The purpose of short-term career goals is to take immediate action and see success in a relatively narrow timeframe. This success should be just one intermediate milestone toward your longer-term career goal, such as getting that big promotion!
If you make positive short-term career gains consistently, you’ll get to those longer-term career goals before you know it.
The short-term career goals I’ve listed here employ principles from the SMART goals framework, a goalsetting framework that helps you to create goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
Once you have selected your short-term career goals from this list of examples, scroll to the bottom of this article, where you can get your own SMART goals template to expand your chosen financial goals into the full SMART format, which research shows will make it more likely to meet your goals.
Short-Term Career Goals Examples
1. Resume Update: Refresh your resume with the most current information and experiences.
2. Job Applications: Apply to at least five prospective job opportunities that align with your career interests.
3. Training Program: Enroll in a short-term training program that enhances job-specific skills (such as a graphic designer enrolling in an Adobe Illustrator course).
4. Portfolio Expansion: Add one significant piece to your professional portfolio, if applicable (say, a computer programmer could aim to create a basic mobile application).
5. Networking: Engage with at least ten professionals from your industry on LinkedIn or other professional networking sites.
6. Soft Skills Enhancement: Practice and improve upon one specific soft skill like mastering the art of effective e-mail communication. To choose a soft skill, visit this comprehensive list of soft skills.
7. Performance Review Analysis: Conclusively analyze your last self-performance review to identify areas of improvement, setting clear goals for these areas.
Also, see here for a list of performance goals that you can use for creating a new performance review plan.
8. Volunteering: Contribute volunteer hours towards a cause related to your profession (such as an HR professional volunteering to help job seekers draft resumes).
9. Appraisal Conversation: Arrange and complete an appraisal conversation with your manager aimed at discussing your performance and goals for the next quarter.
10. Daily Productivity Goals: Set and achieve daily productivity goals, leading to an overall improvement in task completion by the end of the month.
11. Industry Webinar: Attend an industry-specific webinar to learn about the latest trends and practices.
12. Daily Task Management: Create and stick to a daily task list to manage your time more efficiently.
13. Reading Goals: Read a relevant job-related book or informative industry-specific material (like a data scientist reading about Neural Networks).
14. Professional Membership: Join a professional organization or society related to your career field.
15. In-house Training Participation: Participate in an available in-house training session or workshop provided by your company.
16. Daily Task Completion: Set a goal to complete all assigned daily tasks on time for one week without compromising on the quality of the work.
17. Professional Reading: Finish reading an article or chapter of a book related to your profession each day for a week (for instance, an accountant might read about recent changes in tax laws).
18. Time Management: Implement a time management system, like the Pomodoro Technique, to your work day and adhere to it strictly for the week.
19. Goal Setting: Clearly define and write down your short-term (1-3 months) and long-term (1-3 years) career goals by the end of the week.
20. Expert Interaction: Reach out to a person who you see as a professional role model within your industry for career advice.
21. Virtual Seminars: Attend an online seminar, webinar or live talk related to your industry within the week.
22. Software Familiarization: Familiarize yourself with a new software or tool that can help you improve work efficiency (A graphic designer, for instance, can start learning to use a new design software).
23. Coworker Relationships: Make an effort to establish a positive relationship with a colleague whom you haven’t connected with before.
24. Daily Breaks: Pledge to take regular short breaks throughout the workday to prevent burnout and maintain productivity over the week.
25. Work-Life Balance: Aim to leave work on time every day for a week to uphold work-life balance.
26. Networking: Connect with a minimum of five professionals in your field on LinkedIn, and engage in constructive discussion with them.
27. Blog Engagement: Write and publish a short post on a professional social media platform like LinkedIn or Medium about a topic you’re knowledgeable in.
28. Email Etiquette: Improve your email communication skills by ensuring all your work-related emails are clear, concise, and professionally drafted over the week. For more on this, read up on the concept of netiquette.
See More: Communication Goals Examples
29. Feedback Solicitation: Ask for constructive feedback from your supervisor on your recent work and use it to make improvements.
30. Skill Development Plan: Create a plan for developing new job-relevant skills over the coming months, starting with identifying the skills and resources.
31. Housing Arrangement: If needed, relocate closer to your workplace, thereby reducing your daily commute time.
32. Positive Attitude: Strive to maintain a positive attitude at work every day, viewing challenges as opportunities rather than obstacles.
33. Peer Tutorial: Take the initiative to teach a skill you’ve mastered to a teammate or a new employee.
34. Project Leadership: Volunteer to lead a small project or task within your team. To go deeper on this, read up on my list of leadership goals.
35. Task Automation: Identify a repetitive task and research ways to automate it, thereby increasing work efficiency.
36. Professional Web Presence: Set up a professional online presence, for example assembling a portfolio website or beefing up your LinkedIn profile.
37. Customer Relations: Aim to build positive relationships with three new clients or customer over a short period.
38. Training Course: Complete an online course or certification relevant to your profession (such as completing a Google Analytics course for a digital marketer).
39. Physical Fitness: Begin a regular exercise routine to improve your physical health and manage stress levels better.
40. Grit Development: Set a challenging yet achievable performance goal and persist until you achieve it, thus proving your grit and determination.
41. Conflict Resolution: Successfully mediate an issue or conflict within your team by demonstrating excellent conflict resolution skills.
42. Tool Proficiency: Become proficient in a new piece of software or tool relevant to your job within a short period (for example, a social media manager mastering HootSuite).
43. Dressing Business Appropriately: If relevant, upgrade your work wardrobe to project professionalism.
44. Weekly Review: Start a practice of conducting a weekly review of your tasks and productivity, assessing what you achieved and where you can improve.
45. Attendance Improvement: If you’ve had previous issues with tardiness, set a goal to arrive early every day to your workplace.
46. Lunch Break Utilization: Utilize your lunch breaks effectively by engaging in mind-refreshing activities rather than eating at your desk.
47. Professional Mannerism: Maintain a pristine professional mannerism in all your interactions during work hours.
48. Daily Compliment: Aim to give a sincere compliment to a coworker each day, improving morale and promoting positive workplace culture.
49. Listening Skills: Enhance your active listening skills to improve understanding during work interactions.
50. Organization Membership: Join a professional organization related to your career to expand your networking horizons.
Make them SMART Goals!
Once you have selected a goal (or more) from the above examples, you need to build them out into SMART goals.
These are goals that meet the S.M.A.R.T. acronym:
- Specific: Does your goal make specific points, or is it vague? Rewrite it so it’s as specific and unambiguous as possible.
- Measurable: How will you measure progress toward your goals? What will success look like and how will you know you’re there?
- Achievable: Can this goal be achieved in a relatively short timeframe? If not, you might want to set it as a long-term career goal, and come up with shorter-term goals that are achievable in less than 6 months.
- Relevant: How is your short-term career goal relevant to your longer-term career aims and ambitions? Will this goal get you closer to the promotion you’re after, for example?
- Time-Bound: Set an end date so you have a target to meet, which will prevent you from putting it off into a longer-term horizon.
To make your career goals into SMART goals, I’ve provided the below SMART goalsetting template that you can print and edit for yourself:
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Doran, G. T. (1981). There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives. Journal of Management Studies, 70-75.
Latham G.P., Locke E.A. (2018) Goal Setting Theory. In The SAGE Encyclopedia of Industrial and Organizational Psychology. London: SAGE.
Milne, S., Orbell, S., and Sheeran, P. (2002). Combining Motivational and Volitional Interventions to Promote Exercise Participation: Protection Motivation Theory and Implementation Intentions, British Journal of Health Psychology, 7(2): 163–184. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1348/135910702169420
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]