6 Common Career Goals + Examples

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Use these examples of career goals to practice how you might answer the interview question, "What are your career goals?"

[Featured image] A scientist works toward his career goals while writing out formulas on a glass panel.

There are any number of people who may be interested in your career goals, but two parties (other than you) will be particularly invested in your idea of success: your potential employers and your current employer.

A potential employer may ask you about your goals in an interview—either directly or with the similarly popular, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” For a potential employer, knowing your goals can help them understand how a role fits into your career vision and how well that vision aligns with the company’s needs.

Your current employer started investing in your career goals from the moment they hired you, and the topic may come up during performance reviews. A supportive employer takes an active interest in helping you move toward your goals, which has been shown to be beneficial both for you and for them.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at these common examples of career goals:

  1. Advancing to a leadership position

  2. Becoming a thought leader

  3. Working toward professional development

  4. Shifting into a new career path

  5. Experiencing career stability

  6. Creating a career goal

What is a career goal?

A career goal is the ideal state that you aim for in your professional life. Career goals can be characterized as short-term or long-term, depending on how much time you anticipate working toward achieving your goal. Ultimately, achieving your short-term and long-term career goals will bring you closer to your career aspirations.

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6 career goals examples

Below, you’ll find some examples of potential career goals, along with some ideas on how you might structure your short-term and long-term goals around these ultimate aims.

We'll also outline how you might talk about each goal. Whether you’re discussing your career goals during an interview or a performance review, aim to include these three pieces of information:

  • Your short-term and long-term goals

  • The steps you’re taking to achieve them

  • How those goals connect to your role and company (in an interview, this would be your future role and company, and in a performance review, this would be your current role and company)

1. Advance to a leadership position

Your specific path toward a leadership role greatly depends on your industry and where you’re starting out, and it can take many years to accomplish. Along the way, you may aim to accomplish some of these goals:

  • Short-term goals: Gain necessary experience with entry- and mid-level positions, attend leadership trainings, set up informational interviews with potential mentors and team leaders, network with cross-functional colleagues

  • Long-term goals: Get a promotion, earn a professional certificate or advanced degree, work toward a specific title

“What are your career goals?” sample answer: Currently, I’m working on a project to unify our internal analytics processes across data analysis, data science, and data engineering departments by liaising with representatives from each department to identify and address pain points. I’m also attending weekly leadership training sessions to build my managerial skills as I build the skills I need to ultimately become a Director of Analytics.

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Leading People and Teams

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Vision Alignment, Talent Management, Goals and Rewards, Motivate Employees, Leadership, goal setting, Communication, Leadership Development, Onboarding, Coaching, Recruitment, Management, Social Skills, Influencer Marketing, Leadership Dynamics, Team Management, Team Building

2. Become a thought leader

Thought leaders exist in many areas within every industry, and their knowledge base can be expansive or niche. Depending on the type of thought leader you envision yourself becoming, you may aim to accomplish some of these goals:

  • Short-term goals: Attend specialty training sessions, take relevant classes, attend industry conferences, build a social media following

  • Long-term goals: Earn a professional certificate or advanced degree, publish articles, write a book, speak at a conference

“What are your career goals?” sample answer: I’ve been taking online courses in social work from the University of Michigan to strengthen my knowledge base as I work with community organizers toward our team goals, and I’m sharing our progress by writing for our company blog. In the next couple of years, I’m hoping to apply for Michigan’s MSW program to make an even stronger impact on our company and community.

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Effective Communication: Writing, Design, and Presentation

Build Communication Skill for Professional Success. Master business writing, graphic design, and business presentation skills

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Business Writing, Presentation, Graphic Design, Writing, Grammar, Communication, Graphics, Typography, Public Speaking, Communication Design

3. Work toward personal development

Personal development, as it relates to your career goals, is all about bringing the best version of yourself to your career. When talking about any of the following, remember to connect them back to the work you’re doing for your organization:

  • Short-term goals: Fill skill gaps with classes or training sessions, take on a new project at work, network with leaders you admire, find a mentor

  • Long-term goals: Lead with your values, learn a new skill, practice work-life balance, change careers

“What are your career goals?” sample answer: I’d like to be seen as a valued connector within our organization, so I’ve been meeting with people in different departments to figure out how our lean IT team might better respond to their needs. Over the next few months, I’d like to lead more formal research into the matter and pilot a new request ticketing system.

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Learning To Learn, Lifelong Learning, Pomodoro Technique, Meta Learning

4. Shift into a new career path

It can be tricky to talk about a desire to change careers during a performance review. You don’t need to share every detail of your career goal with your manager; it’s okay to stick to the transferable skills that you are building. Here are some things you may work toward as you approach a career change:

“What are your career goals?” sample answer: I envision myself as a strong communicator and I’d like to be selected to help with our team’s presentation during the next annual report meeting. To build my skills, I’ve been writing monthly progress recaps and distributing them on our team’s Slack channel. I’m also practicing my PowerPoint skills in an online Microsoft 365 Fundamentals Specialization.

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Career Success

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Project Management, Information Technology (IT) Management, Communication, Negotiation, Leadership, Team Management, Task Management, Management, Planning, Plan, Accounting, Financial Ratio, Financial Statement, Finance, Business Communication, Communications Management, Email Writing, Proofreading, Writing, Business Writing, Win-Win Game, Principled Negotiation, Management Theory, Management Styles, Decision Theory, analysis, Decision-Making, Problem Solving, Critical Thinking, Strategic Management, Marketing, Entrepreneurship

5. Experience career stability

If your career goals aren’t your central life goals, you may be more focused on career stability rather than growth. Having a job that supports your broader life goals can be crucial. If you are working toward career stability, some of your goals may be:

  • Short-term goals: Hone skills that support stability in your role, build time management skills, build strong work relationships

  • Long-term goals: Earn a specific salary, get a job with strong benefits, practice work-life balance, build a strong reputation at work

“What are your career goals?” sample answer: My goal is to be seen as a strong colleague whom others view as reliable and attentive. I’ve been trying to welcome our newer coworkers by making myself available for any questions that come up about our processes and have been compiling their inquiries into an employee playbook that they can reference and share.

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Google Project Management:

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Organizational Culture, Career Development, Strategic Thinking, Change Management, Project Management, Stakeholder Management, Business Writing, Project Charter, Project Planning, Risk Management, Task Estimation, Procurement, Quality Management, Project Execution, Coaching, Influencing, Agile Management, Problem Solving, Scrum, Effective Communication

6. Create a career goal

Goals tend to shift over time as we learn more about ourselves and the world around us, and it’s likely that there will be times when you aren’t sure what your goal is. Not only is that normal, but it’s also a great time to explore your interests and think about your priorities in life. Here are some aims to consider:

  • Short-term goals: Attend seminars and training sessions, take a class, explore a hobby, learn a new skill, research various career paths, request informational interviews, network with people in different industries, find a career coach

  • Long-term goals: Master a new skill, incorporate a new skill into your career, find a mentor

“What are your career goals?” sample answer: I recently earned my psychology degree and am rediscovering my love of design, so I’m currently exploring ways to integrate both into my career. I’ve started taking introductory UX design courses and reading popular UX blogs, and I’m hoping to connect with some UI designers within the company over the next few months to hear more about their experiences and responsibilities.

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Start achieving your goals

Continuing to learn is an essential part of working toward any goal. If you find that your career goals require a specific area of knowledge, consider earning an online Professional Certificate with Coursera. Become job-ready in areas like data analysis, social media marketing, and UX design with courses from industry leaders like Google, Meta, and IBM. You’ll be able to learn at your own pace from anywhere with an internet connection and gain hands-on experience working with the skills you’re learning.

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