Career Trends: How to Set Career Goals & Achieve Them

4 min read

Edition: January 3rd, 2022
Curated by the Knowledge Team of ICS Career GPS

The road to success starts with setting career goals. (Image Credit: iStock)

Whether you want to climb the corporate ladder or make a career change, goal setting is essential for professional growth. A career without goals is like going on a journey without a map or GPS. You won’t know where you are, let alone where you are going. Even if you knew where you were headed, you wouldn’t know how to get there.

The result? You wander around in circles and maybe even come back to where you started. That’s why so many people feel stuck in their careers and don’t know how to break free.

Setting goals is crucial because it gives you a framework to achieve milestones. Once you clearly define your professional goals, you can develop a plan to achieve them.

Here are 5 strategies to help you set your career goals and start working towards them:

1. Visualise success

  • What do Olympic athletes do to prepare for their big day? Top performers train themselves to visualise their goals right before a competition.
  • They see themselves winning the game or scoring match point. Seeing yourself succeed increases your confidence.
  • By visualising success instead of failure, the chance of reaching your goal increases exponentially.
  • This technique can be used in various situations, whether you’re preparing for a job interview or planning your next career move.

2. Break down your career goals into small steps

“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

Martin Luther King, Jr
  • First, identify your ultimate goal and then break it down into smaller action steps.
  • Taking this approach helps you to organise your thoughts and build momentum.
  • You will also be less likely to procrastinate because your goal (next step) suddenly seems much easier to attain.

3. Create specific but flexible targets

  • Career goals should be specific while giving you enough freedom to change course when needed. 
  • Typically, there isn’t a direct route to reaching your goals.

“Success is not a straight line, it’s much more of a dance and being open to possibilities.”

Arianna Huffington, Author

4. Make your career goals challenging

  • A truly effective goal should challenge you to achieve great things.
  • That’s what author Mark Murphy refers to as HARD goals.
  • HARD goals are heartfelt, animated, required and difficult.
  • There are four questions to ask yourself when taking this approach:
    1. Why do you want this goal? (heartfelt)
    2. What are you doing one year, three years, and five years from now? (animated)
    3. What do you need to accomplish by the end of the next six months to stay on track toward achieving this goal? What about by the end of the next 90 days? The next 30 days? What’s one thing you can accomplish today? (required)
    4. What are the three to five most important skills you’ll need to develop to achieve this goal? How will you develop those skills? (difficult)

5. Employ accountability

  • Accountability is a critical component of bringing goals to fruition. One way to do this is to write your goals down.
  • Documenting your goals on paper helps you clarify what you want to achieve and makes you more likely to follow through.
  • Describing your goals in great detail is strongly associated with success.
  • Another way to hold yourself accountable is to share your goals with someone who cares about you and will support you in achieving them.
  • You may also consider hiring a non-judgmental third party like a coach who can hold you accountable while also providing inspiration and motivation. 

It is never too early, or too late, to start mapping out your career objectives. Remember, dreaming of a destination feels good, but goal setting provides a path for you to actually get there.


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(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article mentioned above are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)

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