Setting Healthy Career Goals And Working Toward Them

Updated February 27, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Deciding What Your Career Goals Are Isn’t Always Easy

Nearly everyone wants to be happy and successful in life but achieving this is often easier said than done. In many cases, setting specific and realistic career goals can be a necessary part of seeing true change and progress in life. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to develop and follow through on goals like these, especially with the right support. In this article, we’ll discuss what healthy goals might look like, how you can discover what your own might be, and how to seek additional resources that might make things easier. 

What Are Healthy Career Goals?

Healthy career goals are often those that aim to help you accomplish the things that you want in your life and find fulfillment in your career, whether now or in the future. What separates healthy goals from those that are perhaps less so tends to be how achievable and realistic they are. Specific, detailed goals that include a plan for action may have the best chance of success without causing you unnecessary stress.

It can also be important to set professional goals that allow you to continue reaching your personal goals as well, which can be difficult if you set goals that are not realistic. Ideally, career goals should not get in the way of maintaining balance in life. Strong goals might push you to work hard, but when we begin to prioritize work over relationships, mental health, and other parts of our personhood, things can quickly and easily become toxic.

How To Set Healthy Career Goals

When you were finishing school or even when you first got the job you're in now, what was your plan for the future? What did you want to accomplish? Considering questions like these can be a good starting point when developing your career goals. 

Think about where you are now and where you would like to be in five years, ten years or even twenty years. Are you on a path that will help you get there? If you're not, setting goals that get you on the right track may be helpful.

What Type Of Goals To Set

Start with the basics when you're trying to plan and set your goals. Look at where you are now and where you would like to be. What exactly could you do that would make you happy with where you are? As you consider which steps to take, it can be helpful to separate your ideas into different categories, such as:

  • Short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals: these are goals that should be achieved now, later, and much later.

  • Professional and personal goals: specific career advancements, personal milestones, going back to school, etc. 

  • Big-picture goals and small-picture goals: more general ideas, like the desire to travel and see the world, versus specific, tangible ideas, like buying a house within the next year.

Deciding What Your Career Goals Are Isn’t Always Easy

With some idea of what you’d like to see now and in your future, you can begin to think about what other goals might pop up to connect your ideas. For example, if your largest career goal is to become the manager of your department, you might realize that you first need to go back to school to get a degree. 

Try your best to think of any obstacles or challenges you might face preemptively and factor them into your plan. It can be easy to be highly optimistic when we make goals, but keeping things realistic and meeting yourself where you’re at can be far more productive. 

Working Toward Your Goals

Now that you've established your goals, what are you going to do about it? The first thing you might want to do is take a look at each of your goals and create a few steps for each one that will help you in the process. In other words, take some time to list out what exactly you’ll do to see each goal through. Keep your ideas small, specific, and manageable for the best results.

To return to the example of an aspiring manager who first needs to return to school, it might help to list things like researching different schools, applying for scholarships, and completing applications by a certain date. Look at each of the goals you've set and then create steps to work towards them.

It can also be important to keep in mind that your goals and plans for the future may change over time. Maybe your goal was to be president of the company that you currently work for, but after a few years, you decide that you want to work for a different company. Changing your goals is allowed, and in fact can be highly motivating. Every year or every six months even, it can be beneficial to ensure your written goals still align with the things you want in life. That way, you can make any necessary changes and keep pushing forward.

Getting Some Help

The process of brainstorming, creating, and following through on career goals can be tricky for anyone, but perhaps especially if you feel unprepared to answer these questions on your own. Sometimes, the support and guidance of a mental health professional can make navigating complicated parts of life easier.

It can be particularly easy to receive professional care through resources like online therapy. When you connect with a professional through the web, you may be able to find someone who understands your needs and goals without having your options limited by location. No matter what your therapy goals are and where you end up in life, online therapy ensures that you can continue for as long as you’d like.

Research supports online therapy’s ability to help individuals through periods of high stress, including young adulthood. One study showed that online therapy could effectively reduce “psychological distress” among university students, suggesting that treatment options like these can be beneficial for those beginning to discover career and personal goals. 


Getting started on your career plans and pushing yourself to achieve more can be a great way to take charge of your life. Healthy career goals often reflect what you want, what you need, and what you’ll have to do to get there, but they should also be realistic enough to be attained. Working with a mental health professional can make it even easier to set goals that make sense and experience the benefits of accomplishing them.

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