Short-term career goals are attempts to improve one's performance and skills within a particular organization, with the idea of enhancing the marketability of qualifications in that specific business arena. These goals can include such improvements as increasing understanding of how the organization functions, and improving one's inside knowledge and education in the field. Externally, short-term career goals also include a focus on financial stability with the intent of preparing for transitions to other work environments in the long term. This not only means saving money for potential periods of unemployment, but also determining where applications of one's expertise would be the most lucrative, and in what locations strong job growth is likely in the future.
Career counselors suggest that short-term career goals need to be accomplished first before focusing on long-term goals. Entry-level jobs are seen as a stepping stone to the long-term career goal of evaluating rival companies, other industries one's qualifications would apply to, or higher positions within their current company. While this is logical, setting career goals often works in the opposite direction. One must first define a long-term career path before it is possible to excel in any short-term career objectives.
Long-term career planning is a helpful first step to succeeding with short-term career goals, but that is no guarantee that such planning will pay off. Low wage, menial, and underemployed workers, especially those with higher education and extensive experience in a field, are often criticized as being “drifters” who failed to make long-term career goal plans. The blame cannot be placed entirely on faulty career planning; however, as industries rapidly change in the modern industrialized world, career aspirations that took years to prepare for may become obsolete once someone is ready to enter the job market in that field.
Work and career goals often tend to extremes. Long-term career objectives are viewed in an overly optimistic light, imagining the possibility of achieving great heights in the hierarchy of an organization or developing expert skills, merely by “putting in one's time” with an employer. Conversely, short-term career goals are often seen pessimistically, as necessary “hard work” to get to where one really wants to be.
Employment in the short-term does not have to be just a means-to-an-end or survival, or, in the long-term, an unobtainable fantasy. Savvy career counselors point out that successful career planning looks at short-term career goals as merely one point on a spectrum that includes overall life goals. Determining a career path based on the interests one wants to specialize in, instead of job titles and duties, gives more flexibility to real-world conditions. Fitting one's career aspirations to a variety of related industries, corporate structures, and job definitions, including freelance and self-employment options, makes it possible to see work as a range of opportunities. Steps in a career can be a fulfilling journey all along the way, instead of many years of drudgery, rewarded near the end with the ideal job.