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What Are Your Career Goals? | How to Answer (5+ Examples)

What Are Your Career Goals

Interviewers ask questions like “What are your career goals?”, “How do you plan to achieve your career goals?” or “Where do you see yourself in five years?” during interviews. The answers to these questions are more or less the same. Now, why exactly is it that we get tongue-tied when they ask this question? Why is it that even though we swore we answered the question correctly, we’re still getting rejected?

In this article, we will discuss why interviewers ask, “What are your career goals?” and some career goal example answers you can steal for your next job interview.

What Is A Career Goal?

When a professional sets out to achieve a particular (or more) target within a time frame, it is what we call a “career goal”. For instance, let’s say your current position is a Customer Care Representative, and in 5 or 10 years, you want to be a Manager. That is your career goal.

Now, there are two types of career goals:

  1. Short-term goal: This type of goal can be achieved within a few years as a promotion.
  2. Long-term goal: As the name suggests, long-term goals will need more time to be achieved. This could include being in your company for a long time and gradually climbing the ladder of success to reach the top. In other words, to reach your long-term goal, you first need to achieve your short-term goals.

Why Is It Important To Have A Career Goal And Why Interviewers Care?

You need to have a well-planned and practical career goal to be successful. This will help advance your career much faster, which will help you to be satisfied and happy with your job, which will further improve your quality of life.

Now, when it comes to interviews, “What are your career goals?” is no innocent question. In fact, there are specific reasons why interviewers ask this question:

  1. To check your stability.
  2. How well you’d fit in with the company.
  3. If you have plans for the company in the long run.
  4. To know if you’d be the perfect candidate for the position you are applying for.

When interviewers ask this question, it is usually unclear if they mean long-term or short-term goals. Now, you could simply ask them, OR you could answer both. Start with your short-term goal and move on to the long-term. This will tell the recruiter that you are a goal-oriented and rational person.

Breaking Down Career Goals: Short-Term Vs. Long-Term Career Goals

As mentioned earlier, there are two types of career goals, long-term and short-term.

Here is an example of how long-term and short-term career goals can be reached.

Picture this: You are a BBA graduate, and you’ve just gotten your first job offer for the position of Data Entry Operator. However, your dream is to be among the Top Level Management such as Managing Director, Director, CEO, President, or Vice-president of the company. That is your long-term goal. To reach that target, you need to climb the corporate ladder gradually. You need to move up to first-level management and become a team leader, an office manager, or a supervisor. Then comes the middle-level management, where you will need to be promoted to a regional manager, senior manager, or deputy manager. Those are the short-term goals.

As you can see, to reach your long-term goal, you first need to achieve your short-term goals.

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How  To Set Your Career Goals

To set a practical career goal(s), it is best to incorporate the SMART system, which, according to Wikipedia, is “a mnemonic acronym, giving criteria to guide in setting goals and objectives, for example, in project management, employee performance management, and personal development.”

So, when you are about to write down your career goals, bear the following points in mind:

1. Specific:

You need to be clear about your goal. For instance, let’s say you want to make more money in the next one or two years. You need to be specific or have a range of how much you are aiming for.

2. Measurable:

You need to be able to measure your progress. For instance, ask yourself how long it would take to reach the goal.

3. Achievable:

You need to ask yourself if you will be able to achieve the goal. Should the need be, you could give yourself time to upskill yourself.

4. Realistic:

Do you have the right skillsets for the job? Certificates can be earned, but there are some skills that some people are born with. If you believe that you will be able to acquire the skills required along the way, be very realistic about it.

5. Time-related:

Fix a time frame within which you must achieve the goal. This will motivate you to work harder and clarify what you need to do.

Also Read: Interview Questions for Freshers

Tips To Achieve Your Career Goals

1. Jot down your long-term and short-term goals:

Keep a diary and write down your goal, both long and short terms keeping the SMART system mentioned above in mind.

2. Keep track of your progress:

There are goal management tools that you could use to keep track of your progress. Otherwise, you could also use your diary/notebook/journal. This will help you review what you have done daily to reach your goal and help you determine your pace. If you feel you are going too slow, do not be discouraged. Just ask yourself in which area you need to improve.

3. Focus on the target:

You need to keep your eyes on the prize. Whatever you are doing, ensure that they get you a step(s) closer to your target.

4. Celebrate every milestone/success:

You need to remember to reward yourself whenever you feel you have accomplished something towards your goal. Otherwise, what would the point of all your hard work be if you don’t treat yourself well?

5. Have a sound support system:

Life is random, and not every day will bring you good things or news. Disappointment and pain can derail your progress at any time. So, ensure that you have someone who will understand you, your sorrows, and your dreams.

4 Most Common Career Goals

When we say goals, we don’t mean just professional ones. Here are four of the most common goals for development:

1. Professional Advancement Goals:

A professional advancement goal is where a professional upskill himself to do their job better in order to get promoted or climb the ladder of success.

Short-term example: A customer care representative working hard to get monthly incentives.

Long-term example: A mid-level manager getting promoted to top-level management.

2. Educational Advancement Goals:

An educational advancement goal is where people, be it, students or professionals, continue to learn new things in their fields of interest.

Short-term example: Joining an online course.

Long-term example:  Going for professional lines in colleges, such as law or medicine, and then continuing with PG and other higher studies.

3. Personal Advancement Goals:

A personal advancement goal is where a person works on developing his/her soft skills such as leadership or communication skills.

Short-term example: Joining an improv class to work on communication, public speaking or interpersonal skills.

Long-term example:  An introvert working hard on being more social.

4. Leadership Advancement Goals:

A leadership advancement goal is where a person works on developing his leadership and management skills. These soft skills are important for those who want to manage a team or hold management positions.

  • Short-term example: Starting a job as a customer care representative and becoming a team leader.
  • Long-term example:  Holding a top-level management position in a company.

Also Read: Tell me about yourself for freshers

How To Answer “What Are Your Career Goals?”

There can’t be just one correct answer to “What Are Your Career Goals?” as the answer differs from person to person based on his/her priorities and career goals. Here are some tips we hope will help you answer such questions correctly.

Align your answer with the position and company:

While honesty may be the best policy, such is not always the case when it comes to job interviews. When answering this question, let the interviewer know that the path you are taking to reach your goals aligns with the position, company, and even industry you are applying for. You, see one reason they ask this question is to check your stability and commitment.

Wrong Answer Example:

“The ultimate goal for me is to be a novelist. I’ve always enjoyed reading, and writing is a passion of mine. But, I need to be realistic, and since I have a degree in MBA, the right path for me right now is to be an HR recruiter.”

Correct Answer Example:

“For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a writer and use my skills to help people. I dream of working for an NGO like yours while completing my online creative writing course. I plan to enhance my writing skills to help the voiceless.”

State the short-term goals first, followed by long-term goals:

As we have mentioned earlier, to reach your long-term goal, you first need to achieve your short-term goals. Doing this will let the interviewer know that you are serious and practical about your goals.

Wrong Answer Example:

“My ultimate goal is to be a Regional Manager.”

Correct Answer Example:

“As I am a fresher, my goal is first to develop my hard skills through my work and enhance my soft skills by taking an online leadership and management course during my free time. I want to gradually climb the ladder of success. 10 to 12 years from now, I see myself in a mid-level management position.”

Mention your plan of action:

You need a plan of action to convince the interviewer that you are serious about your goal. For instance, if your short-term goal is to become a team leader, tell them that you plan to join a leadership and management course.

Wrong Answer Example:

“Although I am not sure how to go about it yet, my career goal is to hold a position in the top-level management.”

Correct Answer Example:

“My short-term goal is first to develop my hard skills through my work and enhance my soft skills by taking an online leadership and management course during my free time. I want to gradually climb the ladder of success and manage my own team to produce fruitful results for the company.”

Be prepared and practice:
The night before the interview, do thorough research on the company and position you are applying for. Google the most asked questions in an interview. You have to be clear about what you’d want to do in the future and what you could give to the company if you were hired. To make it easier, ask yourself where you’d be in the next 3 or 5 years. Once you have formulated your answer, practice in front of a mirror or your family members to gain more confidence.

Sample Answers to “What Are Your Career Goals?”

For Freshers

“As I am a fresher, my goal is to first develop my hard skills through my work and enhance my soft skills by taking an online leadership and management course during my free time. I want to gradually climb the ladder of success. 10 to 12 years from now, I see myself in a mid-level management position.”

  • Short-term goal: Professional advancement
  • Long-term goal: Mid-level Manager
  • Plan of action: Enhance both hard and soft skills

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For Professionals

“For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a successful writer. I’ve enrolled myself in an online course to enhance my SEO skills to one day be a valuable managing editor.”

  • Short-term goal: Skills development
  • Long-term goal: Managing Editor/Successful Writer
  • Plan of action: Enrolled in an online SEO course

For Management

“I plan to attend a series of leadership and management conferences as I would like to lead a project one day soon and eventually manage my own team of 20-30 people.”

  • Short-term goal: Lead a project
  • Long-term goal: Be a Project Manager
  • Plan of action: To attend a series of leadership and management conferences

Read More: Why Should We Hire You?

4 Common Mistakes To Avoid When Answering “What Are Your Career Goals?”

1. Do not give them the impression that you are unsure of your future:

There has to be a target to be successful. So, when you are asked, “What are your career goals?”, do not answer with an “I don’t know” or “I am not sure”. Also, don’t prattle to the point that your message doesn’t make sense.

2. Do not mention money/salary:

For most of us, money drives us, and hiring managers know this too. If you say your goal is to make more money, it will imply that you will jump ship once you get a better offer. You need to bear in mind that they are looking for someone who will stick around for a long time.

3. Do not leave any scope for assumptions:

Do not talk about any plan that may suggest you’d be working for the company only for a short while. For instance, do not tell them that your goal is to be a business owner one day. Again, among others, stability is what hiring managers look for in candidates. Try to convince them that you plan to stick around for a long time.

4. Do not talk about unrealistic goals:

It’s good to dream big but not TOO big to the point that it becomes way too unrealistic. For instance, if you tell them that you are a fresher whose goal is to become the company’s president in 3 years, they will probably hold in their laughter or even laugh out loud. It will be hard for them to take you seriously after that. So, stick to the SMART system and go for realistic and attainable goals.

Key Takeaways

Now that we’ve come to the end of the article, let’s recap on the crucial points, shall we?

  1. Remember to incorporate the SMART system when formulating your answer to “What are your career goals?”.
  2. Align your answer with the position and company.
  3. State the short-term goals first, followed by long-term goals.
  4. Mention your plan of action.
  5. Do not give them the impression that you are unsure of your future.
  6. Do not mention money/salary.
  7. Do not talk about any plan that may suggest you’d be working for the company only for a short while.
  8. Do not talk about unrealistic goals.

Read More: Self Management Skills: Definition, Importance, Examples 

Conclusion

While there is no one correct answer to “What are your career goals?” there are wrong answers. So, it would be best if you were well-prepared to answer this question. As long as you follow the tips we have mentioned above and draft your answer according to the examples we have provided, we are sure you will impress the interviewer with your response.

We will leave you here with our best wishes.

Until next time, all the best!

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Last modified: April 20, 2022
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