Goal setting is a helpful way to build the career you want. By setting objectives and creating a clear roadmap for how you’ll reach your intended target, you can decide how to apply your time and resources to make progress. Without goals, it can be difficult to determine how to get a certain job, promotion or other milestones you want to achieve.
When you set an objective for yourself, you should include each step necessary for success. To help, you can use a framework called SMART goals. Here’s how SMART goals work and a few tips and examples to assist you in your goal-setting efforts.
Related: Setting Goals to Improve Your Career
What are SMART goals?
SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based. Each element of the SMART framework works together to create a goal that is carefully planned, clear and trackable.
You may have set goals in your past that were difficult to achieve because they were too vague, aggressive or poorly framed. Working toward a poorly-crafted goal can feel daunting and unachievable. Creating SMART goals can help solve these problems. Whether you’re setting personal or professional goals, using the SMART goal framework can establish a strong foundation for achieving success.
Below, we’ll demonstrate how to turn a goal like “I want to be in leadership” into a SMART goal.
S = Specific
Be as clear and specific as possible with what you want to achieve. The more narrow your goal, the more you’ll understand the steps necessary to achieve it.
Example: “I want to earn a position managing a development team for a startup tech company.”
M = Measurable
What evidence will prove you’re making progress toward your goal? For example, if your goal is to earn a position managing a development team for a startup tech company, you might measure progress by the number of management positions you’ve applied for and the number of interviews you’ve completed. Setting milestones along the way will give you the opportunity to re-evaluate and course-correct as needed. When you achieve your milestones, remember to reward yourself in small but meaningful ways.
Example: “I will apply to three open positions for the manager of a development team at a tech startup.”
A = Achievable
Have you set an achievable goal? Setting goals you can reasonably accomplish within a certain timeframe will help keep you motivated and focused. Using the above example of earning a job managing a development team, you should know the credentials, experience and skills necessary to earn a leadership position. Before you begin working toward a goal, decide whether it’s something you can achieve now or whether there are additional preliminary steps you should take to become better prepared.
Example: “I will update my resume with relevant qualifications, so I can apply to three open positions for the manager of a development team at a tech startup.”
R = Relevant
When setting goals for yourself, consider whether or not they are relevant. Each of your goals should align with your values and larger, long-term goals. If a goal doesn’t contribute toward your broader objectives, you might rethink it. Ask yourself why the goal is important to you, how achieving it will help you and how it will contribute toward your long-term goals.
Example: “To achieve my goal of being in leadership, I will update my resume with relevant qualifications so I can apply to three open positions for the manager of a development team at a tech startup.”
T = Time-based
What is your goal time-frame? An end-date can help provide motivation and help you prioritize. For example, if your goal is to earn a promotion to a more senior position, you might give yourself six months. If you haven’t achieved your goal in that timeframe, take time to consider why. Your timeframe might have been unrealistic, you might have run into unexpected roadblocks or your goal might have been unachievable.
Example: “To achieve my goal of being in leadership, I will update my resume with relevant qualifications so I can apply to three open positions for the manager of a development team at a tech startup this week.”
Why should I use SMART goals?
Using the SMART goal framework sets boundaries and defines the steps you’ll need to take, resources necessary to get there and milestones that indicate progress along the way. With SMART goals, you’re more likely to achieve your goal efficiently and effectively.
Here are a few examples of how SMART goals can benefit people in different circumstances:
- Laura would like to change careers from customer support to design…
- Avi knows that his goal is to become a sales manager but he’s not sure where to begin…
- Tonya wants to get a job in the healthcare industry but doesn’t have industry experience…
Examples of SMART goals
Here are two smart goal examples:
I will obtain a job as a high school math teacher within three months after graduating with my Bachelor of Science in Education.
- Specific: The goal of becoming a high school math teacher is well-defined
- Measurable: Success can be measured by the number of applications, interviews and job offers.
- Achievable: The goal setter will have the appropriate degree for the job.
- Relevant: The goal setter is planning to get a job in the education industry after getting an education degree.
- Time-based: The goal setter has set a deadline to achieve their objective within the three months following graduation.
I will earn a promotion to senior customer service representative by completing the required training modules in three months and applying for the role at the end of next quarter.
- Specific: The goal setter has clearly set the objective to be promoted to senior customer services rep.
- Measurable: Success can be measured by training module completion, filing the application and earning the promotion.
- Achievable: The goal setter will complete the training necessary to earn the promotion.
- Relevant: The goal setter is planning to apply for the promotion after finishing their training modules.
- Time-based: The goal setter has set a deadline to achieve their objective at the end of the following business quarter.
Setting SMART goals can help you move forward in your career and achieve the success you want. While goals can be challenging, using the SMART framework can organize the process and provide structure before you begin.