How to Discover Your Long-term Career Goals (35 Tips + Examples)

Have you ever imagined where your career might take you in the next decade or beyond? Maybe you’re dreaming of being a CEO, starting your own business, or becoming a renowned artist. Yet, how do you turn these dreams into reality?

This journey begins with setting long-term career goals. These aren’t just wishful thoughts; they’re the targets you set to steer your career where you want it to go.

Let’s discover how to create these goals and start turning your career dreams into reality!

Table of Contents

Understanding Yourself is Crucial

Discovering your long-term career goals is like embarking on an epic quest of self-exploration, and the first stop on this quest is to “unearth the inner you.”

This involves understanding your skills, interests, and values — the building blocks of your career path.

Skills: What Are You Good At?

Everyone has a unique set of skills, ranging from hard skills like proficiency in a foreign language or digital marketing, to soft skills like communication or problem-solving.

To identify your skills:

  • Review your past experiences (jobs, volunteering, hobbies).
  • Ask for feedback from colleagues, friends, or mentors.
  • Consider skills you enjoy using.

Interests: What Do You Love Doing?

Your interests are activities that you feel excited about and enjoy doing. To find your interests:

  • Reflect on tasks you’ve enjoyed in past roles or projects.
  • Think about activities you love in your free time.
  • Notice what kind of articles, books, or videos attract your attention.

Values: What’s Important to You?

Values are deeply held beliefs that drive your behavior and decision-making. Identifying your values can guide you to careers that align with your core beliefs.

To discover your values:

  • Reflect on past decisions that made you happy or unhappy.
  • Consider what you admire in others.
  • Think about what gives you a sense of fulfillment or purpose.

Now, the role of self-assessment in career planning is paramount. It’s like drawing a map of your internal landscape. With this map, you can identify career paths that utilize your skills, ignite your interests, and align with your values.

#1: In Self-Discovery and Assessment


Reflect on your strengths, values, and interests to determine potential careers.

Self-assessment is a key starting point in any career journey. As pointed out earlier, it involves identifying what you’re good at, what you value, and what interests you. Think about the tasks you find easy or the subjects you’ve always loved.

Reflect on your personal values, as these can play a major role in your career satisfaction.

Using Career Assessment Tools and Personality Tests

Career assessment tools and personality tests are essential in career planning. They offer a structured way to identify your unique skills, interests, and values.

  1. Choosing the Right Tools: Select tools that fit your needs, like Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or Strong Interest Inventory.
  2. Understanding the Results: Interpreting these results in context of your own experiences and career aspirations is key.
  3. Applying the Insights: Use the insights from these tools to guide your career planning. If you’re extroverted and enjoy people, consider careers in sales or teaching.
  4. Reassessment: Periodically retake these tests to reflect your growth and evolving interests.

Remember, while these tools offer valuable insights, they’re part of a bigger career planning picture. Combine them with self-reflection, feedback, and real-world experiences to make well-informed career decisions.

Did You Know? Careers that are aligned with an individual's strengths and values often result in greater job satisfaction.

Reference: Why your work values are essential to career satisfaction

Identify Your Passions

Determine which activities genuinely excite and inspire you.

Your passions can give you clues to careers that might make you feel fulfilled and motivated. Consider the activities or topics that spark your interest or make time fly by.

Example: If you love painting, you might consider a career in visual arts or design.

Pro Tip: Make a list of the things you love doing, and then research potential careers related to these activities.

Reflect on Your Life Experiences

Consider how life events or personal milestones have shaped your values and interests. Your past experiences can greatly influence your career choices.

For instance, growing up in a family of doctors might inspire you to work in the medical field. Think about your life events and how they’ve impacted your interests and values.

Example: If you’ve traveled extensively and enjoyed learning about different cultures, you might be suited to a career in travel or international relations.

Analyze Your Hobbies

Consider how hobbies or pastimes can indicate a new career direction. Your hobbies can point you towards potential careers.

Example: If you enjoy gardening, you might consider a career in horticulture or landscape design.

Set SMART Goals

Setting SMART goals can provide clear direction and milestones as you explore potential careers.

Example: You might aim to research five different industries within the next month (Specific, Measurable, Achievable), which aligns with your overall career exploration goal (Relevant), to be completed by a certain date (Time-bound).

Pro Tip: Write down your SMART goals and keep them somewhere visible to keep you motivated.

#2: In Research and Exploration

Research Various Industries

Explore industries to learn about career paths within them. The more you know about different industries, the more informed your career decisions will be.

Look at various sectors to understand:

  • The types of roles available
  • The skills required
  • Potential career paths

Speak With Professionals

Speaking with professionals in careers you’re interested in can provide invaluable insights.

They can give you an idea of the following:

  • What to expect
  • What skills are important
  • How to get started

Example: If you’re considering a career in journalism, reach out to a reporter or editor for an informational interview.

Engage in Informational Interviews

Conduct interviews with professionals in your field to gather advice and insights.

Informational interviews can help you learn about a specific career from someone who’s already doing it. You might discover the pros and cons of the job, the skills needed, and how to break into the industry.

Pro Tip: Prepare a list of thoughtful questions to ask during your informational interview.

Evaluate Geographical Factors

Consider where you want to live and research job opportunities in that region. Where you live can greatly impact your career opportunities.

Some regions might have a high demand for certain professions. Consider if you’re willing to relocate for your dream job.

Example: Cities like San Francisco and Seattle are known for their tech jobs, while New York and Los Angeles are hotspots for the entertainment industry.

Reference: The 12 best places for tech jobs in the U.S. (2022 list)

Attend Job Fairs

Participate in job fairs to gather information and interact with potential employers.

Job fairs allow you to meet employers and learn about job opportunities in various companies and industries. You can also ask questions and maybe even land an interview.

Example: At a job fair, you might learn that a company you’re interested in is launching a new division related to your field of interest, opening up new job opportunities.

Analyze Market Trends

Monitor market trends to understand how they may affect your career.

Understanding market trends can help you make informed career decisions. For example, a rise in remote work might affect which industries or roles are in demand.

Did You Know? As of 2023, industries such as remote healthcare and digital marketing are on the rise due to recent market trends.

Reference: The biggest healthcare marketing trends for 2023

Research Companies

Investigate company culture, values, and mission to find the right fit.

The company you work for can greatly impact your job satisfaction. Researching a company’s culture, values, and mission can help you find an organization where you’ll be happy and successful.

Pro Tip: Look at company reviews on sites like Glassdoor to get a sense of what it's like to work there.

Understand Organizational Hierarchies

Investigate typical career progression and management opportunities within your desired field.

Understanding how you can progress in a career can help you set long-term goals. Look at typical career paths in your desired field to see what opportunities for advancement might exist.

Example: In many fields, you might start as an associate, then move up to a managerial position, and eventually reach a director or executive level.

#3: In Skill Development and Education

Consider Educational Requirements

Research the education and certifications needed for your desired career.

The requirements for your desired career can guide your education choices. Some professions might require specific degrees or certifications.

Did You Know? Careers like law and medicine usually require advanced degrees, while others like programming might focus more on specific skills and experience.

Reference: LLM in law, science & technology

Upskill Consistently

Refine and update your skills to stay competitive and adapt to industry trends.

In today’s fast-paced world, learning new skills is essential. Whether it’s taking an online course or reading up on industry trends, upskilling can help you stay competitive.

Pro Tip: Many online platforms offer free or low-cost courses to help you upskill.

Pursue Professional Certifications

Obtain certifications relevant to your career goals to demonstrate your dedication and skill mastery.

Professional certifications can show employers that you’re committed to your career and have the skills needed. They can be especially important in fields like IT or project management.

Example: If you’re interested in human resources, you might pursue a certification like the PHR (Professional in Human Resources).

Diversify Your Skill Set

Acquire a wide range of skills and expertise, making you a more versatile and marketable professional.

A diverse skill set can make you more marketable to employers. It can also prepare you for a wide range of career paths.

Consider learning both of the following:

  • Hard skills, like coding or writing.
  • Soft skills, like communication or leadership.
Did You Know? Many employers value soft skills like problem-solving and teamwork as much as, if not more than, specific technical skills.

Practice Lifelong Learning

Develop a habit of continuous learning, staying informed about industry trends and skills required in your desired career.

Committing to lifelong learning can help you adapt to changes and advancements in your field. It can involve reading industry news, taking courses, or attending workshops and seminars.

Pro Tip: Make a habit of setting aside time each week for learning and professional development.

#4: In Networking and Relationship Building

Network With Industry Professionals

Attend events and join professional organizations to meet like-minded individuals.

Networking is key in any career. It can help you learn about job opportunities, get advice, and make valuable connections. Consider attending industry events or joining professional organizations.

Example: If you’re interested in marketing, you might join the American Marketing Association and attend its events.

Related: What Are the Benefits of Business Networking? (80+ Benefits)

Develop a Mentorship Relationship

Find a mentor who can provide guidance and support throughout your journey.

A mentor can provide guidance, advice, and support as you navigate your career. They can be someone in your desired field who has experience and knowledge to share.

Pro Tip: Reach out to professionals you admire to see if they would be willing to mentor you.

Build and Maintain Professional Relationships

Develop long-lasting relationships with colleagues, mentors, and peers to expand your network and gain valuable insights.

Building strong professional relationships can open doors to new opportunities. Maintaining these relationships over time can provide ongoing support and advice.

Did You Know? According to a LinkedIn data, 85% of jobs are filled via networking.

Create a Strong Support System

Build a network of friends, family, and mentors who can provide guidance during your career journey.

A support system can provide emotional support, advice, and encouragement as you explore potential careers. This could include:

  • Friends
  • Family
  • Mentors
  • Career counselors

Example: If you’re feeling unsure about a career decision, you might turn to your support system for advice.

Related: How to Build a Personal and Family Support System

#5: In Personal Branding and Online Presence

Leverage Social Media

Social media can be a powerful tool for career exploration and networking. It can help you research careers, connect with professionals, and showcase your skills and achievements.

Use social media to:

  • Research career options.
  • Network with professionals.
  • Showcase your skills.

Focus on Personal Branding

Continuously refine your personal brand, ensuring accuracy in reflecting your values and aspirations.

Your personal brand is how you present yourself to the world. It includes your online presence, your reputation, and your values. A strong personal brand can make you more attractive to employers.

Pro Tip: Make sure your online profiles are professional and consistent, and that they reflect your skills, values, and career goals.

Create a Professional Website or Portfolio

Develop an online presence showcasing your work, skills, and accomplishments.

A professional website or portfolio can showcase your work, skills, and accomplishments. It’s particularly important for fields like:

  • Graphic design
  • Writing
  • Programming

Example: A graphic designer might create a portfolio website showcasing their best designs.

Attend Workshops and Seminars

Broaden your knowledge and gain new insights into potential careers.

Workshops and seminars can provide valuable insights and learning opportunities. They can also be a great way to network with professionals in your field.

#6: In Work Experience and Opportunities

Experiment With Different Jobs

Gain firsthand experience through internships, volunteer work, or part-time jobs.

Trying out different jobs can give you a taste of various careers and help you figure out what you enjoy. Internships, volunteer work, or part-time jobs can provide this experience.

Pro Tip: Look for internships or volunteer opportunities in industries you're interested in.

Engage in Job Shadowing

Arrange to shadow professionals to learn about their daily tasks and responsibilities.

Job shadowing can give you a firsthand look at what a career entails. It involves observing a professional in your desired field as they go about their workday.

Example: If you’re considering a career as a veterinarian, you might shadow a vet for a day to see what the job is really like.

Seek International Exposure

Explore opportunities for international work or education to broaden your horizons and gain global experience.

International experience can be a great way to broaden your horizons and gain unique skills. It could involve studying abroad, volunteering, or working in a different country.

Did You Know? Employers often value international experience, as it can demonstrate adaptability, problem-solving skills, and a global perspective.

Consider Entrepreneurial Opportunities

Reflect on whether starting a business or freelancing aligns with your goals.

Starting your own business or freelancing can be a rewarding career path for some. It offers flexibility and the opportunity to be your own boss.

Pro Tip: Consider whether you have the skills and resources needed to start a business or work as a freelancer.

#7: In Work-Life Balance and Personal Well-Being

Evaluate Job Satisfaction

Job satisfaction involves more than just enjoying your work. Consider factors like:

  • Work-life balance
  • Compensation
  • Growth opportunities
  • Whether the job aligns with your values

Assess Your Desired Work-Life Balance

Reflect on the ideal balance and choose a career path that supports it.

Work-life balance is different for everyone. Reflect on what balance looks like for you, and choose a career that supports your ideal lifestyle.

Pro Tip: Remember, what counts as work-life balance can change throughout your life, and it's okay to reevaluate and make changes as needed.

Establish Work Boundaries

Setting work boundaries can help prevent burnout and improve work-life balance. This might mean not checking emails after a certain time or setting aside time for breaks during the workday.

Example: You might decide to stop work at 6 p.m. each day to spend time with family or enjoy a hobby.

Practice Stress-Management Techniques

Learn effective strategies to cope with challenges. Stress is a part of any career, but effective stress-management techniques can help you handle it.

This might involve:

  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Taking regular breaks
Pro Tip: Consider trying different stress-management techniques to find what works best for you.

Embrace Change and Adaptability

Develop a willingness to adapt as industries evolve, technologies emerge, and personal circumstances change.

In today’s fast-paced world, being able to adapt to change is a valuable skill. Whether it’s changes in your industry, new technologies, or shifts in your personal life, adaptability can help you navigate your career journey.

Related: 40+ Examples of Adaptability in the Workplace

The Art of Goal Adjustment

Consider your career plan as a living, breathing document, not something written in stone. Your interests, skills, values, and circumstances can all evolve over time. So, too, should your career goals.

Just as a ship’s captain adjusts the sails to navigate changing winds, you should be prepared to adjust your career goals to navigate the ever-changing seas of life and work.

Signs It’s Time to Adjust Your Goals

Wondering when to adjust your goals? Look out for these signs:

Sign #1: Lack of Interest or Motivation

If you’re constantly procrastinating or feeling indifferent about your career goal, it may no longer be the right fit.

Sign #2: New Interests or Skills

If you’ve discovered new interests or acquired new skills that you’re passionate about, it may be time to incorporate these into your career goals.

Sign #3: Life Changes

Significant life events—like moving cities, starting a family, or experiencing a global pandemic—can warrant a reassessment of your career goals.

Sign #4: Industry Changes

Changes in your industry, like advancements in technology or shifts in job market trends, may necessitate a pivot in your goals.

Fun Fact! Did you know that many successful people, like late bloomer author J.K. Rowling and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, have made significant career adjustments and pivots?

How to Conduct a Periodic Career Check-up

A great way to stay on top of your evolving career goals is to conduct a periodic career check-up. Here’s a quick how-to:

Step 1: Review Your Goals

Revisit your long-term career goals. Do they still align with your interests, skills, and values?

Step 2: Assess Your Progress

How close are you to reaching your goals? Celebrate your achievements, and reflect on any areas where progress is slow.

Step 3: Identify Changes

Recognize any changes in your personal life, skills, interests, or industry that might impact your career path.

Step 4: Adjust Your Goals

Based on your reflections, make any necessary adjustments to your goals. Remember, change isn’t a sign of failure—it’s a sign of growth!

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I review and adjust my career goals?

You should review your career goals at least once a year or when you experience a significant life or career change.

It’s perfectly fine to adjust your goals as your interests, circumstances, or industry trends change.

Is it necessary to have a career coach?

While not necessary for everyone, a career coach can provide personalized advice, accountability, and support to help you discover your long-term career goals and devise a strategy to achieve them.


And there you have it! You’ve explored the terrain of long-term career goal setting and discovered strategies to make your dreams a reality.

It’s time to chart your own path, armed with a sense of purpose and a clear plan. You are the captain of your career ship, and the horizon is full of possibilities. Remember, every successful journey starts with one step.

So, are you ready to launch your career journey into the stars? There’s no time like the present to start paving the way toward your dream career. Let’s get started!

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Jessa Claire

Jessa Claire is a registered healthcare provider. Music lover. Daydreamer. Thalassophile. Foodie. A hardworking Capricorn. Most days, an incurable empath. An old soul. Down-to-earth. Vibrant.

When she's not writing, she can be seen relaxing with headphones on or engrossed in her favorite fan fiction book.