The Secret to Success: Outlining Your Career Ambitions



“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

It’s a question frequently asked of five-year-old children, but it’s still relevant whether you’re 18, 30, or even 50. No matter your age, it’s smart to set ambitions for your career to guide your decision-making. As you get older, your career goals will become more refined and realistic. While they should be practical, they should also be a source of inspiration and motivation.

Some people may struggle to identify their dreams and ambitions, while others will find it easy to visualize their future selves. Regardless, it’s important to also devise an action plan with short- and long-term goals so that you can realize your potential. As the old proverb says, “A vision without a plan is just a dream. A plan without a vision is just drudgery . . . but a vision with a plan can change the world.”


How to Outline a Career Plan to Achieve Your Goals

1. Know yourself.

Spend some time thinking about what you want to do, what skills, capabilities, and talents you have, and where you’re lacking. A genuine assessment of your strengths and weaknesses will guide you to an achievable plan.

2. Write down your goals.

Put pen to paper and commit to your dreams. This tried-and-true technique works to help solidify your plans. Make sure your goals are SMART.

3. Create a vision board.

Visualize your success by picturing how your life will look when you achieve your goals. Where will you live? Where will you work? What house will you live in? What clothes will you wear? What vacations will you take? Create a full picture so you can see your future and build your resilience for when setbacks occur.

4. Outline a plan of attack.

What education will you need to acquire to achieve your goals? What skills should you develop? Think of all the practical steps between where you are and where you want to be. Do this for both the short term, meaning the next one to three years, as well as for the long term, from five to ten years. Determine the necessary actions and cultivate a plan for completing these steps, but do not be rigid. Stay open to other opportunities to achieve your objectives as well.

5. Find a mentor.

Do you know someone who is doing what you’d like to do? If not, join networking events or industry or volunteer groups to meet people in your field. Reach out and ask potential mentors for their advice. In general, people who enjoy what they do and have made a career out of it delight in talking to others and are happy to help someone who is genuinely interested in a shared passion or ambition. This is not a time to be shy. Remember that later—when you are in a position to help, you can return the favor to someone else with similar aspirations.

6. Share your dreams.

Tell your family and friends about your goals. By sharing your goals and vision for your future, you’ll gain their support and encouragement as well as their well-intentioned advice. Perhaps they know someone else who could help you, but you’ll never know if you keep your dreams a secret.

7. Stay relevant.

Read books and trade articles about your industry and create a Google Alert for topics in your field. By following the latest developments, you’ll be as knowledgeable as possible about the latest trends.

8. Create a financial plan.

Whether you’re planning to ask for a promotion, switching careers, or starting a new business, you’ll need a financial plan to make the moves comfortably and with stability. There will be uncertainties in your life, but you should do your best to plan for your financial future. Devise a list of your expenses and determine how much money you’ll need to earn to have the lifestyle you desire.


Having career goals and ambitions as well as a plan of action will help guide your professional decisions and prevent you from making mistakes along the way.


For more human resources tips and compliance advice, keep reading the Poster Compliance Center blog.