How to Set and Implement Strategic Goals for Your Career

Lake Effects Blog

Thursday, March 27, 2014

It is important to evaluate your career path on a regular basis.  Whether you are seeking new opportunities with an existing employer or external to your organization and making a career change, managing your career requires a strategy to be effective.  This can be broken down into four simple stages:  Examination, Analysis, Planning and Execution.


There are two parts to conducting a thorough career and goal evaluation: 1) Self Examination and 2) External Market Examination.  The self examination stage is the deconstruction of your past work experiences, behaviours and organizing your past experiences and accomplishments.  This is where you consider where your core strengths lie, and how effectively these strengths can be applied in your professional role.

The key areas to focus on are:

  • Abilities
  • Skills
  • Knowledge
  • Values
  • Interests
  • Personality

Once you have established where your weaknesses, strengths and interests lie, you’ll be prepared to look at what options are available to you in the external market.  You can obtain this information online, by reading professional publications or even by speaking to people who are currently working in the career path you wish to follow.   Don’t be afraid of reaching out to former colleagues, friends and family members who may have industry specific advice or the ability to personally refer you to new contacts.


This is your chance to reflect on all that you have learned through the examination process and decide what are the best career choices for you.  The goal of this stage is to find the best “fit” based upon your interests and available options.  Now that you understand where your strengths are, how do they fit in a professional environment or new role?  What kind of organizational structure would suit you best? Are your key interests and skills in line with the typical duties and culture of the position you are working towards?  It is also important to weigh the values of a prospective organization (if you are considering a new position or employer) to ensure that your values likely to be satisfied within the culture of the organization and its existing reward system.

The examination stage and the analysis stage work together to help you make appropriate career decisions necessary to achieve success and satisfaction within your chosen profession.  They are key steps to ensure that any investment, training or education you spend toward your career goals is calculated to help you achieve the outcome or advancement you want.


By completing the Examination and Analysis stages you have gathered the necessary information you need to plan for your next steps.  Set out what goals and actions you need to complete in order to achieve your goals.

  • What are your goals?  Are they short term or long term goals?
  • Do you need to seek additional education to meet these goals?  What training, certification or skills are required?
  • If you are at the entry level position, what steps do you need to take to bring you to the next level for your chosen career?

Planning out these steps and what it will take to put them into motion will help you define a timeline for achieving the goals you have set for yourself.  For instance, making a significant career change may require continuing education and upgrading, technical skills training or other foundation learning required for your new prospective career.   If you are an entrepreneur and planning a small business launch, there are a number of financial and logistical steps that will need to be taken to successfully navigate your new direction. Establish a schedule with a realistic timeline and benchmarks to help facilitate your career transition.

However you do not have to make a career or organizational change in order to be strategic about your career goals.  Do you see your position evolving?  Is there another position that you would like to grow in to with some professional development within your current organization.  Evaluate your opportunities and set a timeline and action items that will facilitate the implementation of changes to your current career path.


In essence, the execution stage is largely about marketing yourself and your abilities.  There are a number of ways that you can successfully present your skills to prospective companies or organizations (even if they have not indicated a vacancy).   In fact, in the current economy accessing the hidden employment market involves relationship management and promotion using a variety of tools.

  • Contribute to discussions and comment on articles through professional business forums, online communities and LinkedIn.
  • Volunteer within your organization on company wide projects or teams.
  • Plan to attend conferences within your niche business sector.  Network with other attendees and get advice.
  • Consider blogging or contributing online content in your area of specialty to build thought leadership.

 Are you considering a new career direction?  Students of Lake Forest Graduate School of Management are invited to access our Career Services resources.


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