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How to Set Professional Goals and Plan a Career Path

Managerial roles come with their own unique challenges and opportunities for growth. It's helpful to have a clear career path in mind to ensure you continue advancing in your professional journey.

However, not all managers want to move up the ranks, which is great news for organizations and managers. But for those who would, you might wonder, "What's next?" and, "What do I need to do to ensure I get that promotion come review time?"

In this blog post, you will learn how to set your professional goals and make them happen with top career strategist, salary advisor, leadership coach, and author Sonja Price.

What is a Career Path?

A career path refers to a long-term plan that includes specific steps, tasks, or experiences that you need to take to help you achieve your career goals and objectives. Career paths vary widely depending on interests, skills, education, and career aspirations.

For many folks, their career path is opportunistic, but Sonja says that having an intentional career path gives you clear and concrete next steps you can take to advance your career. It increases your motivation and productivity knowing that you have this career vision that you want to happen.

However, don't be too hard on yourself if you haven't figured out your career path. According to Sonja, no matter your age or where you are in your career, you can always identify your next step and the right role for you.

But what if you already know what's right for you?

Plan Your Career Path

Most people equate working hard automatically with career advancement. But as a top career strategist, Sonja set the record straight that promotion isn't solely based on hard work. It's a component but not the whole equation.

Here are a couple of things to consider when planning your career path and moving up the ladder.

Do a Self-Assessment

Before charting your career path, you must understand your strengths, weaknesses, values, priorities, and long-term goals. You can start by asking the following questions:

1. What do I enjoy doing?

2. What are my key strengths as a manager?

3. What types of experiences and responsibilities do I enjoy?

4. Where do I see myself in 5,10, or 20 years? What about this future is appealing?

5. What are my values, and how do they align with my career?

6. What type of work environment do I thrive in?

Conducting a thorough self-assessment will help you identify if moving up the ranks really fits you or if your experiences are already enough to jump to the next level.

What is required to jump to the next level?

Often, much larger organizations will have role guides that serve as an official guide that cover the key expectations for a specific role. This guide will answer questions like, "What results do I need to achieve to be eligible for that next level?".

If your organization doesn’t have role guides, look at multiple job postings to get a sense of what hiring managers are looking for.

Once you find the answer from the role guide or series of job descriptions, Sonja recommends treating it like a project plan. It could be that you need to manage a $5M project or above, or you may have to manage a certain number of people. It depends upon your specific role, what is essential for your department, and the overall critical initiatives of your organization.

Sonja was very clear: when it comes to promotion, you have to be already operating at the level you want to jump into.

Talk to Your Boss

Whether your organization has role guides or not, planning your career path should be a conversation with your boss. They might have the information on what it takes to get that promotion, how it gets decided, and be able to help you access other relevant opportunities.

So, rather than seeing your boss as competition, recognize that there's plenty of room for everyone to succeed, and your manager can play a valuable role in opening the door for you.

It's never too late to start thinking about your career path. According to Sonja, the more clear you are about your values and aspirations, the easier it will be to decide your next step when an opportunity presents itself. But if you cannot yet identify what’s a perfect fit job for you, don't worry; a vision will begin solidifying as you gain experience in your current role. Until then, keep learning and working hard.

For an in-depth discussion about setting your career path and how to advance your career, listen to my entire conversation with top career strategist Sonja Price HERE.

Connect with Sonja:

- Follow Sonja on Instagram here

- Find her on LinkedIn here

- Check out her website for more information here

Giveaway: 5 Book Copies of “The Pivot Point System”

Sonja is offering 5 copies of her book, “The Pivot Point System: 5 Keys To Unlock Your Career, Health and Wealth” to members of The Modern Manager community. This book offers hacks you can use to elevate your mindset, health, image, career, and wealth to build a better life, one step at a time. In your hands, you will hold a collection of 100 years of experience and dozens of proven processes that will allow you to make necessary changes.

Get a chance to win a copy of this book and many other member benefits when you join The Modern Manager Community.


The Modern Manager is a leadership podcast for rockstar managers who want to create a working environment where people thrive and great work gets done.

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