Setting career goals can help you plan your career more efficiently. It creates a clear roadmap for how you will achieve your intended target. To help you set a career goal for yourself, you can use a framework called SMART goals. This method can increase the likelihood that you'' achieve the result you want. In this article, we'll discuss what SMART goals are and provide you with the steps to take in creating your own.
What are SMART goals?
A SMART goal refers to an individual's aim to achieve their desired results using a specific set of criteria. This framework can help you create goals that are more attainable and impactful. SMART stands for the following terms:
- Specific: Be as specific and clear as possible with what you want to achieve.
- Measurable: Making your goal measurable can help you track your progress.
- Achievable: Making your goal attainable can ensure its success.
- Relevant: Making sure your goal is relevant ensures it relates to your broad or ultimate goals.
- Time-bound: This takes into account the time period that your goal needs to be achieved.
Using the SMART goal framework can set the boundaries and define the steps you can take, resources necessary to achieve them and milestones that show progress along the way. With SMART goals, you can achieve your goals effectively and efficiently.
How to write a SMART goal
Here are the steps you can take for writing your career goals using the SMART goal setting method:
1. Discover your goal
Start by thinking about what you want to achieve. Explore career ideas you are passionate about. If you are finding it difficult to decide what you want to do, consider volunteering or freelancing for projects that interest you.
Once you have a few career ideas you are interested in, perform research on the industries and positions in order to understand the associated challenges and required skills. If you know someone pursuing a similar career path, ask them about what it takes in terms of education, time and dedication.
Ask yourself the following questions while trying to find your career goal:
- What should I be doing in another five years?
- What would it take to realise this goal?
- What types of roles suit my personality?
- What types of tasks do I love doing?
- What am I trying to achieve?
- Why have I chosen this goal?
- Where will accomplishing this goal take me?
- Can I develop the skills this role requires?
- Does this role conflict with my value system?
After you get satisfactory answers to these questions, think of a broad goal you would like to pursue. Write down your goal in the form of a statement. For example, you can write, "I want to become a marketing manager."
2. Be as specific as possible
In order for your career goal to be effective, it needs to be specific. A specific goal answers the following questions:
- What goal do you need to accomplish?
- Who is responsible for it?
- What steps will you take to achieve your goal?
Thinking through these prompts can help you set a realistic goal that lays out what you want to achieve and gives that vital context. Here's an example of a specific goal you might create:
"I want to get a position leading a development team for a tech company."
3. Make your goal measurable
Make your goal measurable to determine if you are making progress. For instance, if your goal is to become a team leader of a development team at a tech company, you can measure your progress by the number of management roles you have applied for and the number of interviews you have completed. For example, you can write, "I will apply to four open positions for the supervisor of a development team at a tech company."
Setting milestones along the way can give you the opportunity to re-assess and course-correct as needed. When you accomplish each milestone, you can reward yourself in small but meaningful ways.
4. Set an achievable goal
Setting goals you can reasonably achieve within a certain timeframe can help keep you focused and motivated. If you want to earn a management position at a company, for example, it's important to determine the skills, experience and credentials necessary to earn that position. For instance, you can say, "I will add more relevant qualifications on my resume, so I can apply to four open positions for the manager of a development team at a tech company."
Before you start working toward a goal, determine whether it's something you can accomplish now or whether there are more preliminary steps you can take to become better prepared.
Related: 10 Best Skills to Include on a CV
5. Make your goal relevant
When you set career goals for yourself, determine whether they're relevant. Make sure they align with your values and long-term goals. For example, you can say, "To attain my goal of becoming a marketing manager of a retail company, I will update my resume with relevant skills so I can apply to four open positions for the manager of a marketing team at a retail company."
If you think your goals don't contribute toward your broader, long-term objectives, you may need to reevaluate it. Consider asking yourself why the goal is important to you, how accomplishing it will help you and how it will contribute toward your larger, long-term goals.
6. Set a deadline
Determine your goal timeframe. Setting an end-date can motivate you and help you prioritise. For instance, if your career goal is to advance into a more senior position, you can give yourself five months. You can say something like, "To achieve my goal of being in a management position, I'll update my resume with relevant skills so I can apply to four open positions for the manager of a marketing team at a retail company this week."
If you haven't accomplished your goal in that timeframe, ask yourself why. Your timeframe might have been unrealistic, your goal might have been unachievable, or you might have run into an unexpected problem.
Additional examples of SMART career goals
Here are some additional good examples of SMART career goals:
Example 1: Promotion SMART goal
"Get promoted to a role with more managerial responsibilities while giving me support to improve my managerial skills, but still provide me with the ability to collaborate with external stakeholders within a year, even if it doesn't lead to a salary increase."
In this example, the person frames their goal around what they want to learn and the kind of work they want to do to help them grow, learn and provide new opportunities. The time-bound nature of this goal is important, and the reminder that salary increase isn't the major incentive helps set a strong foundation that the intent here is to grow and enjoy their job, even if it doesn't pay more.
Example 2: Career change SMART goal
"Look for a job close to home that utilises my strengths in operation and business process engineering, contributes to social good and gives me the opportunity to keep learning from individuals with more experience, and do it in the next 16 months."
In this example, the person factors in other big considerations, such as location and opportunity for learning and building on specific skills. By emphasising that the goal is to work with people with more experience, it can help them choose potential companies, and then screen for the ability to learn from coworkers during the interview process. As with all good goals, it's also time-bound. It provides a timeline for a job search that sets benchmarks for success.
Example 3: Career discovery and decision SMART goal
"Complete at least two career discovery tasks each week of the next 50 weeks that help me discover a career path that will build on my strengths, align with my cause to address income inequality, be on a team of professionals that I enjoy working with and has duties and responsibilities that align with skills and abilities."
What makes the above example good is that it provides a concrete start by completing the career discovery tasks, and also a weekly benchmark. The goal is clear and focused on realistic accomplishments in a way that can stretch the person and allow them to discover more about themselves and what they want to gain from their career.
Example 4: Professional development SMART goal
"Determine my biggest gap in growing as an individual contributor in the data science industry and take my skills to a level that individuals across my nonprofit, by the end of 2021, recognise me as an industry expert and use me as a resource to learn how data science can help them make a greater impact."
What makes the above example good is that it adds some great specificity about what it means to be an asset to a company, and to ensure that the person is learning the skills that the company will truly need. Helpful follow up SMART goals to help achieve this one would include steps to improve data science skills, such as attending conferences with experts, undertaking an additional degree or working towards a certificate in the field.