Whether you plan to start your career soon or you’re already well established in your profession, defining goals for the future helps you focus your attention and increase your likelihood of success.
Having a firm grasp on your long-term career goals also shows potential employers that you’re serious and intend to stay for the long haul — an important quality in a world where the average employee only stays with a company for about four years.
If you have a job interview coming up or simply want to think seriously about the next five to 10 years of your career, our extensive list of long-term career goal examples can help set you on the right path.
How to Explain Your Goals
The question “What are your long-term career goals?” comes up frequently in job interviews. If you’re looking for a new job, it’s a smart idea to be prepared with an answer.
Prospective employers want some insight into your own personal aspirations and priorities, but they’re also likely looking for an answer that will benefit their bottom line.
Try to keep your answer relevant to the company and position you’re interviewing for. Do some research beforehand into the company’s mission statement and see where it aligns with your own.
You should always be honest, but certain goals — such as becoming the CEO or retiring early — may not be the best answer in an interview setting.
Examples of Long-Term Career Goals
Below, we list several general career goals that you can tailor to your specific situation and experience.
Achieve a Top Position Within Your Organization
Many people who are currently working want to get promoted to a senior or executive-level position. Small successes and achievements can take a person to that position in the long term.
For example, a person may set a long-term goal of running their department, managing a team, or even retiring as CEO.
Just make sure not to tell your current or future boss that you want their position any time soon — it may be frowned upon if they think you’re vying for their position.
If you’re still in school, long-term goals might instead be becoming established in your target industry or getting offered your dream job within the next few years. While you get your major career goals figured out, see our list of high-paying jobs for 18-year-olds.
Become a Subject Matter Expert
One long-term goal that many eager professionals have in common is to become a subject matter expert (SME). This is something that requires time and continuous learning and practice.
Becoming an SME is a great long-term career goal for someone who is interviewing for a new career. It shows that you admit you don’t know everything now, but you plan to keep learning and growing in your position.
Become a Consultant
If you’ve set the above goal of becoming a subject matter expert, you can take it one step further by aspiring to become a consultant. After gaining experience, you may find yourself in a good position to advise other people or businesses in your field.
Many professionals set a mid-career goal to start consulting within the next few years. They gather as much experience as possible and build a contact network they can work from. This can become a lucrative source of side income, as well.
Further Your Education
Many working professionals decide to go back to school and continue their education. Furthering your education is a great way to refine your skills and update your knowledge base, and it shows great initiative to prospective employers.
For example, a management professional can set a goal to get an advanced management degree or specialize in a specific area of management. Many employers even pay for continuing education if it’s in a relevant field.
For a full-time student transitioning to work, the goal can be to get training or certification that can make entry into a specific field easier.
For someone interviewing, you can mention to the employer that you’d like to take advantage of their training programs or their cost-share classes with a local university.
Whether you are just thinking of long-term career goals for yourself or ones to say during an interview, investing in yourself is a smart goal to have.
Do Something Revolutionary
Short-term career goals may include things like improving quarterly revenue or revamping the new-hire training process. But, for a long-term career goal, you can think bigger.
What can you do that will revolutionize your company — or better yet — your industry? How can you shake up the workflow, make everyone’s lives easier, or make a product better?
Look at the big picture and think about the direction your industry is moving in. Then, think about how you can be at the forefront of the latest and greatest achievements in your company.
People like to share their experiences with other people in their field. One good long-term goal is to write a book on your professional journey.
If a whole book is too intimidating, consider where you can contribute guest blog posts, articles, or even interviews in a relevant publication.
Setting this goal shows you want to have some authority in your field, which can go a long way in impressing a current or future employer.
Work for Your Dream Company
Many people dream of working for a specific company, or they have a role model in their industry they’d love to work with.
One example of the latter is film stars; they often express their ultimate goal to do a film with a particular actor or director. Similarly, a software professional’s ultimate goal might be to work for Google or Microsoft.
Think about the key players in your industry and set a long-term goal to make it happen.
Become a Figurehead for Your Company or Industry
The goal here is to be so recognizable, so indispensable, and so trusted in your industry that you are the face of what you have put your life’s work into.
This may come in the form of being your company’s spokesperson, or maybe you become the go-to person that news stations reach out to when your company has a story.
Becoming a respected authority in your field can go a long way on your professional path.
Find Career Stability
People who have been freelancing, working temporary jobs, or just come from a rocky industry may set their primary goal as getting a permanent position.
From there, the long-term goal may be to see themselves secured in a stable career. This shows a willingness to commit to a position for the long haul.
Take on a Leadership Role
Leadership is one of the most coveted professional qualities, and there are multiple ways to achieve this goal over time.
Whether you take the reins at a company meeting, offer to tackle a challenging project, or take the initiative to plan the office holiday party, every employer appreciates a worker with leadership qualities. It’ll put you in a good position to be considered for a promotion or raise down the line.
Cultivate Job Satisfaction
Very few people love every aspect of their job. However, if you truly dislike what you do for a living, it’s time to make it a long-term goal to change that.
Maybe you can take on a new role in the company, learn a new skill, or focus on appreciating the little things, like fostering friendly relationships with your coworkers.
If you can’t find job satisfaction that way, it might be time to set a larger goal of finding a new job.
Learn Something Completely New
You don’t have to limit yourself to your current set of skills or expertise. Learning a new skill — especially if it’s something you’re truly interested in — can be beneficial to both your morale and bottom line.
Consider learning a new language, a new computer program, or a new way of doing your everyday duties. It looks great on a resume and can give you the edge over other candidates for a job or promotion.
Create a New Way to Earn
Have you found another way your company can profit? Make it a long-term goal to explore the possibilities.
The company BIC, for example, was good with plastics; instead of just making pens, they expanded into making lighters, safety razors, and more.
Create or Join a Mentorship Program
Over the course of your career, you’ll have gained a lot of knowledge. Sharing this knowledge is not only personally rewarding, but it shows that you care about others and want to see them succeed.
Consider the long-term goal of mentoring others. You could even propose starting a mentorship program at your company.
Expand Your Professional Network
A true professional aims to build a vast network of contacts throughout their career. It’s also important to have a healthy relationship with each of them.
A simple long-term career goal can be to build a LinkedIn profile with 500 contacts.
Build Your Brand
One of the smartest ways to stand out from the competition is to build your own brand. Find what sets you apart and makes you different in a good way. Whatever it is, it will attract others to you.
As your professional reputation gains traction, you’ll find yourself in better standing to get a promotion, take on special projects, gain more clients, or start a new business venture.
Stop or Start Traveling
Flying on a company jet can be pretty cool, but maybe you have a family now and want to spend more time close to home. On the other hand, maybe you’re tired of the same old scenery and eager to take your work on the road.
Whether you want in or out, traveling for your career is a big decision. It may be your long-term goal one way or the other.
Create a Training Program
This long-term goal would not only make you look good but help your company and colleagues as a whole.
Think about creating a program that could serve as a blueprint for what you do on a daily basis. This can be used to train new hires, to train your successor, or to sell to other people or companies.
Read “X” Number of Career Books
Lots of business leaders have published their life stories. You can use these books to improve your own professional path and also show others that you are willing to put serious time into learning from the best.
If you crave a drastic change of scenery, you may want to set a long-term goal of working abroad. It’ll also be a huge win for you (and your company) if you can get your division running in a new area.
Working in a new country can teach you all about what it means to adapt and collaborate with others who may be very different from yourself.
Become a Great Public Speaker
Public speaking is an underrated but incredibly important skill. Whether you need to present an idea to a meeting or pitch your case to your boss as to why you deserve a raise, mastering public speaking should be a career goal on everyone’s list.
You can take a local public speaking class in your area or online, practice with friends, or even work one-on-one with a speaking coach. Learning how to speak articulately and with confidence is a skill that can take you far in your career.
Make “X” Dollars
While your salary isn’t always the most important aspect of a job, making money is essential to building a comfortable life for you and your family.
What salary do you see yourself earning two, five, or 10 years down the road? You can do research on sites like Glassdoor to find comparable salaries in your industry and area.
Research the natural career trajectory of someone with your current job and make a plan to work hard, ask for promotions, and work your way to your desired payscale.
Receive Industry Endorsements
You may have seen the acronyms at the end of some people’s email signatures. These industry endorsements involve real-world training that differs from going back to school or taking a few additional classes.
Ask around your field to find the endorsements your industry respects the most. See how long it would take to get some of them and set a long-term goal to make it happen.
In addition to endorsements, joining industry organizations can be great for your career. For some groups that might be of interest to you, see our list of 50+ professional organizations.
Win an Industry Award
Are there any special accolades or awards for people in your field, or for a niche skill at which you excel? What are the requirements for being considered?
Industry awards not only look great on a resume, but they also help you to build a name and reputation for yourself. It can be highly attractive for prospective employers to see you’ve earned recognition for your hard work.
Work From Home
Maybe you want to cut your commute, spend more time with your kids, or you simply work best when you’re alone. Whatever the reason, working from home can be a good long-term career goal because it’s typically not something you can do overnight.
Your current employer may need some convincing to allow telecommuting, or you may need time to find a job you can do remotely.
Working from home requires self-discipline, motivation, and dependability. You’ll need to be a self-starter in order to really do well. However, once you get situated in your new role, you can work on creating your desired work-life balance.
Change Careers Entirely
This is a crucial long-term goal for anyone who isn’t happy with their current job or field, though it’s best to keep this particular goal to yourself. No one wants an employee who is looking to leave.
If you aren’t happy with your current career path, you can set a goal for yourself to make a change. Give yourself some time to explore other jobs and industries, consider any additional training or education you may need, and start working toward that goal.
Start Your Own Business
Starting a business is one of the most common long-term career goals for which people strive. If you’re one of the aforementioned people who are unhappy in their current career, this could be another great long-term goal for you.
It’s hard work to run a business, and it requires smart planning, smart spending, and having contingencies in place. But, it can also be one of the most exciting and rewarding professional prospects you’ll ever take on.
Our related research lists 17 small business ideas for women entrepreneurs.
Some people set a goal at the beginning or middle of their carrier to retire early.
Retiring early requires dedication, discipline, and careful planning. Those hoping to retire early must work hard to make that goal a reality and possess the willpower to live below their means.
Early retirement isn’t always an easy goal, but it’s an impressive one that can pay off in terms of overall life satisfaction.