29 Career Goal Examples to Improve Your Professional Life

Meet Gregory, a writer and the brains behind Face Dragons. He's the go-to guy for getting things done. Gregory's been living the digital nomad life in Asia for as long as anyone can remember, helping clients smash their goals. He writes on topics like software, personal knowledge management (PKM), and personal development. When he's not writing, you'll catch him at the local MMA gym, nose buried in a book, or just chilling with the family.

Career goals are essential for anyone who wants to progress to the top of their industry. I spent years as a career consultant, career planning with clients, showing them how to set achievable goals and objectives that would lead to their dream job. I can’t give you a personalized plan, but here are some great career goals examples you can use.

Are Your Career Goals Actionable?

Before you set your goals for 2024, figure out where you are right now.

The first thing you should look at when you want to improve your professional life, get a better job, or get a promotion is what you’re actually doing. Are you fulfilling all your responsibilities? Are you maxed out? Are you doing the right things?

If you have free time or spend longer than you need to do your tasks, you could be doing more. If you’re always busy, are you focusing on the right things?

Input goals, or actionable goals, are the best place to start with a new career goal because you have control over them. Sometimes, you just can’t control whether you get that promotion, but you can decide what you do.

Every career goal example below has an action you can take to make the result more likely. For example, “Reduce employee turnover,” i.e., stopping employees from leaving is not something you can do. Still, you can improve working conditions, ask them for their input on improving relations with management, or increase company benefits. Those actionable goals make your ultimate goal more likely.

Here are some input-based professional goals you could take on:

1. Take responsibility for a new project

Whether you want to get a promotion, increase your earnings, or just shake things up at work, taking responsibility for a new project is a good step. It shows you are committed to the company and want to progress rather than stay where you are. Managers and department heads like personnel who make their lives easier; if you can become the reliable person they turn to when they need help, you’ll also be in their sights when it comes time to promote someone.

2. Double the amount of sales calls, tickets closed, or some other task you perform each day

I don’t know what you do each day at work, but I know you could do more!

There are plenty of ways to get more done; in fact, I wrote a whole series on it: How to Get More Done. Here are the highlights

  • Work longer hours
  • Become more efficient
  • Delegate
  • Manage your time better
  • Say no to unnecessary tasks and assignments

So why not keep it simple and make your one of your work goals just to do more?

3. Arrive Half an Hour Early or Leave Last

Going above and beyond your expected duties is the best way to fast-track your career progression. You can send a clear message by arriving before everyone else each morning. When you’re the guy who’s always in the office, people come to depend and rely on you. And when a management position is available, everyone knows you will be the first pick.

Corporate Goals

Personal professional goals are not the same as the goals of your company. Sure, there are times when the goals overlap, but a long-term goal of your company may stretch decades into the future, whereas it may only be a few years for your personal goals.

It’s also possible that your company’s goals may be at odds with what you want to achieve. For this reason, you need a mix of goals in your work life. Most often, accomplishing your company’s goals will enable career advancement and your long-term career goals.

4. Get the highest customer satisfaction rating

Not everyone has customer-facing roles, but if you do and your company tracks a customer satisfaction metric, make it your goal. Companies know that satisfied customers keep coming back and spending money, so someone who can increase it is worth their weight in gold.

5. Increase sales

Nothing says “pay me more money” better than making more sales.

6. Reduce employee turnover

Losing staff is frustrating for companies; not only do they need to find replacements, but they must also train them and go through a period where new employees are inefficient and make mistakes. So, make reducing employee turnover one of your goals this year.

7. Increase profitability

Companies want to be more profitable, but they tend to look at production costs and sales as the only ways to manipulate profit margins. Increasing efficiency in any part of your business should make the company more profitable. That may mean:

  • Creating better internal systems
  • Building a better website
  • Improving your social media presence

8. Expand your professional network online or offline

Your professional network is more than just the number of contacts you have on LinkedIn.

9. Complete an M.B.A.

If you can’t see how to continue progressing in your corporate career, consider taking an M.B.A. The Master in Business Administration is a post-graduate degree that puts you close to the top tier of candidates for many corporate roles.

An M.B.A. requires a significant time and financial investment, so really think about whether it will be useful to you before applying. Look at job descriptions for the positions you’d like and see whether they have an M.B.A. requirement.

Skills and Learning

10. Learn How to Use PKM to Create a Second Brain

(PKM is personal knowledge managment.) Imagine if you could remember all the useful things you heard and learned each day. It would completely change your career trajectory. Your brain may never be capable of such a feat but software is!

You can set up a second brain system in a few specialized applications, like Obsidian. You can do more than simply organizing your notes in Obsidian, you can see how different ideas connect to each other visually, the same way they do in your brain.

11. Learn a new piece of software relevant to your industry

Here are some ideas:

  • Excel macros
  • Vim
  • Photo Editing Software like Photoshop G.I.M.P. or Lightroom
  • Blender
  • Video Editing Software
  • An ERP system
  • Microsoft Sharepoint

12. Build a task management system like GTD to become more efficient

I’ve met so many professionals who, despite their career aspirations, get stuck where they are because they can’t manage their time or what they do with their time correctly. It’s not complex or challenging, but you can’t be the most productive version of yourself if you don’t have some sort of external task management system.

I recommend picking up Making It All Work by David Allen to every client, make “start using GTD this year” one of your career goals.

13. Increase your foreign language proficiency

Learning a new language is unlike any other skill. It gives you access to a new world of people and a new job market. So, don’t wait for retirement to finally start learning that language. Plan to achieve it in your next five-year plan.

14. Develop public speaking skills

Public speaking skills are a requirement for most top jobs. The only way to become highly productive is by leveraging other people’s work, and the more people you can speak to at once (convincingly), the more people you can leverage. Public speaking skills are helpful in many other scenarios, too.

  • Teaching
  • Networking
  • Debate
  • Making high-quality video

15. Learn a programming language

Not everyone needs to learn a programming language, but if it’s something you think you may enjoy, set goals for yourself to make it a reality. Even if you don’t intend to be a developer, learning to code will change how you think and signal to potential employers that you have a deeper understanding of software than the average user.

16. Become proficient with SQL

No matter what company you work for, somewhere, there is a server with an SQL database that houses all its most important data. Knowing the basics of querying a database and retrieving that information is of vital importance, especially when problems arise. You can learn basic SQL skills in a weekend, so what’s your excuse for not learning this?

Time for a Career Change?

17. Become a digital nomad or remote worker

Have you ever wished to work from a beachside cafe with an indistinct foreign language as your background noise? Or maybe just work from home instead of battling traffic every day? More people are working remotely than ever before, and becoming a digital nomad is getting easier, too, with many countries now offering digital nomad visas. These are some of the best countries in Asia for digital nomads with families.

18. Establish clear boundaries between life and work

If you love what you do for a living, the idea of work-life balance may seem irrelevant, but I know not everyone has that luxury. Also, as you age and other aspects of your life take precedence, such as family and hobbies, you’ll want to establish boundaries that stop your work life from encroaching on everything else.

This may mean:

  • Talking to your boss about reducing your hours or responsibilities
  • Making yourself unavailable outside work hours
  • Waking up early to give yourself time before work

19. Find mentorship opportunities

A mentor is someone with more experience who can give advice and reassurance when needed. Depending on where you are in your career path, you may either want to find a mentor or become one for someone else. There are benefits for both.

  • As a mentor, you get to pass on what you have learned and to make a relationship with someone you wouldn’t normally be able to.
  • As a mentee, you get the help of someone much more experienced who can offer direction when you need it and practical help when you don’t know what to do.

Make it a goal this year to attend a training course to advance your career. If your company won’t pay for it, pay for it yourself. This goal is about bettering yourself and creating opportunities to progress your career in the direction you want.

21. Increase income

Who doesn’t want to earn more? I know I do.

But are you actively working on increasing your income or just hoping that it happens naturally, or magically? According to The Times, a 3% annual pay rise is considered generous. Is 3% more money going to make much difference to you this year? If not, you had better make it your goal to increase your income some other way.

  • Ask for a pay rise
  • Get a second job
  • Find freelancing or consulting opportunities
  • Create passive income streams
  • Learn how to invest your money
  • Start a business

Career Goals for Students

22. Create a great CV or resume

Before getting the job you want or even applying, you need a killer resume or CV. You can create one using Microsoft Word or Google Docs, although I prefer using LibreOffice to make a resume or CV/. Whatever tool you use, using the table method shown in this post: LibreOffice to create a CV or resume will ensure yours looks perfect.

23. Learn how to write a cover letter

I know it’s tempting to copy and paste something from Google or use Chat-GPT to write a cover letter for your application, but don’t! I worked as a career consultant for over five years, and candidates who wrote a new cover letter for each application consistently outperformed those who didn’t. They got the internships and job offers from the companies they wanted, while those who didn’t didn’t.

24. Apply to x number of jobs

Gone are the days of handing in your resume to the boss and building a rapport to ensure you get the job. Everything is automated now, and everyone has a chance of landing a job at a multinational company. It’s more fair now, but competition is much more fierce, and with online application portals being so accessible, you’ll be competing against a crowd of other applicants for the role you want.

The best advice I could give my clients in this regard was to apply for as many roles as they could. So perhaps “applying for 30 roles,” could be your first career goal.

25. Find an internship

Companies want to know that you can actually do the job. That’s why experience is so highly valued. But finding a job for valuable experience before you graduate is tricky. That’s why internships exist.

Sure, you don’t need to get an internship, and I’m sure many of your friends won’t, but when it comes time to apply for jobs, you’ll wish you had. That two-week intern experience may be what you need to beat out the competition and get the role you want.

Goals for Entrepreneurs

26. Launch Your Startup

There’s nothing more exciting than the day you launch your startup into the world. The expectation of what’s to come. But getting there requires a mountain of work, so rather than just putting “Launch Startup” on your list of goals, break it down into steps you must get done along the way. Then, celebrate each mini-goal as you accomplish them.

27. Become profitable with x months

Just because you’ve launched your business doesn’t mean you are making money yet. Many companies require time to become profitable. Experts say, on average, it takes new startups two to three years to become profitable. But if you make it your goal to get out of the red within the first six months or year, you’ll focus on doing things to make it a reality, like:

  • Increased distribution
  • Finding clients
  • Making sales

28. Gain social media followings of x within the first year

Like it or not, your social media strategy is one of the most important parts of your business plan today. Gone are the days of taking ads out in the local newspaper or just putting up a brick-and-mortar store. If you’re building a business in the 2020s, it’s likely online, and if it’s not, you still need to find your customers online.

How many followers are realistic in the first year? That depends on how much time you intend to put into content creation. 10,000 is a realistic number if you work at it.

29. Secure funding for your startup

I love the idea of starting a business with nothing and making it grow with hard work, but I know that’s not the way everyone does it. If you have big goals, you’ll need some big investment for your startup. Figure out how much that would be and make it a goal to get the investment.

Now Go Start Working on Your New Career Goals!

Making work goals is easy, but you still need to execute them. Make a plan, and follow through! Read this to help.