Create a Plan & Set Goals

Learn about the importance of setting goals. Setting goals and making a plan will improve your chances of success.

Start by learning why you should set goals.



Why Set Goals?

In today’s world of work, you need to take charge of your own career. People who set and finish career goals tend to get more done and often earn more money than people who don’t set goals. It is up to you. If you don’t make it happen for you, no one else will.  



Set Short and Long-Term Goals

Where would you like to be in five years? Ten years? What would you like to have accomplished by the time you retire? Think about and write down your long-term goals using the SMART method. Include career, education, financial, or personal goals. These goals can be related to each other. You might have one goal that affects all areas of your life.


Use the  Long-Term Goals (pdf) to write down your goals. You may not have goals in all areas.

Make Your Goal-Setting Plan

Once you write down your long-term goals, think about how you can achieve them. Come up with specific actions attached to each goal. Write them down in a plan.


Example of a Career Plan
My long-term career goal: In 3 years I will have a culinary certificate and working towards
becoming a lead chef.
My short-term goals to
achieve my long-term

I will learn more.

  • I will talk with three people in this career within 1 month.
  • I will develop a list of realistic tasks within 1 month.

I will expand my skills.

  •  I will get an entry-level chef job within 6 months.

I will practice skills.

  • I will go to the library every week to get cooking books.
  • I will practice at least one recipe every week at home.

I will get experience.

  •  I will ask my boss to use one of my recipes within 8 months.

I will gain training.

  • I will finish my chef degree within three years.

Be Flexible.
Adjust your short- term actions as needed. Sometimes things happen that take you off track, but this does not mean that you no longer have a goal. Stay motivated when your goal takes longer to accomplish or you have to overcome barriers.

Use the Career Plan Worksheet (pdf) to track your career goals and the actions to support them. You can add your personal goals to this worksheet, too.

Career Plan Steps

Think about people who you admire. How did they get there? You can achieve your long term goals by breaking them into smaller tasks and make new goals as you go along.

Here are ways to help you set and stick to your goals:

Career Plan Steps
Step 1:
Make a Career Plan

Think about your long–term career goals and the things you can do in the short run to get them done.

Step 2:
Follow Your Career Plan

You've set your career goals and written down the steps you need to get them done. Now follow your written plan.

  • Tell people about your goals. Find people who will support you and give you feedback.
  • Be sure your goals and the time you need to get them done are realistic.
  • Reward yourself for completing a task.
Step 3:
Review and Update Your Career Plan

You may run into roadblocks or want to change your mind. Don't be discouraged!

  • Change your career plan or tasks if they aren't working for you.
  • Try a new way to complete your goals.
  • Understand that the world of work changes quickly, and so can you.

Once you achieve your career goals, reward yourself. Think of new goals for the next phase of your career. Remember: planning your career will last for your whole life.

After a little while think of new goals for the next phase of your career.

Remember: planning your career will last for your whole life. You will make new goals several times.

Use the Career Plan Worksheet (pdf) to track your long-term and short-term goals.

Using a SWOT Analysis in Your Job Plan

A SWOT analysis helps you organize and examine the internal and external environments, strengths and weaknesses in the internal environment and opportunities and threats in the external environment. Here is a diagram of how a SWOT Analysis is structured and a completed table with suggestions:

SWOT Analysis



Internal positive aspects that are under control and upon which you may capitalize in planning

  • Work experience
  • Education, including value-added features
  • Strong technical knowledge within your field (e.g. hardware, software, programming languages)
  • Specific transferable skills (e.g., communication, teamwork, leadership skills)
  • Personal characteristics (e.g., strong work ethic, self-discipline, ability to work under pressure, creativity, optimism, or a high level of energy)


Internal negative aspects that are under your control and that you may plan to improve

  • Lack of work experience
  • Limited related education
  • Lack of goals, lack of self-knowledge, lack of specific job knowledge
  • Weak skills (leadership, interpersonal, communication, teamwork)
  • Weak job-hunting skills
  • Negative personal characteristics (e.g., poor work ethic, lack of discipline, lack of motivation, indecisiveness, shyness, too emotional)


Positive external conditions that you do not control but of which you can plan to take advantage

  • Positive trends in your field that will create more jobs (e.g., growth, globalization, technological advances)
  • Opportunities you could have in the field by enhancing your education
  • Opportunities you could have through greater self-knowledge, more specific job goals
  • Opportunities for advancement in your field
  • Opportunities for professional development in your field


Negative external conditions that you do not control but the effect of which you may be able to lessen

  • Negative trends in your field that diminish jobs competition
  • Competitors with superior skills, experience, knowledge
  • Competitors with better job-hunting skills than you
  • Obstacles in your way (e.g., lack of the advanced education/training you need to take advantage of opportunities)
  • Limited advancement in your field

Perform your own job planning SWOT Analysis (pdf).