Answering What Are Your Career Goals
Career goals are specific goals. They are things, positions, circumstances surrounding your professional life that you have determined with clarity your eyes and mind that you want to achieve. They may be long term, such as obtaining a promotion or certificate, or short term, such as obtaining certification for a particular skill or position. The reality is that the sooner you write down your career goals, the sooner you can begin moving in the direction of fulfilling them. In order to be successful, you must develop a plan for moving forward towards these career goals. Without one, there is no way forward.
Most people get off on the wrong foot when it comes to developing a plan for their future. They simply look at a list of their career goals, identify which one they are most interested in achieving and set out on a tangent, often spending time researching the relevant skills and qualifications they will need to obtain the goal. This is the incorrect example. You can spend days upon days identifying what skills and qualifications you need to acquire, but if you don’t know where you are going, how are you ever going to get there?
An excellent plan is to identify a number of short-term goals, to achieve in five years, ideally five years’ time. These short-term goals should provide the framework for moving you forward. For example, in your career goals, you may wish to pursue certification for a particular skill set. You could set yourself a target date for when you want to achieve your long-term goal of becoming a certified trainer and work your five year plan around this schedule.
So now that you know what your career goals are, what’s the correct answer to the interviewer’s career question? The answer to that question depends, to a large extent, on what type of interviewer you are. If you are an interviewer who asks lots of questions about irrelevant trivia, then your career goals will be somewhat irrelevant. On the other hand, if you are an interviewer who likes to dig into the relevant facts of a situation, then your career goals will have some relevance to the job. Here are some sample career goals that are often asked during a job interview:
In this example, the career goal is simply to achieve the certification. In general, answering a career goal like this implies that the interviewer wants you to achieve some specific result, whether this be a certification or a position in your company within your organization. However, this is rarely what employers are actually looking for. Instead, they are usually looking for an indicator of how well you can contribute to the organization, either through supervising employees, or through the training you provide to current employees. Again, answering your career goal with the word “achieve” suggests that you will be contributing something worthwhile, whether that something is earning certification, gaining higher rank and pay, or enhancing your skills so that you can eventually take on a leadership role.
In addition, there are two other kinds of career goals that are very common. The first type is the career goals focused. This kind of goal often indicates that the interviewer wants you to attain short-term results and to do that you must do things in a short period of time. This short-term goal could mean completing a certain number of trainees, meeting a certain number of departmental goals, or even achieving a specific number of miles run. A career goal focused can often indicate that you need to manage your time better.
The other kind of career goals is the long-term goal. Answering what are your long-term career goals implies that you want to do something meaningful over your entire career, and that is generally seen as a career step. For example, when an interviewer asks how many hours you plan to work outside of the office, and you answer that you want to work until retirement, this is viewed as a long-term career goal.
When answering what are your career goals, the real trick is to be honest and realistic. The truth is far more valuable than the wishy-washy answer you might get if you tell yourself that you want to climb the corporate ladder by quickly completing small goals. For example, if you are working as a receptionist, it might be true that the fastest way to the top of the ladder would be to have a college degree and land a job in an office with a big promotion. However, that won’t really benefit you for very long, and it will also take a lot of time and effort. You should be honest with yourself about the real value of your goals, and the real value of your current position.