How to Set My Career Goals When My Manager Asks Me

by Auston Matta

Setting annual career goals is common for employees at many companies. Businesses ask their employees to develop career goals to benefit the employee’s personal development in hopes that the employee stays challenged and engaged within the company. Internal advancement is typically beneficial for a company because employees keep their talents and the new skills they develop within the company instead of leaving for other employment opportunities. Setting your career goals for your manager might seem like a daunting task, but if you take some time to really consider what direction you want your career to take and where you see yourself in the future, you can formulate realistic career goals that will work for you -- and your manager will support.

Career Expectations

Before setting your career goals for your manager, you need to ask yourself what you’d like to accomplish in your career over the next several years. If you want more responsibility in your current role or are striving for a promotion, you should develop your career goals to work toward this end. If you want to move into a management position, you could make completing a management-training course one of your goals. Some companies have such internal courses available for employees or your manager might make one accessible for you if you ask.


It’s important to keep your career goals realistic. Your manager will need to approve your goals. He likely has the ability to assign projects throughout the year, so it’s best to ensure your goals are realistic so you can actually spend time working towards them. If your goals include some type of training, they might require the company to spend money -- and your manager will need to support you in this. If you want to move up within the company, consider finding a mentor who has already worked up the corporate ladder. This person can provide you with advice in your career and help you set realistic career goals.


You want to make your goals measureable so you -- and your manager -- can easily evaluate your performance throughout the year and for your annual review. Setting generic goals isn't really helpful because then evaluating your success is subject to interpretation. One useful approach is to follow the model set by George Doran in the early 80's, which indicates that goals should be SMART -- an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. If your goals meet these criteria, you will stand a better chance at achieving them at the end of the year.

Evaluating Goals

Once you set your goals and discuss them with your manager, evaluate your efforts at least four times a year to ensure that you're still progressing. It’s easy to forget about career goals when you get busy and tied up with day-to-day activities that aren't related to the goals you set. You can’t avoid the work you need to do on a daily basis, so you need to work towards your goals a little bit at a time. First, you might want to try spending just one hour a week on any projects included in your career goals. You can then evaluate yourself after three months to see how effective this approach is -- and make adjustments as needed. Don’t be afraid to discuss your goals with your boss regularly. It’s important that he continues to support your efforts to attain your goals throughout the year.

About the Author

Auston Matta is an experienced engineer who has worked in the packaging industry since 2003. He holds a bachelor's degree in bio-engineering and a master's degree in engineering management. Auston has also contributed to "Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News."

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