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What are Short-Term Career Goals?

Short-term career goals are immediate objectives you aim to achieve in your professional life. They could range from learning a new skill, earning a promotion, or expanding your network. These goals provide a roadmap to success. What short-term career goals are you setting for yourself?
Ray Hawk
Ray Hawk

Short-term career goals are attempts to improve one's performance and skills within a particular organization, with the idea of enhancing the marketability of qualifications in that specific business arena. These goals can include such improvements as increasing understanding of how the organization functions, and improving one's inside knowledge and education in the field. Externally, short-term career goals also include a focus on financial stability with the intent of preparing for transitions to other work environments in the long term. This not only means saving money for potential periods of unemployment, but also determining where applications of one's expertise would be the most lucrative, and in what locations strong job growth is likely in the future.

Career counselors suggest that short-term career goals need to be accomplished first before focusing on long-term goals. Entry-level jobs are seen as a stepping stone to the long-term career goal of evaluating rival companies, other industries one's qualifications would apply to, or higher positions within their current company. While this is logical, setting career goals often works in the opposite direction. One must first define a long-term career path before it is possible to excel in any short-term career objectives.

Short-term career goals are attempts to improve one's performance and skills within a particular organization.
Short-term career goals are attempts to improve one's performance and skills within a particular organization.

Long-term career planning is a helpful first step to succeeding with short-term career goals, but that is no guarantee that such planning will pay off. Low wage, menial, and underemployed workers, especially those with higher education and extensive experience in a field, are often criticized as being “drifters” who failed to make long-term career goal plans. The blame cannot be placed entirely on faulty career planning; however, as industries rapidly change in the modern industrialized world, career aspirations that took years to prepare for may become obsolete once someone is ready to enter the job market in that field.

Work and career goals often tend to extremes. Long-term career objectives are viewed in an overly optimistic light, imagining the possibility of achieving great heights in the hierarchy of an organization or developing expert skills, merely by “putting in one's time” with an employer. Conversely, short-term career goals are often seen pessimistically, as necessary “hard work” to get to where one really wants to be.

Employment in the short-term does not have to be just a means-to-an-end or survival, or, in the long-term, an unobtainable fantasy. Savvy career counselors point out that successful career planning looks at short-term career goals as merely one point on a spectrum that includes overall life goals. Determining a career path based on the interests one wants to specialize in, instead of job titles and duties, gives more flexibility to real-world conditions. Fitting one's career aspirations to a variety of related industries, corporate structures, and job definitions, including freelance and self-employment options, makes it possible to see work as a range of opportunities. Steps in a career can be a fulfilling journey all along the way, instead of many years of drudgery, rewarded near the end with the ideal job.

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Discussion Comments


@raynbow- That is great advice for individuals who are beginning their first career search. People who have been in the workforce for years can also benefit from thinking about their short-term career goals.

From focusing on ways to improve performance to thinking about what needs to be accomplished to earn a promotion, a person who is already in a career can put together short-term goals to advance his career.


If you are about to graduate from high school or college and will soon be looking for your first entry-level job, it is a smart move to put together a list of short-term career goals. For example, if you want to eventually become a full-time teacher, you may have the goals of putting together a wardrobe that you will wear to interviews and to your first job, gathering supplies for the classroom, and searching for openings in teaching positions in various schools in your area.

By starting with short-term goals, you will be able to build your career step-by-step, and clearly see the tasks that you need to accomplish first in order to reach your long-term career goals. It is also less overwhelming when you look at the smaller picture than to simply focus on your ultimate career goal.

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    • Short-term career goals are attempts to improve one's performance and skills within a particular organization.
      By: micromonkey
      Short-term career goals are attempts to improve one's performance and skills within a particular organization.