important foundation for your career aspiration. By providing goals, you are providing steps for yourself. The most basic tool for setting career goals and objectives is using the SMART method to plan. This acronym stands for the following:


You have to know what you want and have vague ideas about the steps you will take. Evaluating yourself and establishing the proper motivations will make this process a lot easier. You can ask yourself: What do I like to do? What are the talents that I have? What do I bring to the table that no one else can?


Set your parameters and timetables and determine if you have the capacity to do them on time. To do this, it will help if you first identify your priorities. Ask yourself: What are the important things in my life right now? Afterwards, you can make short-term and long-term to-do lists with appropriate timelines.


Be honest with your challenges and most importantly yourself. Think about possible hindrances in the future and how much they will possibly delay both your career goals and career aspirations. After that, you can create an action plan on how you can work around these challenges and overcome them.


Make sure that the timeline you created is within reach. Being realistic and being true to what you want will help segregate the things you really have to do from the things you can let go of.


As much as possible, your timetable must be followed. Career goals that are not time-bound will have less sense of urgency, which would mean less motivation to move towards your career aspirations.

Examples of career goals per industry


Career aspiration: I want to become a Sales Project Manager and spearhead strategic sales enablement activities.

Career goal: I will apply as a Sales Assistant to do clerical work and familiarise myself with the routines of my chosen industry.


Career aspiration: I want to become part of Litigation Management and assess civil (non-criminal) cases to support the best interests of my company.

Career goal: I will help with Legal Administrative Support and manage document management systems for Litigation Management.


Career aspiration: I want to become a successful Director so I can be more involved in the daily accounting operations and better influence the trajectory of the company’s success.

Career goal: I will pursue a master’s degree in business administration. Then, I will work as an Analyst to properly equip myself for the position of Finance Director.


Career aspiration: I want to become Vice President of Marketing and create innovative marketing strategies to propel business ideals forward.

Career goal: I will excel in the Designers and Creatives Team and create a formidable portfolio.

Evaluating your career aspirations

Once you have taken the time to define your aspirations, go through them once more and evaluate if they are aligned with your values. Here are some questions you may ask yourself:

  • Do your career aspirations make you feel independent and secure?
  • How do they offer a sense of self-confidence and self-worth?
  • Do they reflect your passion and zest for life?
  • Were you honest when plotting out these aspirations?
  • How realistic and achievable are they?
  • Were you able to distinguish your goals from those aspirations?
  • Will you be able to grow as an individual throughout the process?
  • Do they excite you? Do they scare you?

Once you have answered these and weighed if you have done a good job of setting career aspirations, it is time to take the next step towards achieving those goals. Make sure to update your resume and ready a cover letter that touches on your aspirations.


The path to achieving career aspirations is not at all quick and easy, nor does it happen overnight. But by planning to achieve realistic career goals along the way, the finish line becomes much closer.

On this note, remember that your career aspirations need not be set in stone. Later on, when you find yourself in the middle of a possible career change, do not feel pressured to stick to your old aspirations if they no longer serve you. Ultimately, what is crucial is allowing these aspirations to motivate you throughout your career.

(Read more: 5 Easy Ways to Self-Check Your Career Development )

Learning how to set career goals, objectives, and aspirations helps you understand a sense of purpose in your professional life. Focus on what truly matters to you and #LetsGetToWork. Create or update your Jobstreet Profile to find a suitable role and employer to help you achieve your career aspirations.

Get more career advice by visiting the Career Resources page.

More from this category: Finding the job for you

Top search terms

Want to know what people are searching for on Jobstreet? Explore our top search terms to stay across industry trends.

Explore related topics

Choose an area of interest to browse related careers.

Subscribe to Career Advice

Get expert career advice delivered to your inbox.
You can cancel emails at any time. By clicking ‘subscribe’ you agree to Jobstreet’s Privacy Statement.