Discussing career goals has its roots in the age-old “What do you want to be when you’re older?” question that everyone has definitely been asked at least once during their childhood

Now that you’re older, this question has evolved into “What are your career goals?” and your answers should also evolve from “an astronaut” to something more concrete and pragmatic.

As tempting as it is to try and make your inner child happy, career goals are more about how you can move yourself and your profession forward.

Answering the “career goals” interview question can be tricky, so to help you out, we have conducted an extensive guide on what valid career goals are, how to set them, and we’ve also included some good examples.

career goals

Key Takeaways

  • A career goal is a statement of an objective you want to achieve during your career growth.
  • Career goals are important because they demonstrate a long-term interest in a given career.
  • There are two main types of career goals: short-term and long-term.
  • To help you set goals, consider some of these tips: explore what your strengths and weaknesses are, use the SMART method to prioritize goals and finally, research the company and what they are looking for.

What is a Career Goal?

A career goal is a set description of what you want to achieve as a result of your professional investments and efforts.

Career goals can be anything, such as wanting to advance from one position to another or wanting to develop communication and leadership skills.

During your interview, a recruiter can ask you to explain what your career goals are. However, this question can also look like this:

  • What do you want to achieve while working here?
  • What is your 3-year plan?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • What skills do you want to advance throughout your career?
  • How different is your work ethic compared to five years ago?
  • Do you see yourself in a higher position in three years?

Why Are Career Goals Important?

So, you might be wondering—why are career goals so important?

Well, first of all, they are important because you can set them in order to grow both personally and professionally.

Besides that, the “career goals” interview question is important to recruiters because they see that you have a plan for the future. This demonstrates your planning skills and how serious you are about work.

A quick Google search shows you that people who have set goals are 10 times more likely to succeed.

Studies also show that people who wrote down their goals were more likely to achieve them.

How to Set Goals

If you don’t know where to start with setting your goals, here’s a quick guideline on how you can do it easily:

  • Explore options. Do some research on different professions, academic courses, or even job positions before you set goals.
  • Explore personal strengths and interests. Make a list of skills that you think you are good at. You can also check what career goals fit your interests.
  • Set SMART goals. The letters in SMART acronym stand for:
    • S– Specific
    • M– Measurable
    • A– Attainable
    • R– Relevant
    • T– Time-bound

These are considered the five attributes that every career goal needs.

  • Measure & track progress. Check the career goals that you have chosen and track your progress. Measuring them will let you see how far you have come and it will add onto your motivation to achieve them.

Types of Career Goals

Career goals can be short-term or long-term. A short-term career goal is considered a target that you can achieve in a matter of days, weeks, months, or during the year. Whereas long-term career goals are those that you want to achieve in the future.

#1. Advancing to a Leadership Position

If you are currently looking to advance to a leadership position, here’s a good career goals statement example you can use:

Short-term goal:

My main current focus is to self-reflect and work on my listening skills. I plan to take time and practice active listening, as I believe one of the main roles of a leader is to take the team’s concerns and opinions into consideration.

Long-term goal:

I plan to develop more relationships with our sponsors as well as our clients in order to raise the profits of the company to around 8% within its first month.

#2. Personal Development

If you want to express that you plan on developing personally, you can say:

Short-term goal:

I am currently working on developing better time-management skills. I am doing so by dividing tasks properly and allowing myself space to finish each task on time without them piling up towards the end of the month.

Long-term goal:

I plan to develop a more open mindset as there are many different personalities working in the company. So, my main goal is to become more open-minded and take my coworkers’ opinions into consideration more as well.

#3. Skills Development

To explain that your career goals revolve around developing your skills, you can say:

Short-term goal:

I am currently working on developing better tech skills. I have realized that technology is constantly advancing, and I definitely need to catch up. So far, I’ve been enrolling in online courses to learn new skills.

Long-term goal:

My current long-term goal is to develop into an avid public speaker. Recently, I have been told that I have become more closed off after working remotely for a longer period of time. That’s why I want to improve my people skills, and I believe that attending social anxiety meetings has really paid off so far.

#4. Becoming an Expert

If you want to show that your career goal is to become an expert at something, consider saying:

Short-term goal:

I am currently focusing on doing better research on the social media market and exploring ways both the company and I can contribute to it. I have been examining our target audience and what they mainly search for on a daily basis. This has helped me collect some useful data for our company.

Long-term goal:

My main focus is to become a major contributor to our company’s next digital marketing project. I plan to do so by taking on more small tasks and projects to build a portfolio that I can use for bigger projects in the future.

#5. Career Stability

If you want to say that you want to focus on stabilizing your career as a goal, you can say:

Short-term goal:

I want to focus on breaking down projects over longer periods of time in order to improve the project quality as well as have a set work plan for the entire year. So far, I’ve done this by distributing projects among all coworkers, which has helped them focus more diligently on specific tasks.

Long-term goal:

In order to have a stable career at our company, I plan to make a 5-year project plan according to our clients’ needs. I have been collecting data through online surveys on what I should focus on more when it comes to attracting more clients to our services.

#6. Career Change

If your career goal is to change your career, you can say:

Short-term goal:

Before applying to a new position as a graphic designer, I plan on taking an UX/UI design course to get certified and hone my skills.

Long-term goal:

In 10 years, I see myself as a digital marketing project manager. In order to achieve this, I plan to move up from position to position until I acquire the information and skills needed to become what I want.

start up career goals

How to Answer the “Career Goals” Interview Question

To answer any “career goals” interview question, you can follow these tips:

  • Make your goal relevant to the job. Check the job description and see how you can fit your career goals with the job requirements.
  • Explain the short term goal. Tell the interviewer what you want to achieve this month or throughout the year.
  • Explain the long term goal. Show what you have planned to achieve in the future.
  • Use the SMART technique to back it up. Make sure that your career goal is: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound just like the acronym suggests.

As long as you use these tips, you are guaranteed to provide a great career goals answer.

Let’s examine a career goals example in which these tips are utilized:

I am planning on becoming one of the top 3 salespeople in the company. I will get there by reaching out to a specific target audience and checking what the ages of our most frequent customers are. I will then check what marketing strategies we can use to cater to their wants and needs. So far, to achieve this, I have surveyed around 120 people about their favorite aspect of the company and how we can utilize those attributes to benefit it.

Career Goals Answers Based on Seniority

Career Goals for Someone with No Experience

Career goals for students can be a bit easier to achieve. Although you might not have experience, you should still set career goals for yourself.

Here’s a good career goals example of what you can say:

My main focus is to establish a good skill set that I can use for future job opportunities. I want to jumpstart my career with your company’s internship and work my way up.

This example is specific, realistic, and shows a clear understanding of the steps required to achieve a desired outcome.

You should definitely avoid answering with:

This is my first job, and, as a student, I need the money. I also want to fill up my CV so bigger companies will want to hire me.

Showing that you’re not really interested in the job or company and only want to join for the chance to go somewhere else will make you seem opportunistic.

Career Goals for Young Professionals

Consider answering with:

I want to be able to use the skills that I have learned so far and develop them further. I believe that your company will be a big step in advancing my career further while helping me see where I need to improve myself.

Staying humble in your answer is the best way to go. This will show that you are ready to learn new things and are ready for new challenges.

Avoid answering with:

I know my way around a job like this because I have worked as a manager before. I have developed a large number of skills, and I plan to teach everyone about everything I learned beforehand.

Although it’s important to state that you are confident in your skills, it’s also crucial to stay humble. Showing that you’re not interested in advancing your skills any further shows that you are not ready to develop yourself or the company.

Career Goals for Executives

You can answer with:

My main goal is to become a better mentor. As a senior executive, I’ve had the opportunity to work in teams a lot, and I want to hone my leadership skills further. My focus is on creating a better connection with my coworkers so that they feel comfortable sharing their concerns with me.

Showing that even though you’ve had previous experience, you are still ready to grow both personally and professionally is a great way to answer a question about your career goals.

Don’t answer with:

I want to become a wealthy CEO since I believe I have the assets and experience for that.

Although it is okay to want the highest and safest position in a company, saying that your main career goal is to become rich is not a good way to answer as it shows that you are only focused on your own gain and do not have any plans on advancing the company.

Career Goals Answers Based on the Industry

Let’s look at some examples of career goals answers based on the industry you want to work in.

IT Industry

A good answer is:

In the upcoming months, I want to develop a new skill set that would allow me to grow both individually and professionally. I want to use every skill I’ve acquired to improve the company and then maybe start my own business someday.

Here, the focus is on improving your skills to the point that you can teach them to someone else.

Avoid answers like:

My plan is to drop out of college so I can become the next Steve Jobs.

Showing that you have no interest in advancing academically might partly reflect on your plans to advance professionally.


A good answer is:

My main focus is to advance my educational status to a professional one. My long-term career goal is to become a manager, and I want to learn everything I need to know from a mentor so I can become a mentor for someone else in the future.

Showing that you plan to advance your career further will leave a good impression on the employer.

Avoid answers like:

I hear that finance is the best place to make a lot of money, and that’s why I want to work here.

Answers like these bring nothing to the table. Everyone wants to earn money for a living, so this answer only shows that you are not serious about the job.


A good answer is:

My main goal is to participate in scientific research so I can help build a new perspective, which will, in turn, help others with the research.

Showing your interest in the company’s projects will help you make a good impression and show that you have done your research.

Avoid answers like:

I want to fix world hunger and create a machine that will stop air pollution.

Although this is something that the world needs, goals like these are unattainable, and your answer should be more realistic.


A good answer is:

As I have previously worked as a social media marketing manager, my main goal would be to raise your company’s social media presence, which is a major factor in reaching out to clients and customers.

This answer shows that you are interested in advancing the company and not just yourself.

Avoid answers like:

I want to work with Google ads because I know a trick that enables me to spam every social media site with our company’s ads.

Make sure to avoid informal language when you answer any “career goals” interview question so you do not seem flippant.


A good answer is:

I plan on raising the company’s monthly sales by 22% by examining your target audience and their pain points, which your company can address.

With this answer, you can show that you have done research on the company and plan on setting your career goals around its progress.

Avoid answers like:

I want to become like Leonardo DiCaprio in that “The Wolf of Wall Street” movie. He made thousands in that job, so who wouldn’t want to do that?

Be serious when you answer questions about your career goals. An answer like this shows that your main focus is on the money only, and that is not a good impression to make.


A good answer is:

I want to focus on letting students feel as comfortable as possible while making sure that my teaching methods fit not only me but them as well.

Taking the feelings of others into consideration will show your compassion and empathy.

Avoid answers like:

I want to be a teacher because they have the longest break during the summer, and I definitely need to be free during party and festival season.

Parties are something you should definitely not mention during your interview, and answers like these show that you have no interest in actually advancing your career.

businessman career goals

Things to Avoid When Answering Career Goals Question

Now that you know the importance of career goals, let’s look at some things you should and shouldn’t do when you answer:

  • Be realistic. Your goals should be easily attainable. Being realistic in how you set your goals is important as research shows that around 92% of people don’t follow through on their goals because they were too hard to achieve.
  • Practice. Practicing is the number one priority as it lets you see that failing your career goals is not as bad as it seems. You should also practice because it lets you improve both yourself and your skills.
  • Tailor your answer to the company/job. Before anything, check out the job description and tailor your answer to fit their goals. This will peak the recruiter’s interest and show that you are interested in growing professionally with them.
  • Don’t be greedy. As much as many of us want to be millionaires, saying that your career goal is to get the most amount of money possible will leave a bad impression on the recruiter.
  • Don’t be too detailed. As tempting as it is to start blasting random information about yourself and your life, you should keep your career goals short and simple. Too many details will make the answer seem forced and dishonest.

Final Thoughts

You’ve made it to the end of the guide, which means that you now know everything you need in order to give the best answer about your career goals. Tailor your career goals to the specific job position while still remaining true to yourself, and you’ll have no trouble answering these questions!

We hope that the career goals examples we provided will give you some ideas and help you better prepare when the opportunity arises. Make sure to keep the interview tips and tricks we’ve mentioned in mind, and you will surely nail your next interview!