How to Set Realistic Career Goals After Graduation

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  • 0:02 Dream Job
  • 1:08 Realistic Expectations
  • 3:02 Re-Evaluation
  • 6:37 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Everyone has a dream job, but most people won't get it right out of college. This lesson and quiz will look at how to set realistic career goals that will help you advance towards your dream job.

Dream Job

Liz is so excited. She's graduating college soon, and she can't wait to be finished and working at her dream job. She really wants to be a fashion designer and can't wait to launch her own line of clothing.

The problem is Liz can't launch her own line right away. Instead, she'll have to start at the bottom, working for someone else's fashion house and doing things like drafting or sewing others' creations. It's not ideal, but that's the way most fashion designers got started.

Most people have a dream job, or the job that you really want to do. But most people won't get their dream job right out of college. Instead, like Liz, they'll end up in an entry-level job, or a job for beginners in an industry.

So, how to you deal with having to work at a job that isn't your dream job? How can you go from entry-level to dream job? Let's look closer at how to pursue your dream job by moving up through the ranks from entry-level to exactly what you want to do.

Realistic Expectations

Liz really wants to be a fashion designer, but she is starting in an entry-level position in fashion. It's not exactly what she wants to do, but at least it's a start.

Liz is doing the right thing, because having realistic expectations about what to expect from a job is one of the most important aspects of figuring out what job to take. If Liz refused to take any job other than one that allowed her to launch her own fashion line, she would be missing out on years of experience that would make her a great designer.

Instead, she's realistic; she knows that she has to pay her dues by working up to launching her line. Having realistic expectations doesn't mean working a dead-end job, though. Another important aspect of setting career goals involves finding a job that allows you to work towards your dream job. If Liz took a job working as a marketing associate for a bank, it probably is not going to lead her toward starting her own line of clothing. Instead, she's found an entry-level job in her field that will allow her to get the experience she needs to be a designer.

Along with finding that job, though, Liz needs to make a plan for moving from entry-level to dream job over time. This plan, too, should be realistic. Liz is probably not going to go from sewing someone else's designs to launching her own line in a few weeks or even a few months. But, she can ask around and see how other people have moved from her entry-level position to her dream job.

Finding a mentor can be invaluable in this, because he or she can give you advice and answer questions about what's realistic. If Liz talks to a mentor who is now a fashion designer, she can find out how they managed to move from entry-level to dream job, for example.


As we mentioned, some people are unrealistic about the job that they want after college. For example, Liz could be insistent that she doesn't want to take an entry-level position because she feels that it's beneath her.

Some people also stay at a job too long without re-evaluating whether they are moving forward in their career or not. For example, if ten years passes by and Liz is still in an entry-level position, it's probably time to move on.

How can someone, like Liz, know when it's time to move on? Re-evaluation is a process of evaluation or appraisal of something that you have evaluated before. For example, it's likely that Liz evaluated the entry-level fashion job before she accepted it and decided that it was the right thing for her. After a few years, it might not be the right thing anymore. Re-evaluation allows her to look at the job again and see if it's still right.

While re-evaluation looks different for everyone, depending on the specific situation, there are a few things that people can do during re-evaluation to see if things are working out.

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