Setting and Achieving Long-Term Career Goals (+ Examples)

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Learn about long-term career goals and how to create and pursue your own goals.

[Featured image] An employee fulfills a long-term career goal by presenting a talk to their colleagues, standing in front of a whiteboard in an uncluttered meeting room while their coworkers listen around a conference table.

As you progress through your career, there may be times when you find yourself thinking about your career goals. You may be asked about them during a job interview, your manager may bring them up during your performance review, or you may independently decide to assess where you’re heading.

Often, when you think about the direction your career is going, you’re considering your long-term career goals. In this article, we’ll discuss long-term career goals and how you can create and work toward your own.

What are long-term career goals?

Long-term career goals are the things you hope to accomplish in your career over time. While your career aspirations relate to your ambitions, your long-term goals are concrete achievements that you’re working toward.

There’s no set time frame to differentiate between long-term and short-term career goals. In general, you can accomplish short-term goals more immediately, while long-term goals tend to take six months, a year, or even longer to complete. As you work toward your long-term goals, you’ll often accomplish several short-term goals along the way.

Long-term career goals examples

Before we discuss how to recognize your goals, here are some examples of long-term career goals. Take notice if any of these goals spark your interest—that may indicate that your long-term goals share some characteristics with these samples.

Long-term career goals examples:

  • Secure a promotion

  • Earn a new credential

  • Change careers

  • Increase your salary

  • Master a specific skill

  • Speak at a conference

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Creating your long-term career goals

Whether you are setting long-term career goals for yourself or looking for a response to the question “What are your long-term career goals?”, it can help to turn inward to find your answer.

Here are two things you can do to start recognizing your long-term career goals:

  • Know your values. Typically, people are most motivated to achieve goals that connect to their values. Broadly, your values are the things that are important to you. You may value financial success, authenticity, your well-being, or the well-being of others. What keeps you going?

  • Picture your ideal future career. With your values in mind, imagine your dream career. Try to recognize the specific aspects that attract you to that vision and play around with various scenarios in which you can achieve them. For example, you may imagine being a successful business executive. What, to you, makes a business executive successful? Are there other ways to achieve a similar type of success? What is alluring about business?

Getting a clear picture of your ideal future career and the values it’s grounded in is one way to determine your long-term career goals.

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Working toward long-term career goals

Once you have clarity on your long-term career goals, you can start figuring out how you’ll achieve them. At first glance, some goals may feel out of reach—that’s okay! You’ll likely have to grow into your long-term career goals by first breaking them down into more manageable short-term goals.

To get started, take inventory of your skills. Research the skills you’ll need to achieve your long-term career goals, and compare that list to the skills you already have.

Through your skills audit, you’ll be able to see exactly what you need to achieve to reach your long-term goals. You may recognize these necessary achievements as short-term goals. Your pathway to long-term success can be a stacked series of short-term goals.

You may find it helpful to organize your goals with a career development plan, a document that outlines your goals, skills, and resources to generate your path forward. 

Learn more about career development plans.

SMART goals

One common way to frame your goals is to make them SMART:

  • Specific: Is your goal absolutely clear?

  • Measurable: Can you quantify your success?

  • Achievable: Is your goal realistic?

  • Relevant: Does your goal directly relate to your big-picture dream?

  • Time-bound: When will you achieve your goal?

The SMART criteria can help guide your success and keep you on task as you work toward your long-term career goals. However, there are many ways to work toward your goals.

Learn more tips for staying motivated.

Dealing with overwhelm

Working toward big goals can feel overwhelming. In order to navigate those emotions, it’s important to remain flexible in your approach to success. Identifying the root cause of your discomfort can help you figure out your best path forward.

Get specific: What about your goal is giving you pause? Consider whether there are any other ways to work around those roadblocks. You may have more options (and opportunities) than you originally thought.

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Continuing your education is one way to gain new skills as you work toward your long-term career goals. Become job-ready for a career in data analytics, project management, cybersecurity, and more with a Professional Certificate from industry leaders like Google, Meta, and IBM. Or explore thousands of courses from leading universities and institutions on Coursera. Get started today by browsing our popular free courses.

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