Why defining your career goals are important when searching for a new job

Notebook with the words career goals written in pen

We all have goals in life, whether it’s a new car, a dream vacation, or a romantic wedding. Goals are also an important piece in the career puzzle, since they guide your decisions during the job hunting process and motivate you to excel in the positions you hold. When being interviewed, you’ll often find that a hiring manager has questions about your life goals and how you plan to achieve them, which makes having a set of goals you value personally and a clear connection between them and the position you’re seeking an invaluable talking point on your search for the next step in your career.

This can be a tricky subject, so here’s a short piece on how to define goals for yourself and relate them to an interviewer for your best chances at success, both in your personal life and in landing the position of your dreams!

Having goals gives you a sense of personal direction

It can be overwhelming to think about all of life’s challenges and what you would like to do in the future. Oftentimes, people are caught up in what’s stopping them from doing something, rather than defining exactly what it is they’d like to do. A lack of direction can mean hopping between unsatisfying jobs, damaging your happiness and career prospects in the process.

Actionable goals, whether they’re small or large, give tangible meaning to the actions you take in your career path. These can range from a better salary, to feeling proud of your career accomplishments, or using your work experience as a springboard for a project of yours. These goals give a sense of meaning to things you do every day, week, month, and year, and will contribute to greater career and lifetime fulfillment in the process.

Well-aligned goals make you a good candidate

Personal goals that match up with the details of a job offering are a surefire way to impress an interviewer and give an employer confidence about hiring you. For example, if one of your goals is to manage a groundbreaking new project, or help lead a team, and the career path your position is on allows for you to accomplish those things in the future, then an employer will believe you’re more likely to stay on for a long time in order to achieve those goals.

Almost everyone has “a higher salary” as one of their listed goals, but the details of what you want out of a higher salary are more important. Is it more responsibility? A creative outlet? Leadership? Determining what it is you want out of your next position is a crucial step.

Understanding your own goals

You might have a general idea as to what you want out of your career, but being able to succinctly describe these goals and how you may achieve them can be a difficult task. It takes a little soul-searching and pragmatism to lay them out, but it isn’t a monumental task. Fleshed-out goals meet a handful of criteria that you can determine by asking a few questions:

  • Is it specific? (“I want to manage a large-scale residential development,” as opposed to “I want to be a manager.”)
  • Is it measurable? (“I want to increase sales at a company by 25%,” as opposed to “I want to be a good sales manager.”)
  • Is it actionable? (“I want to manage construction on a ground up 150+ unit multifamily apartment building from start to finish,” as opposed to “I want to build an apartment building.”)
  • Is it realistic? (“I want to create a new company logo before our next launch day,” as opposed to “I want to completely rebrand our company before our next launch day.”)
  • Does it have a timeline? (“I want to get a promotion in two years,” as opposed to “I want to get a promotion.”)

Communicating your goals

Once your goals are well-defined and suitably descriptive of what you really want, you’ll need to effectively communicate them to prospective employers. Just knowing your own goals isn’t enough if your interviewer doesn’t have a clear sense of them, which is why using some common language at interviews can be an effective tactic to ensure you’re getting your point across.

Indeed recommends researching the company you’re applying at, and the career track your position is on, in order to tailor some answers for an interviewer asking about your goals. This has a twofold benefit. For one, your answers will appear thoughtful and well-aligned with a company if they relate to the position you’re applying for and your own personal goals. Adaptations like this can take many forms. For example, if you’re interviewing for a position where you’re partially in charge of construction field operations, and you want to become a Field Operations Manager full time, you might say “I want to better hone my quality control, scheduling, and site safety skills from previous positions in order to manage projects effectively within the company.”

Another benefit is a dose of reality. If you’re finding that the answers you’ve crafted to answer interview questions about your goals don’t accurately reflect who you are or what you’d like to do, you might be better off looking for another position that better suits your aptitudes and preferences. Knowing your career goals and how to properly communicate them to an employer is an integral part of the construction interview process, and being proficient in these skills gives you a substantial leg up on the competition and betters your chances at finding the job perfect for you. So, find some time to think about what you want, both in life and in your work, and write them down. Your interviewer and future self will thank you for it.