6 Common Career Goals (And Examples)

Written by Coursera Staff • 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.

Many people 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 when 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 for you and 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 an ideal state you aim for in your professional life. Career goals can be short- 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.


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- and long-term goals around these ultimate targets.

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- 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, and it can take many years to accomplish. Along the way, you may aim to achieve some of these goals:

  • Short-term goals: Gain necessary experience with entry- and mid-level positions, attend leadership training, 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 towards a specific title

Sample question: “What are your career goals?” 

Sample answer: I’m currently 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

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, and build a social media following

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

Sample question: “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 hope to apply for Michigan’s MSW program to make an even stronger impact on our company and community.

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, and find a mentor

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

Sample question: “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.

4. Shift into a new career path.

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

  • Short-term goals: Research your desired career, gain necessary technical and workplace skills, earn a professional certificate, participate in a career boot camp, request informational interviews

  • Long-term goals: Work toward a specific job title

Sample question: “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. I’ve been writing monthly progress recaps to build my skills and distributing them on our team’s Slack channel. I’m also practicing my PowerPoint skills in an online Microsoft 365 Fundamentals Specialization.”

5. Experience career stability.

If your career goals aren’t your central life goals, you may focus more on career stability 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

Sample question: “What are your career goals?” 

Sample answer: “My goal is to be 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 about our processes. I have compiled their inquiries into an employee playbook they can reference and share.”

6. Create a career goal.

Goals tend to shift over time as we learn more about ourselves and the world around us, and there will likely 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

Sample question: “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. I hope to connect with some UI designers within the company over the next few months to hear more about their experiences and responsibilities.

Start building skills to reach your career 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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