Brennan Whitfield | Jun 13, 2023

Short-term career goals are professional goals set to be achieved in the near future, like within the next day, week or month. They are often used to help advance your career and move you toward a long-term career goal.

Short-Term Goal Definition

Short-term career goals are intended to be accomplished at a point in the near future, such as a day, week or month. Good short-term career goals advance your career and put you along the right path to achieve your long-term goals.

“A short-term goal should impact your day-to-day work and be easy to track and measure success,” said An Vu, chief marketing officer of Zynga’s Small Giant Games. 

For example, your short-term career goal could be to cut the average number of bugs in a software update by half. That goal is measurable and can be tracked. It would also positively affect your daily work.

Another might be to learn a new professional skill, which you can measure by taking a course and receiving a completion certificate.

In any case, short-term goals serve as the roadmap that takes you from where you are to where you want to be.

Short-Term Career Goal Examples

  1. Determine what you want out of your career
  2. Expand your professional network
  3. Find a mentor
  4. Take a step toward improving writing and speaking
  5. Take on an extra project
  6. Gain cross-functional experience
  7. Learn a new concept
  8. Improve industry knowledge 
  9. Update resume and LinkedIn profile
  10. Transition to a new industry or field
  11. Get promoted
  12. Find a new job


Why Are Short-Term Career Goals Important?

Setting short-term goals is crucial even if you are not sure of which direction you want your career to move toward, said Iteeah Pounds, internship and co-op program and operations manager at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Short-term goals help guard against getting passed over for the opportunities you want, said B.J. Engelhardt, senior director of career services at Illinois Institute of Technology. Short-term career goals also help determine which skill sets to build upon and get you to where you want to be, he added.

Career goals are also far-reaching and should be reflected as you create your annual goals and discuss them with your manager during your one-on-one sessions, said Aliza Carpio, technical evangelist director at Autodesk. By taking this step, you declare for yourself and for your team where you want to be in the not-so-distant future. 

“The more you achieve your short-term goals, the closer you are to your long-term goals,” Carpio said. “The more you declare your long-term goals, the easier it is for you to determine your short-term goals.”


How to Set Short-Term Career Goals

There’s no one right way to set a short-term career goal.

“I think people can often run into decision paralysis in trying to define,  prioritize [and set] the right goals,” Vu said. “What’s more important is to actually begin putting your intentions into action — any short-term goal that moves you in the general direction of where you want to be is a viable step in your roadmap.”

Taking action not only builds personal momentum — it also unlocks new opportunities and routes that will ultimately lead to your intended destination, or perhaps even toward an option you hadn’t previously seen for yourself, she added.

Here are some actions you can take when setting short-term career goals:

Find Accountability

Accountability is key, according to Gail Matthews, a psychologist and adjunct professor at the Dominican University of California.

In Matthews’ research, based on a survey of 149 participants who set various goals, it was the participants who shared their action plans with friends and updated them with weekly progress reports who accomplished the most.

“The positive effect of accountability was supported,” Matthews wrote. “Those who sent weekly progress reports to their friend accomplished significantly more than those who had unwritten goals, wrote their goals, formulated action commitments or sent those action commitments to a friend.”


Use the SMART Goals Template

Consider using a SMART goal format to set up your short-term goals. SMART goals are ones that are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Based


Visualize Your Short-Term Career Goal Set-Up

Organizing and prioritizing a number of short-term goals all at once may seem challenging, but Vu uses a workflow visualization kanban tool to map out her weekly, monthly and yearly goals.

“It helps to visualize everything,” Vu said. “Prioritizing from easiest to hardest often helps with deciding what to tackle first, unless there are deadlines, then you can plan your tasks according to schedule.”


Set Career Goals Through Journaling 

Frequently recording your thoughts in a journal is one way to set career goals, said Amber Roberson, vice president of sales at 3D printing manufacturer Carbon. 

Every year, Roberson takes a moment to reflect on the past year’s events. She reads through her journal to understand what happened and uses that information to make sure she’s still on track with her short-term goals, which in turn will help her to the next level.

When journaling, note if you’re having fun while you’re chasing your goals. Two months after setting goals, people who enjoyed pursuing their goal were more apt to continue that pursuit, reports the Harvard Business Review

Overall, as you set short-term goals, remember that life is unpredictable, said Sarah Sikowitz, director of career education and coaching at Harvard Business School’s Career and Professional Development department.

“We often get asked by our students and alumni, ‘I want to be X in 25 years, what are the exact steps that I should take to get there?’ It’s impossible to reverse engineer your career,” Sikowitz said. “You can’t know where life will take you.”


Short Term Goals Definition and Examples | Video: Doing Life Today

12 Examples of Short-Term Career Goals

Wondering where to start? Below, university career experts and executives, hiring managers and team leads from half a dozen tech companies offer advice for developing short-term career goals.

1. Determine What You Want Out of Your Career

“Your first goal might be just to figure out what it is that you want to do for your career. You should reflect on what you’ve done up until this point, what are your likes and dislikes and you should talk to other people who are in the roles or industries you are interested in.”

Iteeah Pounds, internship and co-op program and operations manager at the Georgia Institute of Technology


2. Expand Your Professional Network

“Networking builds up your connections, which in turn may yield a resource for potential mentors, and people who you can job shadow or do informational interviews with to explore career options, as well as to bounce ideas off of to formulate short term goals. Joining professional trade groups can help you expand your network, as well as committing to meeting six new people within the next six months.”



3. Find a Mentor

“Identify two or three people who exhibit exactly the thing that your long-term goal represents who could be your mentor. When you talk to that person, it’s really important to ask them for very tactical tips. You can say ‘I’m specifically interested in your expertise or skill in X,Y or Z. Can you tell me when you were starting out on this journey, what were a couple of things that you did early on that helped you get where you are today?’ Make your questions really tactical and specific so the person can give you the right tips.”

Yasmin Kothari, product lead at Asana


4. Take a Step Toward Improving Writing and Speaking

“When I was an engineer, I realized that delivering my work product on time wasn’t enough to get to the next level. I saw that having a good command of the written and spoken word was something I had to practice and master. English is not my first or second language and in college, when you major in a STEM field, practicing communication skills wasn’t what got you the ‘A.’ But, once you are working with business partners and peers, having awesome communication skills differentiates you from others. In the beginning, I watched a lot of TED talks and tutorials on YouTube. I created a framework for how good storytellers and online instructors communicated, which I use today and share with others.”

Aliza Carpio, technical evangelist director at Autodesk


5. Take on an Extra Project

“I worked at a mobile game startup where I quickly moved up from intern to marketing manager. During my three years at this startup, I took on as many responsibilities as I could manage and made the effort to become proficient until I could build my professional capacity. Establishing my ability to accomplish basic tasks inspired confidence in others to provide more opportunities for me to engage meaningfully in the work. The short-term goals were learning experiences that built my capacity and established my credibility among peers which led to greater opportunities.”

An Vu, chief marketing officer of Zynga’s Small Giant Games


6. Gain Cross-Functional Experience

“During the first five years of my career, I had great responsibilities as an individual contributor but no leadership experience. So as a way to gain that, I took on small projects that had touchpoints cross-functionally. You start to build a coalition of people around you who will support your ideas and promote them and also lend their skills and time to advance the goals that you have laid out.”

— Julie Lemieux, vice president of product experience at Sigma

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7. Learn a New Concept

“Shifting from engineering to product was a big deal because I didn’t have the traditional business or finance background or competency like so many other product managers. I had to invest time and effort in learning about business models, financial mechanics and metrics, stakeholder management and research methodologies. I took online business courses and went to a local community college to learn basic finance. I also immersed myself in design thinking practice, which allowed me to become a design thinking coach for startups and use this practice in my daily work.”



8. Improve Industry Knowledge

“When I started at Asana, I knew that I really wanted to become an expert in the productivity tools space and an expert in the problems our enterprise users face. My teams are ultimately responsible for a lot of the retention and engagement of enterprise users. So, in the first few months, I made a short-term career goal to listen to at least one customer call in this space per week and at least one enterprise customer call per week. I also made it a goal to read through 10 random Net Promoter Score survey responses a week. Making that measurable and doable goal very early on was really helpful for me to understand the user and be very attuned to their needs and hear it from their own mouths. These short-term goals help my longer-term goal to become one of the world’s foremost experts and thinkers on how we can solve productivity problems for enterprise clients, organizations and teams.”



9. Update Resume and LinkedIn Profile

“Make sure your resume and LinkedIn profile are updated and ready to go. This way, when you want to connect with people who are in an area that you want to further explore they will want to connect with you. They can see that you know what you’re looking for.”



10. Transition to a New Industry Or Field 

“I was in G.E. Healthcare and I wanted to make the transition to G.E. Aviation. I was really interested in some of the technologies that were coming out of aviation and was doing a lot of interesting things in digital aviation and 3D printing. I started networking with people in that particular business unit who were in my area of sales. Lo and behold, the networking that initially was self-serving actually ended up being very beneficial to my current business unit and we found all these amazing synergies that we weren’t exploring.”

Amber Roberson, vice president of sales at Carbon


11. Get Promoted

“Getting a promotion is a very common short-term goal, where you say I want to be promoted into the role above me. If that’s your short-term goal, you need to figure out what you need to do to get promoted into that role, whether it’s through an annual performance review, your own volition, and set goals for yourself to achieve that promotion and record what you’re doing to service those goals you’ve set for yourself.”

Sarah Sikowitz, director of career education and coaching at Harvard Business School’s Career and Professional Development department


12. Find a New Job

“If your short-term career goal is to do a major jump in your role, more times than not it’s actually easier to leave a company and go somewhere else to do that. If you think about it, if you’re doing very well where you are working, sometimes you’re kind of typecast and thought of for a certain level. I was a director at one company and wanted to be a vice president of engineering. Sometimes it’s easier to sell yourself somewhere else. A recruiter contacted me on behalf of the CEO at Interleaf and I became a VP of development.”

Steph Bacon, senior director of portfolio strategy at Red Hat

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