What Is the Difference Between Long-Term and Short-Term Goals?

Mar 15 2023 | Perspectives
Femme en robe colorée assise sur un canapé rose souriant à un ordinateur portable.

“To the person who does not know where he wants to go, there is no favorable wind.”

– Seneca

One of the most important steps in making career plans is setting goals within the workplace.

By taking the time to think about where you would like your career to take you, you can begin to visualize exactly what it takes to achieve these goals. In short, goals help you to move towards the future you want.

As Seneca wrote, without knowing the direction you’re heading in, you can’t hope to get there quickly.

Simply thinking about what the ultimate end-goal is and expecting to achieve it isn’t going to be effective – it doesn’t work like that.

You need to set short- and long-term goals to help guide both your near and more distant future – and this applies heavily to your career progression.

We know how important having goals is to securing the future you want, but how do you set goals that will really work for you? The first step is to understand the difference between long-term and short-term goals.

Short-term goals

A short-term goal does exactly what it says on the tin – it’s something you plan to achieve in the near-future.

This could mean getting a piece of work finished by the end of the week, it could mean setting up a new initiative by the end of the month, or it could mean learning a particular skill within the next 6 months.

Short term goals can cover a lot of different areas, and can span a fairly wide amount of time, but they are all smaller, individual goals that you hope to achieve in the not-too-distant future.

Short-term goals are often steppingstones towards your long-term goals. One way you might think of it is that if your long-term career ambitions are a full meal, and your short-term goals are bitesize chunks. By setting sensible short-term goals, and gradually achieving them, you can feel a real sense of progress towards your long-term aspirations.

Some examples of short-term goals you might like to set are:

  • Improving your communication, either internally or with clients and external partners

  • Undertaking a professional training course to gain a skill you don’t currently have

  • Contributing to a pitch

  • Become a more independent worker

One of your short-term goals might even be to consider your long-term goals, and to formalize your progression and development plans!

Long-term goals

If you haven’t already considered your long-term career goals, now is the time to start! And if you have, then it’s always a good idea to check in with yourself and see how your progress is coming along, and to consider whether your goals are still the same.

One of the key differences between long- and short-term goals is that your long-term goals ought to be more overarching, more vision-driven, and more strategic.

Whereas a short-term goal might be to become a better communicator, your long-term career goal is unlikely to be ‘being a great communicator’.

Instead, this short-term goal might lead towards a long-term goal like leading a team, which involves regularly and confidently pitching, chairing meetings, and leading presentations.

When considering your long-term goals, you also want to make sure to be precise – whereas your short-term goals can (and should!) be plentiful, your long-term goals should encompass your grandest ambitions. Think about where you want to be at the peak of your career and break this down into two or three long-term goals.

In some cases, especially if you are at the start of your career or have recently moved into a new industry or field, your long-term goals might include some larger stepping-stones. Take getting a master’s degree as an example. It takes a lot of hard work, and a long time, but is ultimately something that will boost your career.

This just highlights how goals, both long-term and short-term, will be different for everybody.

When establishing and reflecting on your goals, focus solely on yourself, your roles, and the business you’re working within. Comparing your goals to the goals of others can be extremely unproductive, as you’re not necessarily working towards the same thing!.

Setting effective short-term and long-term goals

So, now we know the difference between short-term and long-term goals, how should you go about setting them?

The first step might be a little bit counterintuitive – think of your long-term goals first.

As we’ve established, the most effective short-term goals contribute towards your long-term goals, acting as steppingstones in your journey towards your big career ambitions.

This makes the process a little easier, as many of us will already have our career and long-term goals in mind right from the start. So, this makes step 1 nice and easy!

Once you have your long-term goals set, take a step backwards and ask what you need, that you don’t have now, that will help you get there. Is it a qualification, training, or coaching? Is it a trait, like communication or self-sufficiency?

Whether you’re thinking about short or long-term goals, make sure that you’re setting SMART goals. This helpful acronym ensures that your aspirations and next-steps are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound, and it is essential for creating effective professional goals.

Identifying what you are currently lacking that you would need to achieve something will help you to shape your goals. Once you’ve developed this mindset, your short-term goals should help you to very clearly see how you will eventually succeed in reaching your bigger, more long-term goals.

Sticking to your goals

Now, that’s the hard bit done – right? Thinking about your future and figuring out the right ways to secure it can be difficult, as it takes a lot of careful thought and reflection.

But setting these goals means nothing if you don’t stick to them!

A key way to stick to your goals is to start a dialogue with somebody else who can help to motivate you when you lose sight of why your goals are so important. Whether this is a manager, a mentor, or a professional coach, it really is important that you don’t keep these goals to yourself.

Getting started on an EZRA coaching program has proven to be incredibly valuable to many people worldwide when it comes to setting goals and ultimately reaching them. When using the EZRA app, you can even select your goals as you begin the process, and your coach will be specially chosen to help support you in these goals.

Whether you’re determined to become a leader in your industry or you’re aiming to expand your expertise, EZRA has a wide-ranging set of coaches worldwide who are equipped to support, motivate, and congratulate you as you make progress towards your short-term and long-term goals.

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