Career Objective Writing: The Definitive Guide

The career objective, the smallest part of the resume but sometimes also the most confusing. Everyone talks about including it but rarely do they say why, let alone how it should be written. The fact is there is a lot of mystery surrounding this mysterious resume element and that mystery can cause problems when applying for jobs.

Learn everything you need to know about the humble yet powerful career objective below.

Understanding the Purpose

What is the point of the career objective? Well, simply put, the career objective is designed to describe to the reader the purpose of your application. This doesn’t mean your personal motivations such as “I want to make more money” but instead your professional aspirations, “I want utilize my skills to help Company A grow”

By focusing on the companies growth you are implying you are also seeking to grow, which implies salary growth. However this is all implicit, so it doesn’t have to be stated. Instead, focus on the employer in your career objective and how you are uniquely suited to help them achieve their goals.

What the Career Objective is NOT

Don’t say that you’re looking for a job. Of course you’re looking for a job, or you wouldn’t be sharing your resume. And you don’t want to sound too desperate. You may REALLY need the job, but desperation is not an attractive quality in a candidate. Hiring managers also know you want to “utilize your talents.” Stay away from generic statements that everyone has heard before.

The other important thing to remember is that you should not disclose information that someone couldn’t legally ask you in an interview. This means no mention of your family situation, age, disability, etc. Again, this can come out sounding desperate. If you mention you have five kids, that can be something a hiring manager uses against you. But it also sounds like you are hoping for sympathy in highlighting that you need the job to support your family. Do you really want to be hired for a job because you have kids? Do you want to be hired because someone feels sorry for your situation? No. You want to be hired for your skills, positive attitude, and talent. And when that happens you will, by extension, be able to take care of your family.

Convincing an employer or HR that you are the perfect person to help them achieve their goals is the entire function of your resume, however because it is the very first thing after your name and address, the career objective holds special importance as the spearpoint of the resume. Even if your resume is well written, it won’t be as effective with a dull spearpoint.

Where Do You Start

The first step, particularly if you are seeking a career change, is to learn the industry terminology. Then, think about what you truly want, and visualize your dream job. Finally, speak to what you can do for the organization.

Think of it as being a kid and dreaming about what you want to be when you grow up. Consider your education and experience, and what you want in that next big adventure. If you could write your own job description, what would that look like? Think about how much more powerful your objective will be if you dare to dream vs. sounding desperate for a job. Think about that hiring manager reading through a hundred resumes. When everyone’s Career Objective is bland and generic, it only takes a little extra thought to produce a statement that will make that manager take notice. That Career Objective may just get the hiring manager to read on, and it may give you a legitimate shot at getting the interview even if your resume is not as strong as the next guy’s.

But, since you’re hear and reading this you don’t have to worry. The objective is actually a simple thing to write. Simply focus on expressing your unique value to the company in a precise, professional and succinct manner.

Alternatives

Every resume should start with a targeted statement, but this mustn’t necessarily be in the form of a career objective. There are a few alternatives commonly used by job applicants of varying experience and skill levels. We will review them briefly for your reference:

Objective Statement: Don’t get confused, this is the same thing as a career objective, just stated in a different way.

Career Summary/Objective Summary: This is longer than a typical objective or statement as the word “summary” implies. A summary is longer than both objectives and statements and are thus more commonly used by veteran candidates with more than 10 years of experience or academics or people who have held many different types of jobs. Essentially, the longer your history and your story to tell, the more likely you will use a summary opener instead of a objective/statement opener.

Understanding Who Needs to Use a Career Objective

Starting a resume off with a targeted opener is not only smart, it’s an efficient way to target a resume that otherwise might be considered more broadly targeted. The whole point of describing how exactly you can help the company you are applying to is to make things easier for both parties, both the applicant and the employer.

People who benefit the most from including a career objective include but are not limited to:

  • Students/Interns
  • Entry-Level Applicants
  • Professionals with Varied Work History
  • Ex-Military

Is It Required?

The eternal question with a million different answers. The thing to remember with resume questions is there are no absolutes. Ok, there are a few absolutes like no comic sans fonts or pictures, but in terms of elements to include there is a lot of flexibility to be had.

There are many instances when a career objective or summary is not necessary. A few situations include:

  • Applying to a position in the same company in which you already work.
  • When you work in a very specialized role within a specialized industry.
  • When you’re an experienced professional.
  • When you include another opener such as a Professional Profile or Summary of Skills
  • If you include a well written cover letter.

To determine if you really need one give your resume to a friend. Tell them they represent the company you are applying to. Ask them if your resume seems relevant to the company, industry and position. If yes, then you don’t need one. If however it isn’t IMMEDIATELY clear the role you wish to fulfill then you should consider writing one.

How to Write Your Own

Writing your own objective is actually not nearly as hard as many people make it out to be. The whole thing when finished shouldn’t exceed two or three sentences, so we’re not looking at a huge undertaking here. Follow these 3 simple steps to help you with your writing process:

  1. Describe why you are applying to this specific position in as few sentences as possible. Speak out loud if it helps you find the right words. You have to fit in your qualifications and how they help the company in as short and succinct manner as possible. This is kind of like writing a Twitter status.. you can’t waste space with meaningless words or punctuation.
  2. Write out three different objectives. Make sure they are all different but describing the same thing. Journalists do this every time they write a new article. Writing multiple objectives will force your brain to work creatively and draw out all potential viable options.
  3. Give your best three objectives to a third party to review and have them select the best. To be even more thorough ask three different people their opinions and choose the winning option.

Congratulations, you have an effective, tested objective to help you get an interview!

Common Mistakes to Avoid

“To obtain a full-time position” doesn’t say anything about what you can do for the employer. It also really doesn’t speak to what you want long-term, or what you bring to the table. When you think about the term “Career Objective,” it is about more than simply getting a job. ANY job is not the goal. Try instead, “To obtain a full-time position where I can use my proven experience in program management to improve the efficiency of operations with a local construction company.”

“To advance myself/better myself” speaks only to what on organization can do for YOU. Think about how this reads to human resources or a hiring manager. They want to know what you are bringing to them, not the other way around. It is OK to mention that you are looking for opportunities to move up in a company and better yourself, but you also need to speak to how you will make yourself a valuable member of the team such that the organization can’t live without you. Instead try, “Looking to dedicate myself to improving the financial wellness of a non-profit organization,” or, “I look forward to working in a team environment where I can share my business acumen to improve the financial wellness of a local non-profit.” Notice how these statements show what you want, highlight your qualifications, but also show the benefit to the business in taking a chance on you.

Video Guide

In case you don’t like reading or you’re just more of a visual learner this explainer video below gives a very good overview and covers the points mentioned in the above sections.

Sample Objectives

The key to any effective resume is professional uniqueness. You want to design a resume that stands above the competition, so it’s best if you write your own objective from scratch since all applicants are different from each other.

To get a better idea of what an effective objective looks like across various industries you can review the below.

Accounting/Finance

Seeking a position in the accounting field where excellent analytical and technical skills can be utilized to improve the company’s profitability.


A position in data entry and/or accounting where skills in spreadsheet development and troubleshooting can improve efficiency and enhance profitability.


A position in the field of accounting leading to managerial responsibilities Administrative Support. (Student/Entry Level)


Seeking an Administrative Assistant position with a company that will allow me to fully utilize my communication, organizational, and problem solving skills.


Seeking a Secretarial/Bookkeeping position in which I can utilize my extensive office management, communication, and accounting skills to benefit the organization.

Computer Technology

A Programmer/Analyst position which will provide me with the opportunity to develop skills in software design. (Student/Entry Level)


Seeking a design engineer position with emphasis on solid modeling.


Seeking a position which will allow me to utilize my network administrator skills in a NT/Novell environment interoperating with WAN/LAN connectivity.

Education

Seeking a position as a(n) (English) Teacher at the Secondary School level.


To obtain a position as an Elementary School Teacher in which a strong dedication to the total development of children and a high degree of enthusiasm can be fully utilized.

Engineering and Technology

To obtain a position as an Electronics Technician. (Student Entry Level)


A position in the field of (Electrical Engineering) with an emphasis on (aviation electronic systems).


A position as Electrician, which will utilize my technical training and benefit from my experience with (lighting and sound systems back-stage electrical equipment).


A position in (commercial diving industry) where knowledge of (construction), a high mechanical aptitude, and unyielding commitment to safety can effectively contribute to the successful and profitable operation of the firm.

General

Seeking a ________ position with a company which will require me to utilize my skills, abilities and experience in the _______ field to ensure the company’s success.


To obtain a position in the ______ field where I can utilize my work experience and education to improve company’s operation. (Student Entry Level)


To obtain a position as a _________ in a ________ company while continuing my education Graphic Design. (Student Entry Level)


Seeking a graphic design position in a company where I can utilize my graphic and creative skills to produce a quality product.

Health Care

Seeking a (nursing) position, which will require me to expand my practical experience while providing quality health care to patients.


To promote and implement the standards of nursing practice as established by the profession.


Seeking an (Occupation Therapist) position that will expand my (education/ skills/knowledge) and utilize it to strengthen the facility’s operations.


A position as a (Licensed Practical Nurse) in a Health Care facility where I can utilize my nursing education and training, as well as my interpersonal skills to provide the highest level of care.


A position as a (Licensed Practical Nurse) with a facility that will enable me to represent my employers professionally and provide the highest level of comfort and care to patients.


To obtain a clinical position in a Physical Therapy facility that emphasizes Orthopedics and Sports Medicine.

Human Resources

Seeking a Human Resources Management position where my professional experience and education will allow me to make an immediate contribution as an integral part of a progressive company.


A position in Personnel or Human Resources Management which will require me to apply my business experience and education to assist the company in the accomplishment of its goals.


A position in the Human Resources field where I can utilize proven people-oriented skills to develop and promote a positive work environment.

Law/Legal Assistant/Paralegal

Seeking a position in which my interest in the law field will be challenged; fostering new career opportunities and enhancing my skills. (Student/Entry level)


A position in a Law Firm where I will be able to expand my knowledge and gain experience and expertise in the area of _______. (Student/Entry level)


A position in a Law Firm where my skills in research, communication, and a passion for law can assist in the protection of the public interest.

Marketing

Seeking a marketing position with an organization where demonstrated skills in marketing, administration, and sales can be used to increase profitability and promote growth.

Management

To obtain a Management position with a dynamic corporation where I can use my energy and skills to develop, motivate, lead and encourage employee productivity.


Seeking a management position with an organization where I can utilize my skills and experience to improve operations, increase profitability, and enhance growth.


Management responsibility with an organization where demonstrated skills in marketing, administration, and sales can be translated into improved growth and profitability.

Office/Clerical

To obtain an Office/Clerical position in which my customer service, bookkeeping, personal, clerical and general office skills will contribute to greater office efficiency and productivity.

Public Relations

Seeking a Public Relations position which will require me to integrate my writing skills, advertising campaign and media relations expertise to accomplish the agency’s ultimate marketing goals.

Sales

Sales position where I can utilize my retail sales, cash management, and supervisory skills. (Student/Entry Level)


A position as a sales management trainee. (Student/Entry Level)


Seeking a sales (manager) position with an organization where I will be able to utilize my ability to stimulate and motivate a productive sales force to maximize the company’s sales objectives.


A sales position in which I can make a significant contribution to an employer through an increase in sales volume and profit.


To obtain a sales manager position where I can fully utilize my outside sales experience, marketing knowledge, corporate training and sales management skills to increase profits and bolster growth.


Seeking a sales position that will utilize my diverse experience to positively impact company profitability.

Secretary

Seeking a Word Processing Secretary position which will require me to utilize my computer knowledge, strong people skills, organizational abilities, and business experience.

Waiter/Waitress

To provide prompt and courteous service to the customers of a restaurant, cocktail lounge or club.

Source: North Caroline Central University

Concluding Points

Most people over-simplify the Career Objective statement. If you choose to do this, you are better off eliminating it completely. But if you open your mind to what could be, and you can visualize what you want in a job, you just might find yourself in a new career, or working a job you actually love.

Think about what you want, but write your objective with a focus on what you can do for the organization. In one sentence, talk about your track record, previous experience, or education, but also note if you are looking for a challenge, seeking a team-oriented workplace, or hoping to move up the ladder. If you’ve held and kept the same job for a long time, find a way to mention this, too. This will show human resources right up front that you are someone worth considering. Draft multiple Career Objectives and run them by trusted friends or industry insiders. Look at your professional network. Likely you have a manager or human resources professional on your LinkedIn who would be willing to help you. Otherwise, share your objective with someone close to you who knows what you seek. They can tell you if you’re being real.

And finally, remember not to settle. By sounding desperate in your Career Objective, you are likely to get far fewer interviews. And you just might find yourself settling into another dead-end job which offers nothing in terms of advancing your objectives. You shouldn’t be miserable 40 hours a week. Life is too short.

So, what are you waiting for? Put pen to paper and start writing. Remember, short and sweet, but impactful. You’ll know when it’s right. It’s the moment when you sit back and go, “That’s the one!” You should read it and know that a company would be lucky to have you. You should read it and be confident that YOU would hire you. Visualize the future and go out and grab it. Now get going!

If you have any questions please let us know in the comments below!