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15 Examples of Long-Term Career Goals Worth Striving For

It’s the beginning of the year. It’s a fresh start. It’s the perfect time for goal setting! Hence the whole New Year’s Resolutions thing.

For most of us, we have some professional milestones as part of our resolutions. We probably already know what we want to accomplish this year and what can feasibly be done in a year. That’s great! But what about beyond that?

It may be hard to think about our future career path – but let’s be honest with ourselves – we are quite far from retirement age. This means we have decades of work ahead of us. Yes, that’s daunting. But it also means that we should be thinking about the long-term and setting professional goals for beyond just this year. We should be thinking of what we want to achieve professionally five years from now, ten years from now, and so on.

Some professional milestones also take time and frankly just can’t be done in a year. It’s important to think about those too if you want to excel and grow in your career.

long-term goals examples for work

What are long-term career goals?

These are the things that you want to achieve in the future, not in the short-term. They either shouldn’t or actually can’t be completed right now as they need more time to accomplish.

Long-term career goals also typically consist of a few smaller career goals that help your reach this greater accomplishment.

Don’t forget to celebrate and acknowledge the smaller goals as you hit them, as it’ll remind you that you are on the right path and help motivate you into completing the long-term career goal.

Yes, we get it, this is all overwhelming. Take a deep breath, and we’re here to help you out. Here are some long-term goal examples for work that you may want to add to your goal list, too.

15 Examples of Long-Term Career Goals

Increasing Your Salary

We all want more money, don’t we? Increasing our salaries is the number one goal of workers. Sure, you may get an annual raise, but a lot of time, that’s typically a cost of living increase rather than a big raise. One sad reality of gaining a higher salary is that it usually takes time to happen.

This is because you need to prove yourself, make a business case for yourself, and showcase all of your accomplishments. Employers aren’t just going to give you a raise because you want one – you are going to need to prove to them that you deserve one. And you can prove that by sharing with them all of the smaller wins you have achieved.

Getting a Promotion

This tends to go hand-in-hand with a higher salary. When you get a promotion, you typically do always get a higher salary. But you can increase your salary without getting a promotion – and, unfortunately, vice versa. But let’s not dwell on that.

Getting promoted, especially into a leadership position is another great goal. A leadership role offers great opportunities in your professional career to get your out of your comfort zone, move you up the corporate ladder, and develop new skills. Again, it’s something that takes time. Start by seeing if there’s a small team or project you can lead at work.

Start Mentoring

Becoming a mentor is probably one of the most fulfilling things you can do with your professional life, which is why it’s such a common long-term goal. Sure, you can easily start chatting with a new colleague or a younger professional any day, but actually building that relationship and seeing your efforts and advice taking shape takes time.

Not only are you giving back and helping others who are probably in a position you once were in, but you are also taking a good step into the world of leadership. Yes, mentoring can give you very good practice in leadership.

Having a Strong Executive Presence

If you have no desire to become a manager… we get it. There are so many articles out there right now about how being a manager isn’t appealing to the younger working generations. That’s fine, but even if that’s something that you don’t want as part of your long-term career goals, you should still have having a strong executive presence as one.

What does this mean? It’s the goal of having the same qualities that leaders have – such as emotional intelligence, self-confidence, and being great decision makers – without the whole needing to manager people think. Having executive presence will help you stand out in the workplace, and it’s good skills to have in your personal life, too.

Becoming a Thought Leader

We all go on LinkedIn and see these great posts from thought leaders. You may have even thought to yourself “wow, they really know what they’re talking about”. They do – and you can too! Thought leaders are found within every industry, and nowadays, also on every social media platform.

A bunch of short-term goals will help you get there. Make it a short-term goal to post on LinkedIn more or to speak at a conference or lead a meeting. Then make longer term goals to publish articles or earn a professional degrees. All of these things will give you the validation of becoming a thought leader.

long-term goals examples for work

Developing Your Skills

No matter where you are in life, you should always want to learn and grow. Continuing to develop your skills will help you get that promotion and pay raise. If you want to venture into a new field entirely, it will also help you with that.

Take workshops and classes. Take advantage of any professional development opportunities that your employer may offer. Developing your skills doesn’t happen overnight. You will need to put in the work to master them, but once you do, it will be worth it.

Make it one of your short-term career goals to learn a new skill every six months. It’s a good idea to focus on skill building that will benefit you such as new technology, leadership skills, communication skills, or a hard skill that will benefit the long-term vision for your career. Having specific goals for your short term action plan will benefit your long-term goal setting as well.

Building a Strong Professional Network

Yes, this is something that you can work on short-term, easily. But to create that wide net of contacts, you need to spend time cultivating and growing the relationships.

This network is meant to be your go-to resource to help you find new opportunities, continuing to learn, getting reference, and so on.

Your professional network is who you lean on if something happens, such as mass layoffs. Having a strong professional network is key and not something that should be overlooked. Best practices in networking are to attend a monthly event and stay in touch every 6-8 months at least.

Starting Your Own Business

A lot of the people who end up starting their own business once worked for someone else. These people took the things that they learned in those jobs, took note of what worked and what didn’t work, and used all that knowledge into starting their own business.

It’s not something you should just jump into – it’s something that takes time, planning, and preparation. If you’re not sure if you’ll ever want to take the plunge into leaving a steady job and starting your own business, try starting a side hustle first. See if you can get that to grow.

You never know where it may take you! And let’s be honest, in today’s economy, having more than one stream of income should be a goal for all of us.

Earning Another Degree

This goal may not be for everyone, but it’s important to mention, especially as depending on the career you’ve chosen, you may need to earn a higher degree. You can pursue one that supplements your current degree. Or maybe you’re not as happy with the path you’ve chosen as you thought you’d be and you want to explore something else.

You can pursue a degree in a different area. If you want to earn another degree while working, see if your employer offers any sort of tuition reimbursement program. Also, be transparent with your manager and see if they can offer you any flexibility. If not, find online degree programs, take evening classes, or take a sabbatical from work.

Earning Another Certificate

If the thought of earning another degree seems absolutely daunting, you can still further yourself professional without that higher degree (just make sure first that one isn’t mandatory for the field you’re in!). Instead of going for a degree, make it a long-term goal to earn another certificate.

This should be a high-level professional certification within the field that you’re working in. Look at your company and see if they offer any opportunities to receive such certifications. Also chat with your manager, as a lot of times earning such certificates will help you achieve a pay raise, too.

A good starting point is to look at the LinkedIn profiles of the positive you would like to grow into and see what certificates they have or online courses they have taken and follow a similar path.

Working For Your Favorite Company

Some people hit the jackpot when graduating and immediately get to work for their dream company. More times than not, this isn’t a reality. But that doesn’t mean that it’s unrealistic! If you’re not currently working at your favorite company, make it a long-term goal to get there one day.

Learn as much as you can in your current company. Network as much as you can with anyone – especially those who work for your favorite company. Make a name for yourself. Continue to check if that company has openings in your field. And when they do, apply.

long-term goals examples for work

Getting To Travel

Has your dream job always involve traveling? Just because you may not be traveling for work now doesn’t mean that you can’t be in the future. Take note of your current environment. Are senior leaders the ones who get to travel? If so, talk with them and see how they worked their way to the world of business travel.

If you’re at a company where there is no business travel, learn as much as you can from the company, and then take that knowledge to another company where there is business travel.

Not only is business travel fun and exciting, but it can give you exposure outside of your office, which is great for building up your professional brand and for building a stronger and larger professional network.

Winning Awards

Most companies and industries have some sort of recognition program. For instance, I once worked for a company where if you won a CEO award, you were not only recognized to all colleagues both nationally and internationally, but you also were allotted a certain amount of stock in the company.

Putting this on your long-term career goal list is a nice supplement. Not only will it validate all of the hard work that you are doing, but it will also help you get your name out there and it may even give you a nice financial perk, too.

If you win an industry award, you are getting your name and work ethic out to an even broader networking. This could lead to a lot of new opportunities – once you may not have even considered previously.

Managing Time Better

This may seem as though it’s a short-term goal, but it’s really not. Time management takes time! Having strong time management skills will allow you to better manage your calendar, know what your priorities are, and have a better work-life balance. It’s something that can take trial and error to figure out, but once you do, you’ll be feeling a lot less stressed and a lot more productive.

Retiring Comfortably

This is the longest of the long-term career goals, isn’t it? It’s end-goal for sure. But you don’t want to just retire, you want to have enough saved so that you can retire without worrying. Take steps throughout your career to make sure you are saving.

Enroll in your company’s 401K and make sure that you are putting in enough to get whatever match they offer. Retirement may seem far away, but it’s so important to start thinking about it, and preparing for it, from now. Retirement planning should be one your most important financial goals as a young professional.

Why Is It Important To Set Long-Term Career Goals?

Setting long-term career goals is crucial for providing a sense of purpose, direction, and motivation in one’s professional journey. These goals serve as a roadmap, guiding individuals toward a vision of their desired future and helping them stay focused on what truly matters in their careers.

Long-term goals enable individuals to make informed decisions about education, skill development, and job choices, ensuring a trajectory that aligns with their aspirations. They act as a source of motivation, encouraging perseverance in the face of challenges.

Moreover, having clear long-term goals facilitates effective time management, allowing individuals to prioritize tasks and allocate resources efficiently. This intentional approach to career planning fosters continuous learning, personal growth, and a proactive mindset, enhancing job satisfaction and fulfillment throughout one’s professional life and in your personal development.

long-term goals examples for work

Setting Career Goals as SMART Goals in the SMART Framework

Setting career goals within the SMART framework involves making them Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

The first step is to begin by defining clear and precise objectives, specifying what you want to achieve and why. Ensure your goals are measurable, allowing you to track progress objectively.

Make them achievable by setting realistic targets aligned with your skills and resources with long-term objectives. Ensure relevance by connecting your goals to your broader career aspirations.

Lastly, set a timeframe for achieving each goal, creating a sense of urgency and providing a structured timeline for your professional development.

Summing Up Our Final Thoughts On Setting Long-Term Career Goals

There are a lot of long-term career goals out there but the above are some of the biggest ones for you to want to consider. You may have noticed that a lot of these goals intertwine – by accomplishing one of them, you are already beginning to work on another.

That’s not coincidence – that’s how it works! You are embarking on the right path, one to professional success. Let this new year be the start of that! Start taking the steps now to get to these long-term goals. In five, ten, fifteen years, you will be happy that you started now.

About the Author

Michelle Ioannou

Michelle graduated from Fordham University with a Bachelors of Arts '13 and a Master of Arts '14. She's currently working in corporate America with a side of freelance writing. She wants you to learn from her experiences and mistakes so your 20s can be your best decade. When she's not working, she's likely planning her escape to a tropical island.