Jan 16 2024
Do your career dreams feel far off? Start with short-term goals.
By Meta Careers
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Picture the person whose career inspires you most. How did they pursue a path that makes them happy? How did they find a role where they thrive? No matter who you ask, the answer is often similar: they found the courage to dream big.

They may also tell you that reaching your career goals requires more than bravery — it helps to create a plan. Whether it’s innovating next-gen technology and products, leading teams or helping the world connect, long-term success feels within reach when you create regular check-in points and celebrate your wins along the way. One study found that people who set actionable tasks for their goals and do weekly progress reporting achieve 40% more than those who didn’t. Having a short-term strategy will help you do more than reach your dreams — you’ll grow and learn about yourself in many ways.

1. You’ll have clear focus, making it easier to stay motivated

Breaking down a long, possibly overwhelming, journey into achievable steps helps you stay focused and gives you a clear path to the finish line. With each step you take, there is a renewed sense of motivation and inspiration that keeps you running.

Dawn T., a senior cloud platform engineer based in Leamington Spa, UK, joined the games industry after doing software development for 22 years. Reflecting on her journey, she credits staying focused on short-term goals for helping her make the transition. “To build myself a foundation, I needed to focus on learning new codebases and technologies from scratch. Week by week, I understood more and eventually felt confident I was making an impact.”

2. You’ll build confidence as you make measurable progress

Whether you met a deadline or hit a metric, completing short-term goals builds momentum for the long term. For example, if your dream is to become a people manager, register for a leadership seminar, volunteer to be a mentor or book time with your manager to discuss their approach to nurturing teams. Taking those steps — even if it means sending a calendar invite or raising your hand — sets you up for progress.

As you gain meaningful feedback and experiences, you’ll prove what you’re capable of — to yourself and to the people who can help get you where you want to go. Shake off any doubt, celebrate your growth and get energized to keep moving forward.

3. Experience will help you identify your strengths while learning what you love to do

Start with imagining your end goal and work backward — what hard and soft skills do you need to succeed? What experiences will help you add tools to your professional toolbox? Each time you try something new, you have an opportunity to discover a passion that could shape the trajectory of your journey.

For Ben B., a software engineer based in New York City, taking on leadership roles reassured him that he’s on the right track toward his dream. “I want to build the leadership skills to become a people manager, so I’m focused on opportunities to guide others,” he shares. “I’ve been working with cross-functional partners, stepping up as a tech lead on projects and gaining experience as an intern manager and bootcamp mentor.”

4. You’ll develop authentic connections with people you can learn from

While you're working on short-term goals, you may have the opportunity to team up with new people, shadow someone or find a mentor. In each instance, you will build and foster connections with people to learn from. These people may help shape your career path, give you advice or provide inspiration as you grow on their unique professional journey.

Isabel H., a data scientist based in London, UK, says connecting with a manager was invaluable for paving her career path. “Finding a mentor is critical — someone you connect with and who sees what makes your skills and background special,” shares. “You can trust their advice because they understand who you are and where you want to go.”

5. You’ll become even more resilient

You may find that having short-term goals inspires you to try new approaches or take smart risks — all while keeping your north star in mind and moving in the right direction. Every growth story involves experimentation, and as you build resilience, you'll trust yourself to stay on track.

That’s how Alessia G., a 3D environment artist, came to leave her hometown in Italy to pursue a career in games in Leamington Spa, UK. “I want everyone to believe in what they care about, even though it’s nerve-racking — because if you fail, you feel it more,” she shares. “But when it comes to pursuing your dreams, it’s better to face your fears and fail than to never try at all.”

“Today, the role I have is a perfect mix of my professional goals and personal aspirations, thanks to their support.”

Staying focused on the short term means you can regularly reflect on your progress and roadblocks. How has your perspective changed since you started your journey? Do you need to pivot your path based on newfound interests? You can always revise your goals, explore different career options and set new ones. As Alessia encourages, “Don’t look at the top of the mountain ahead of you, just move upward step by step.”

Stay connected.

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