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How to Write a Career Aspiration in a Performance Appraisal

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When you're doing a self-appraisal at work, it's a time not only to toot your own horn and to share what's working with your employer – it's also a time to start looking ahead and to enlist your employer's help in meeting new goals or achieving certain career aspirations. With that in mind, don't look at this exercise as another boring chore, but instead as an opportunity to get what you're seeking out of your career.

Standard Format

When employers give staff members a self-appraisal template, it tends to include some standard questions. Employers often want to know what successes you've had throughout the appraisal period, as well as the failures or things that didn't go so well. Based on the "failures," employers often want to hear about your ideas for improving the situation, and how they can support you in that endeavor. They may also ask a question such as: "Where do you see yourself in five years?" If your employer doesn't give you a template to work from, use these ideas as the framework for your self-appraisal, and use the "Where do you see yourself" question as the one in which you name your career aspirations.

What Not to Say

Before you get started, recognize that this appraisal is geared toward a specific employer, and thus, some things are best left out. Basically, anything that involves you leaving the employer doesn't have a place. Focus instead on career aspirations that pertain to the employer for whom you're doing the self-appraisal. Even if fulfilling one of your aspirations may indeed result in you working elsewhere, find a way to tie it to your current employer. Say you're aiming to get your master's degree in order to one day own your own business. Instead of saying that, you might instead say that you'll use that achievement to move into a "management role."

Goal Setting

A common – and effective – method of stating your aspirations is to use the "SMART" goal setting method. The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely or Time-bound. The goal or "aspiration" should be something very specific with a measurable outcome. "Doing better at sales" is not specific nor easily measurable, for example, but "increasing sales by 5 percent" is. The goal should also be attainable and realistic within a specific time frame. If your goal is to become a doctor in two years and you have yet to complete your undergraduate degree, you're not setting a goal that is realistic or attainable within a certain time frame.

Goal Alignment

Always try to relate your aspirations to your current duties or to how your aspirations will help the employer. This is called "goal alignment." If you aspire to complete your master's degree, remind your employer that your advanced knowledge will help you make better decisions or enhance your customers' experience, for example. Finally, if you need help reaching your goal, state how your employer can help – within reason. Ask for a more flexible schedule, sponsorship to attend a new training, or other support that can benefit you while benefiting the company at the same time.


Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.

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