What are Long-Term Career Goals?

Lainie Petersen

Long-term career goals represent the professional ambitions of an individual that he or she hopes to realize over a long period of time. When beginning a career, many people recognize that it will take them a significant amount of time and work in order to make significant accomplishments and to hold a specific position within their field or industry. By setting long-term career goals and developing an action plan for achieving these goals, those who wish to have a successful career can take actions that will enable them to eventually achieve their desired career objectives. Workers who set long-term career goals not only benefit personally, but may also benefit their employers by sharing these goals so that an employer can better make long-range human resources decisions. At the same time, for many workers long-term career goals may include self-employment or starting a business in which they will employ others.

Promotion to a job with more responsibility is a common long-term career goal.
Promotion to a job with more responsibility is a common long-term career goal.

For many workers, developing a career path includes both short-term and long-term career goals. For example, a worker may know that he wishes to work in a particular industry and that success in the industry is dependent on completing specific educational programs, working at well-regarded companies, and demonstrating career proficiency through industry certifications and recognition programs. Even while still a student, an individual can begin to develop job and life goals by selecting training programs or universities that can help him become prepared for entry-level work in the area in which he wishes to develop his career. Once he begins his training, he may have a better idea of which long-term career goals are realistic as well as a path toward achieving these goals. After he begins entry-level work, he can set short-term goals with regard to job responsibility and promotion, which can lead him to the position he would eventually like to hold.

A career coach may help a person set long-term career goals.
A career coach may help a person set long-term career goals.

Ideally, workers will find mentors along their career path who can assist them in both achieving and fine-tuning their job goals. These mentors may be able to suggest employment in certain businesses that are known for preparing workers for future achievement or may be able to help the worker time reentry into school for graduate or professional certification work in such a way so as to ensure that the education truly enriches the worker's professional life. Other ways to develop long-term career goals may be to work with a professional career coach or by networking with other professionals in the same industry. These interactions can help the worker understand whether her career goals are realistic or whether they need modification.

Mentors can often help someone set a long-term goal.
Mentors can often help someone set a long-term goal.

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Discussion Comments


@lambsfan - Ah yes, the "where do you see yourself in five years" question. I always just say that I hope to be moving up within the company when the time is right. It doesn't threaten your potential boss, but still makes it look like you have ambition.


I always hated being asked about long-term career goals in job interviews. It's like, "I don't know, let me get my crystal ball!" And if it's different from what you are interviewing for, what do you even say?

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