6 Steps to Set and Achieve Your Career Goals

  • Nov 14, 2020


High school is the perfect time to start planning your career journey by upskilling, networking, interning, and more.

But it’s okay if you don’t know exactly what you want. Goal setting is all about investigating opportunities. Remember: progress is better than perfect. And even if you do know what you want to do in the future, goal setting can help you make that dream a reality. Get to know yourself, research your career options, and start envisioning how you would like your future to look.

Last week, we looked at key reasons why goal setting is important in high school. In case you missed it, here is a quick summary.

Goal setting in high school is crucial to your success because…          

1. Goals help you visualize your future self & get clear about what you want

2. It’s a sustainable way to achieve what you want

3. Goal setting teaches important skills like perseverance. It helps you build self-awareness about your strengths & weaknesses

4. It helps you make values-based and goal-based decisions

        a.  Goal-setting helps you determine your day-to-day priorities-- you focus on what’s important when you know what’s important

Remember: Your career goals can be any size- big (land a virtual internship at your dream company next year), small (network with 3 new people each month), and even smaller (apply to 1 scholarship by the end of the day)!


You need to plan effectively and efficiently for success. It’s important to balance academic goals like studying for each subject everyday, career goals like the ones in this article, health goals like getting enough sleep, and social goals like spending time with friends and joining clubs. Don’t neglect any of these areas.           

The SMART goal system is a useful tool to set goals that are practical and achievable.

Goals need to be

1. Specific

2. Measurable

3. Achievable

4. Realistic

5. Time-bound

Use this framework to write your goals down. Set overarching objectives and break them down into actionable goals-- more on this in step 2!      


This is very important! Writing your goals and plans down helps you better visualize what you want to accomplish. Read your goals often to help them stick in your mind when making decisions.

Use as many details as you need to help you remember them. You can write them on sticky notes in your room or around the house, put them as your phone lockscreen, or even dedicate a journal to tracking your progress-- it’s up to you.

Here is one format we suggest:                

1. Your goal statement    

2. A brief plan of action

      a. Include the next 3 steps you need ttake      

3. A reflection on your progress

The last step is key to building your motivation for your goal. You can write what milestones you have achieved so far as you progress to the goal. You can keep a tally how many consecutive days you’ve worked on the goal so far. Or maybe add a progress bar next to the goal itself. Reflecting on your progress will also help you make pivots as you find out what works on your path to achieve your goal.


Dream big, but plan small. Break your goal into achievable milestones and focus on developing consistency. Taking small actions everyday is sustainable, builds up your confidence, and often snowballs into incredible results. We have listed example objectives below. As we break down each objective, we get specific and start to define our goals.           

1. Improving your time management

        A. Have an updated calendar and schedule

                a. Every night check to make sure your planner or calendar are updated with any new assignments and obligations

        B. Practice planning regularly

                 a. Every night create a schedule for the next day

        C. Experiment with new systems to find the optimal one

                  a. Try time blocking, digital planners, scrum boards, and accountability groups for 2-3 months

                  b. Reflect on how your time management processes are impacting productivity

2. Get comfortable in social situations

     A. Read often so you can be in-the-know during conversations

                  a. Read 3 news articles every morning

                   b. Discuss 1 news article with a family member or friend every day

      B. Put yourself out there more

                   a. Attend 1 networking event every month

3. Devoting time towards learning and discussing

4. Working on your strengths and weaknesses

Remember, it’s better to take small steps than to stay in place. According to habit expert and Stanford researcher BJ Fogg,

“In order to design successful habits and change your behaviors, you should do three things. Stop judging yourself. Take your aspirations and break them down into tiny behaviors. Embrace mistakes as discoveries and use them to move forward.”


To learn about career paths, listen to the career stories of people in different industries. Get as many opinions as you can by attending workshops and discussing with your connections.

1. Ask what, why, how, and when What are the prospects after college in their field? What is the future of the industry they are in and what are their plans going forward? How did they get interested in their field? What was their career path? What skills does someone need to enter the industry?

2. Visit pages & join group chats for colleges or industries you’re interested in

3. Find a mentor-- maybe a professor you researched with at a lab, a local industry leader, or a manager in an internship.

4. Attend virtual or local workshops put on by career centers or businesses      

5. Talk to alumni from your high school, your guidance counselor Read!      


Here are some action items to focus on for two main categories that contribute to your career success, the college application and professional skill-building.

1) Your college application

College is an investment for your future that will improve your job prospects for later on. Also, the academic and professional connections you make at university will be invaluable to your career. You might even decide to start a business with a few friends or land a life-changing internship that will change the course of your career journey.

There are many aspects of each application, but we’ve highlighted a few that we think will give you the best shot.

Application Essays-- Spend time creating a picture of your best qualities by telling a story. Try to be descriptive and intriguing, and explain how your experiences have shaped you as a person. Make sure you’ve read up on the college you’re applying to, and can tie your qualities back to what they value and look for in an applicant. Show them how determined and passionate you are! Most importantly, don’t procrastinate on your essays. This is where your goal setting and planning will come into play. Leave plenty of time for getting feedback and revising in your plan, too.          

Exams-- Plan ahead for exams that are important for the field you want to pursue. For medicine, for example, that might be the Biology E, Biology M, or Math II SAT Subject Tests. For graphic design, that might be submitting an AP 2-D Art and Design Portfolio, and taking the AP Computer Science and Math II SAT Subject Tests. You can also take a few subjects that are interesting to you even if they don’t relate to your major. If you aren’t sure what industry you want to major or work in, take exams and subjects that appeal to you. If you think they’re interesting, you might find it’s easier to study for them.

2) Skill-building & Learning

Professional skill-building is all about developing the technical and interpersonal skills you need. Get out of your comfort zone-- gain new experiences in opportunities you are passionate about. Here are some options you can try!

1. Volunteer-- Give back to your local community & serve others in need.

2. Network-- Build your online presence through sites like LinkedIn. Attend workshops and conferences and meet others.

3. Try a side-project-- Engage in project-based learning with your peers. Design an experiment, or enter a competition or hackathon!

4. Take a MOOC (massive online open course) with Coursera-- Learn about topics relevant to your professional development.

5. Read-- Read outside of what is required for your courses and develop technical expertise. Being able to speak the industry lingo is important, so try discussing what you’ve learned with others.

6. Start a business-- Have a marketable skill or unique idea? Survey the market and start a business! Try freelancing, selling crafts, and dropshipping.

7. Intern!-- Gain professional skills on the job (and maybe even start earning) while helping businesses solve problems.


The framework we have outlined above needs to be adapted to your objectives priorities. And it's okay if you are still confused about your career goals. Schedule a one-on-one consultation with our experts. We can help you set up a plan for your career journey. Explore our blogs to learn about different fields & industry trends. Apply for internships right here on our platform. We’re here for you!

Final Thoughts

This quote stands out when we think about progress and reaching goals.

"What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals" ~ Henry David Thoreau

The more you progress through high school and beyond, the more accomplishments and experience you’ll have under your belt. But you shouldn’t lose sight of the steps you took on your staircase to success. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ve grown, changed, and learned.

Do you want to know more about making the right choice for your college and career?
Book a Free One-on-One consultation with a career expert.

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