Start of main content

How to choose your short and long-term career goals

Consider these tips to help with your career goals

Things may have changed for you over the past year due to the pandemic; circumstances, priorities, and career goals you may have had pre-Covid may not even be on your radar anymore. However, there are small and simple steps you should be taking that will help you plan out what you need to focus on – now, as well as further down the line.

When considering career goals there are three key questions you need to ask yourself, according to John Lees, author of The Success Code.

First ask, “What kind of work do I find stimulating or inspiring?” – focus on the activities that make you want to get up for work.

Next ask, “What organisational problems are visible?” – this might be inside your present organisation or a target employer.

Finally ask, “How can I exploit this?” – thinking in terms of projects and organisational needs is a constructive form of career planning.

Choosing short-term career goals

Many successful people have a rolling career plan for the next 12-18 months that has a focus on new skills to learn and how to improve their CV. Answering the above questions will help you to begin to see how you may be able to move up in the business and discover what skills the company currently lacks. This allows you to work out which skills you need to focus on to move your career forward.

Short-term career goals mainly focus on building your CV, and John recommends that you think of these as project stages.

“Think of them as skill and knowledge acquisition, exposure to particular areas of expertise and multi-disciplinary experience,” he says. “Look at every 12-month period as a learning challenge and review at the end of each year to check what’s changed.”

Long-term career planning

Although it’s easier to see the benefits of short-term career goals, long-term career planning also has its place, John notes.

“Those working in scientific or technical roles, for example, will often find that their career pathway is focused on one particular technology, process or system. Picking long-term winners is easier if you take accurate soundings from a range of people and organisations before you decide to specialise.

“It’s equally important to know when it’s time to shift your focus and transfer your skills to a new area,” John continues. “HR and recruitment specialists are usually well-tuned to market value and the evidence that gets people short-listed, so checking in with this group every two to three years is a good idea.”

Recording your career successes and milestones

It’s important to record all your career goals, achievements and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) as this helps you evidence your progress towards becoming a professionally registered engineer or technician.

Career Manager offers the ability to store all this information in one place as you reach those career goals you set. As IET Initial Professional Development and Mentoring Senior Product Advisor Kathryn Bain highlights, logging career goals is better than simply keeping them in mind:

“If you commit something to paper, or to an online system like Career Manager, then you’re more likely to achieve these goals because they feel more real. Career Manager allows you to set actions against objectives to make them more concrete, making you more likely to complete them.

“Even if your career goal is something that might be a few years away, this gives you the opportunity to keep it in mind as you record other elements of your career, such as undertaking an assessment against Professional Registration competences, or recording your CPD.”

Original text provided by Keri Allan in 2017.

Edited by Erica Hunt in 2021.