The Ultimate Guide to Setting and Achieving Career Goals


For most of us, our career is a massive part of our life and something we strive to be succe...

Rebecca O'Rourke

By Rebecca O'Rourke

For most of us, our career is a massive part of our life and something we strive to be successful at. Setting goals as we traverse our career ensures we progress to where we want to be, learning and growing.

In this blog, we’ll be looking at how to set goals, the benefits of setting them and strategies that can be used for success. 

The Importance of Career Development

Having goals in your everyday life is vital to achieving a sense of fulfilment, and your career is no different. Making sure you have milestones to work towards and aspirations to aim for keeps you motivated and engaged with your career. Setting goals can also help you to avoid becoming complacent in your career; it can be easy to remain in a comfortable position because it’s familiar and you know it well, but in the long run, it may not be what is best for you or provide you with job satisfaction.

Setting goals that may initially seem beyond your reach can push you into new directions and allow you to grow and develop in your career and everyday life.

Identifying and Setting Goals

Identifying your career goals is the first step; look at what options are available for you in your current career, see what kind of direction interests you and what you want your day-to-day working life to look like. If you’re just starting out and don’t know which career you want to go in just yet, research and explore what it is you have the most interest in.

You should not let skill level deter you when setting your goals; over time, skills can be acquired, and everyone can learn something new at any stage in their career. However, it is important to be realistic about what you can achieve. When picking your goals, think about the following:

  • What is it you want out of your job? Is it more responsibility, a higher salary, creative freedom, or something else? Knowing what you want from your career can help point you in the right direction.
  • What do you want your day-to-day work life to look like? Does your goal put you in a situation you’ll be satisfied in every day? If you achieve your goal, will you be happy with your responsibilities and requirements?
  • What is your motivation for obtaining that goal? Why is it you want to achieve the goal? What will you gain from succeeding?

SMART Goal Setting

Once you have a clear idea of your aspirations, reviewing your goals using the SMART method is an excellent way to set the parameters for achieving them. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound.

  • Specific:Be as clear as possible with what exactly your goal is.
  • Measurable:Quantify your goals and find a way to track your progress.
  • Achievable:Make sure your goal is something you can achieve.
  • Relevant:Assess if this goal is conducive to your overall success.
  • Time-bound:Set yourself time constraints

Creating a Career Development Plan

A career development plan, sometimes known as a professional development plan, is a step-by-step action plan that you can use as a roadmap to achieve your goals. With a thoughtful and detailed career development plan, you have a higher chance of progressing.

Once you have looked at your present role and set your goals, breaking up your aspirations into long-term and short-term goals with varying timelines is a great way to avoid feeling overwhelmed by your ambitions. Pinpointing the steps that can get you there and when you can achieve them will be the key to succeeding. Think about where you are currently and where you’d like to be in 1, two months, six, and so on. 

Things to consider when mapping out your career development plan:

  • What technical skills do you need to learn to reach your goals? For example, specific software, knowledge, equipment, or methodology.
  • What soft skills do you need to learn to reach your goals? Such as teamwork, networking, communication, or conflict resolution.
  • What experience do you need to reach your goals? This could involve taking a placement in an industry, shadowing someone in a different role or reaching out to a mentor.
  • What personal development do you need to reach your goals? For example, growing your self-confidence, working on your mental health, or physically getting fitter.

It’s important along your journey to honestly track your progress. If you’ve set yourself the task of reaching a short-term goal by a specific time, ensure you hold yourself accountable and celebrate when you achieve it. 

Utilising your Peers

Working towards your goals doesn’t have to be a solo journey. Often your current workplace will have programmes or resources to help you either carve out your roadmap or steer you in the right direction.

Within your workplace and using online career platforms, you may be able to begin to build a professional network; reaching out to people with the job you’re aspiring to or who have been successful in their career can be invaluable.

It may be that you can work with a mentor-type figure to help with your goals. Don’t wait around for others to offer you support in your career. Be proactive in reaching out to people and develop good working relationships with those happy and willing to provide you with the guidance you need to succeed. The best thing you can do is ask questions and learn from those around you.

Overcoming Obstacles

Accepting that the journey to reaching your goals is not linear is vital to success. Making mistakes and failing at certain hurdles allows you to learn lessons you may not have otherwise learned and figure out how to overcome new challenges. Resilience is key to succeeding and achieving your goals; big and small setbacks will happen but should not deter you on your path and instead provide an opportunity to learn.

Obstacles will also play a key role in your career journey. There will undoubtedly be situations that arise that you weren’t expecting that hamper you on your journey, and often, they are entirely out of your control. Having the determination and self-belief to know you will get where you need to be if you put in the time and work.

Resources for Success

There are many resources available right at your fingertips, from career newsletters such as NES Fircroft’s EngineeringPro, online courses where you can pick up both hard and soft skills to put towards your goals and a whole network of people with knowledge to guide you on your journey.

NES Fircroft also has an abundance of written, visual, and audio content from the Oil & Gas, Power & Renewables, Infrastructure, Life Sciences, Mining, Automotive and Chemicals sectors worldwide.

Are you ready to take the next step in your career? Our expert recruitment teams recruit engineering and technical professionals for roles across the globe. You can view all our open vacancies or register your CV with us today for free to ensure that you’re first in line for future jobs in this exciting and ground-breaking industry.