Setting Goals for your Dream Career

So, you have decided how YOU define career success. Now what?

Well, now we set goals. Goals are important because they help you stay motivated and remind you that there is an end in sight.

What is your goal? You have to decide what your ultimate career goals is – and this doesn’t have to be the first/next position you take. I am talking about your ultimate, realistic, based on your knowledge, skills and abilities, if I could be anything I would be… goal

Realistic: High School Principal

Unrealistic: Space cowboy.

OK. That might be a little exaggerated, but I needed to make a point. Let me explain why- I have been working with college students (undergraduates and graduates) for 10 years. For many years I worked exclusively with students who intended on working in the health professions.  You would not believe how many students sat down in front of me, discussed his/her goal of becoming a doctor, and in the same breath told me they don’t like and don’t do well in science courses. This is a problem. At a very basic level, in this case, some sort of achievement in science is necessary, otherwise diagnosis and healing are going to be very difficult once that white coat goes on (although it is unlikely that you will even get that far).  There are also students who do well in science but hate it, that is a different discussion to be had (review the post about Defining Success again). My point is this – know what you like, what you are good at, and what you can do with those interests and skills. I do not intend to be a “dream crusher” but schooling of any kind costs a lot of money, and takes a lot of time. I want to help people help themselves by making sure that they are pursuing careers that they can handle both academically and socially.

Moving on…

3 Tips for Setting and Keeping Goals

1. Choose a SPECIFIC Measurable goal and decide how you will reach it- SPECIFICALLY

Attaining the ultimate goal means setting smaller easier to accomplish goals to get there. Are you sick of reading the word goal, yet? I am sick of typing the word goal. But goals beget goals, you know. Because once you have this ultimate career goal you will likely set another goal. It might not be a career goal (since you have reached the ULTIMATE one already) but you will be motivated to keep on making big strides in your life in all areas.

Decide on specific steps you are going to take to reach your ultimate goal. There might be 30 mini goals that get you to that HUMONGOUS goal, but deciding on specific things that are going to get you to that pinnacle is key.

Measurable just means you have something to show for the work you have done. Rather than setting a goal like “Search for and apply to jobs” you can write “Apply to 2 jobs per week.” If something is measurable than you can actually say that you completed the task.

2.  Set a Deadline


Open ended just doesn’t work. Dates and deadlines keep you motivated. Think about going to college: When you first start it is exciting. After the novelty wears off, you start to get tired of it. But you stay motivated because you know at the end of 4-years you will have a degree and get a job (hopefully). So you keep reminding yourself, only 3 semesters left, 2 semesters, etc. This is a generalized but relevant example.

3. Write everything down

Everything, everything must be written down. Write your goals and deadlines down. Or use an app or calendar on your phone. Whatever works best for you. Don’t just keep them in your head. It is easier to push them aside that way.

If you have a constant reminder of your goal, the SPECIFIC steps you are taking to reach it and a deadline you will always be able to stay/get back on track. Being able to cross things off a list has an unbelievable affect. Back to the college example: You pick a major. You get a sheet of paper with the courses you need to take to complete the major. Every semester you get to cross the courses off as you complete them. The list keeps getting smaller until you reach graduation.

An example – Let’s stick with the high school principal.

A recent college graduate, with a degree in education, has the ultimate goal of being a high school principal. She does some research, and plans out what this path will look like for her. Let’s say the year is 2019.

Goal: High School Principal by 2028

  • 2019 Start a teaching job.
    • Begin looking into what is required to become a principal using ONET and other job sites to find out requirements. Also using current job postings to see what school districts are looking for when they hire.
    • Keep spreadsheet of requirements.
  • 2020 (Fall/Winter) Research and apply to two Masters degree programs in Educational Administration (part-time)
  • 2021 Enroll in Masters degree program
    • Become active in one professional organization related to school administration
  • 2023 Present at a professional conference
  • 2024 Complete Masters degree program
  • 2024 Start searching for Assistant Principal positions
  • 2025 Start Assistant Principal position
  • 2027 Start searching for Principal positions.
    • Update resume/portfolio
  • 2028 Start Principal position

These are obviously very generic goals (years only, no actual dates) . If this were an actual person I was working with, I would use actual dates and add more specific tiny steps into the plan. The point is that this is something that this person can keep to make sure they are staying on track. Each and everything on this list is a step in the direction of reaching the ultimate goal. They can cross off items as they complete them. They can add to the plan when things come up.  I am a big fan of making lists and using planners. So goal setting is one of my favorite things to do.

Almost always, the first question I ask when I meet with someone who is actively seeking employment is “Putting everything else aside like money, experience, location, what is your dream job?” Even if it ends up being something that might be “unrealistic”, it gives me an idea as to what the person is interested in, where they want to be, and opens the conversation to a broader discussion about the future.

Have you thought about your dream career? Write it down now and start planning!

Here are some of my favorite planners* – I prefer academic year with monthly & weekly calendar space. Currently, I am using #3 and have just retired #2 (I spend a lot of money on planners…)

1. 2018 Planner Weekly And Monthly: Calendar Schedule Organizer and Journal Notebook With Inspirational Quotes And Floral Lettering Cover

2. Blue Sky 2018-2019 Academic Year Weekly & Monthly Planner, Flexible Cover, Twin-Wire Binding, 5″ x 8″, Analeis

3. Weekly Planner: 2018 Weekly Planner: Portable Format: Coral, Mint & Gold Chevrons Premium Cover with Modern Calligraphy & Lettering Art: Weekly & … & Seniors for Relaxation & Stress Relief)


*These are affiliate links and I may receive a modest compensation if you choose to purchase these items using these links.