Career Goal Statement
Built from years of coaching Product Managers and Product Leaders with their careers
Originally posted on my site at (you can download a PDF version there) 👉 https://www.antmurphy.me/career-goal
We know that goals should be SMART:
Or the lesser-known MARS:
Meaning that goal should be specific, actionable, measurable, realistic and have relevancy.
As part of the work I do with product managers and product leaders, I often have coaching sessions to help them define their next career step. From years of doing so I’ve developed a Career Goal Statement as a way of a) facilitating thinking around a career goal and b) helping distil their goal down into a concise statement.
There are great templates for things like product goals, vision statements, etc and I wanted to replicate something similar for setting a career goal.
Not for it to be the only way to articulate a career goal but to assist in facilitating their thinking and to provide guidance.
After several months of refinement and testing, I’ve developed the following career goal statement.
Career Goal Template
The career goal statement is designed to ensure that your goal is both SMART and MARS.
It contains 5 sentences, each designed to cover an aspect of SMART/MARS.
In the next [timeframe]…
The statement's first sentence is designed to put a timeframe onto your career goal. This is important because our career goals can be either really far into the future (i.e. our ultimate career goal) or in the near term (i.e. our next career step) the idea of starting with a time parameter is to focus the remainder of the statement.
What I found with people that I coached was that they were conflating their goals between their goal for their next career step and their ultimate one. So time-frame first.
Ask yourself, in what rough timeframe do I want to focus my efforts on? Do I want to narrow in on my next career step? Or do I want to go broad and explore what my career might look like in 10, 15 or even 20 years time (or more)?
I will [outcome] at [company]…
The next statement is all about defining what that end state will look like. This is where the majority of your efforts will go — What is the outcome that you’re chasing?
I specifically say outcome here too, because it’s not always a role or a title. Some things can’t be defined that easily. For example, you may want to work for yourself, or you may want financial freedom.
The second component of the statement is [company]. This part of the statement is designed to help you make it more specific. Rather than just saying I would like to be a Head of Product, think at where?
This doesn’t need to be a specific company (although for some people, that’s a key component of their goal, they may dream of working at Apple or Google one day). Still, even if you don’t have a specific company in mind it’s powerful to describe what kind of company that might be — are you aiming for a promotion in your current company? Or do you want to work somewhere else? Is that elsewhere a small start-up or a large enterprise, perhaps? Maybe one that is purpose-driven? Doing social good? Answering this question will not only make your goal more specific but more actionable and vivid as well.
Side note: Stating ‘I will’ is more powerful as a statement than say ‘I should’ or ‘I hope’. It’ makes it’ definitive, like it’s already happened, which increases your confidence and helps to overcome some self-imposed limitations.
To achieve this, I will [resources/knowledge/skills to acquire]…
Now that you’ve got a vivid picture of the end state that you’re chasing and in what timeframe, now it’s time to ensure that the goal is realistic and that it’s actionable.
The third sentence in the career goal statement is focused on describing the key recourses, knowledge, skills, etc that you know you need to acquire to achieve this goal. For example, perhaps you know that you’re not strong in people management but want to be a people leader next.
This section doesn’t need to be exhaustive. The intent is to capture the key things that you know you need to action.
It also works as a litmus test as you may identify that you’re missing several key things and would like to achieve your goal in the next 6 months. With such gaps, you may choose to go back and either readjust your timeframe or the outcome to make it more realistic.
I know this is possible because [my strengths/past successes]…
Goals should be realistic. Career goals in particular.
There’s nothing more disheartening than not achieving our goals and feeling like our career isn’t progressing.
Therefore we want to make sure that our career goal is realistic — meaning that it’s founded in some evidence — and that we’re leveraging our strengths.
There are plenty of paths we can take in our career but not all of them we will be good at. We want to make sure that we’re seeking a career that we will not only feel fulfilled in but that we are also going to be great at.
Therefore the second last sentence in the career goal statement is all about why you believe this goal is achievable. What strengths and past successes lead you to believe you can realistically achieve this goal? Is your goal playing to your strengths? And what past successes can you leverage in interviews and on your resume/cv that will make you a desirable candidate for that role?
I will know I’m progressing when [measurement]…
And finally, the best goals are measurable.
Of course, the final measure of success is achieving the goal — getting that promotion, new role or finally getting to financial freedom, which you should have a gauge on how you’re going to measure — but what I’ve found to be more impactful is having a way to measure progress.
Therefore the final sentence in the Career Goal statement is about defining what measurements will indicate that you’re progressing in the right direction — leading indicators that will help you course correct if you drift.
Examples of these might be that you’re getting above-average performance reviews, that you managed to deliver an important initiative, or that you made a specific impact on your current business. You may even be getting to the second and third interview stages.
📣 FYI: I’m launching an online learning platform with deep dives into specific PM topics like Career Planning, Stakeholder Management, Prioritization, Product Strategy, etc.
Get updates at productpathways.com.