How To Write SMART Goals When Working On Your Career

By Shirin Khamisa, Founder & Practice Leader of Careers by Design
May 12, 2023. 14 min read

What Are SMART Goals?

SMART goals refer to a framework used in goal setting that can help individuals achieve their career plans and professional development goals. The acronym SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.

Following the SMART goal framework can help one create concrete goals that align with their broader career aspirations and provide a sense of direction and urgency. This article explores what SMART goals are, their benefits, and the steps one can follow to create effective SMART goals for career success.

Benefits of Writing SMART Goals

Writing SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) Goals is an incredibly effective way to help individuals achieve their objectives and advance in their careers. By establishing concrete goals, this approach helps professionals improve their motivation, focus, and productivity, ultimately boosting their overall success.

• SMART goals provide a concrete, actionable plan for achieving specific career aspirations.

• They foster a sense of direction and urgency about the goal-setting process.

• They enable individuals to measure progress and stay motivated along their journey.

• SMART goals can help one remain organized, accountable and focused on their desired outcomes.

• Writing SMART goals can lead to increased motivation and improved time management skills.

• By setting achievable objectives, SMART goals ensure that personal effort is focused on success rather than failure.

Being diligent and following this process will help make your career path exploration that much easier.

Defining Your Goal

Defining Your Goal is a crucial initial step in the process of setting SMART Goals. It involves identifying your short-term and long-term career aspirations and determining what relevant action you need to take to achieve them. By setting specific, measurable objectives that align with your professional development goals, you’ll have a clearer direction and a more actionable plan in place to propel you towards career success.

Writing Your Goals Down

Writing down your career goals is crucial in ensuring their realization. It not only makes them tangible but also creates a sense of urgency and commitment. This article aims to guide you towards writing down your goals effectively, detailing their importance and the benefits that come from regularly reviewing them.

Set Specific, Measurable Goals

Setting specific, measurable goals is highly important when creating your SMART career plan. Without specific goals in mind, you may find yourself feeling lost and uncertain about the direction of your career. A vague or unclear goal can lead to confusion and a lack of direction, making it difficult to stay motivated and on-track with your career plan.

To make sure your goals are specific, consider outlining desired outcomes and strategies to achieve them. Being specific with your goals requires you to think critically about the steps needed to accomplish them. For example, if your goal is to improve your leadership skills, consider specific outcomes such as leading a project successfully, gaining the respect of your team, or obtaining a management role. Then, develop strategies such as attending leadership seminars, shadowing a successful leader, or building a professional network.

Additionally, making your goals measurable will allow you to track progress and gauge success. By setting measurable goals, you can track and analyze your progress as you work towards achieving them. This provides a sense of accomplishment and helps you stay motivated in reaching your career goals. Measurable goals can be achieved by setting deadlines and creating benchmarks to aim for. For example, if your goal is to develop relevant skills to advance in your career, set measurable goals such as obtaining a certification within a specific timeframe or achieving mastery in a particular skill set.

Overall, by setting specific, measurable goals with concrete desired outcomes and strategies to reach them, you can keep your career goals on track, build a sense of direction, and create a sense of urgency in achieving your professional aspirations.

Make Achievable Goals

When setting goals, it’s important to ensure they are achievable based on your current resources and abilities. Setting unattainable goals can leave you feeling frustrated and unmotivated, which can ultimately hinder your progress towards achieving your long-term career plan.

One way to make achievable goals is by evaluating the goal’s realism. Consider if the goal is doable given the time frame, potential obstacles, and measurement methods. Evaluate if the goal challenges your ability while still being within reach.

Another helpful tip is to explore how your manager or leader can support you in achieving your goals. Get their input on the feasibility of your goal and ask for their advice on how to make it achievable. Additionally, consider making small increases in your progress each week to reach a feasible path with a healthy balance of challenging yourself and your abilities.

To make your goal achievable, focus on writing a specific, measurable, and relevant goal. This helps you stay on track and measure your progress along the way. You can also break down your goal into smaller, manageable steps to help you stay motivated and track your progress.

Lastly, ensure that your goal is grounded within a defined time period for clarity and to give your action urgency. An achievable goal should have a specific timeline for completion, so you can easily track your progress and adjust your strategy as you move forward.

In summary, making achievable goals requires that you keep your resources and potential obstacles in mind while still challenging yourself and your abilities. Make sure your goals are specific, measurable, and relevant while ensuring they are grounded within a defined time period for clarity and urgency. Remember to focus on making small increases in your progress each week to stay motivated and remain on track towards achieving your long-term career plan.

Make Your Goals Relevant

One of the most important steps in achieving your career goals is to ensure they are relevant. Relevant goals are those that align with your short-term and long-term objectives, as well as the needs of your organization or sector.

To set relevant career goals, start by thinking about what you want to achieve in the near future, such as a promotion or learning new skills. Then, consider how these goals fit into your overall career plan and make sure they align with the needs of your organization or sector. Additionally, it’s important to stay up to date on industry trends and changes in order to keep your goals relevant and realistic.

Once you have identified relevant goals for yourself, be sure to communicate them with your manager or leader. This will help them understand your ambitions and provide support as you work towards reaching them. Additionally, if needed ask for feedback from mentors or colleagues who can provide perspective on the practicality of achieving these goals. This can be invaluable in ensuring that you remain on track with achievable milestones in reaching your desired outcomes.

Create a time-bound schedule

The term “time-bound” refers to the specific timeline established for achieving goals and meeting milestones. When setting a goal, it’s important to consider whether it’s short-term or long-term. After determining a timeline, a schedule can be set to meet deadlines and achieve the objective. Your timeline should also be realistic and allow you plenty of opportunities to make adjustments to your goal regarding its relevance, specificity and attainability. Consider the final step in the SMART process in the following example.

Example goal before “time-bound” criteria: “I will increase my typing speed of 50 words per minute to 65 words per minute by setting aside 15 minutes every day to practice speed typing and take timed tests.”

Example goal after “time-bound” criteria: “I will increase my typing speed of 50 words per minute to 65 words per minute within three months. I will set aside 15 minutes each day to practice at speed and take timed tests weekly to measure my progress.”

This goal now fits all the criteria of a SMART goal because it shows how specific the objective is, outlines a way to measure progress, is achievable and relevant to the desired skill development and sets up a timeline for each milestone and overall completion of the goal.

About the author

Hi there, I am Shirin Khamisa, the founder and Practice Leader of Careers by Design, a company based in Toronto that provides career counselling, coaching, and training services to individuals and organizations.

With over 20 years of experience in career development, I am a recognized expert in my field, and I have helped thousands of people navigate career transitions, find meaningful work, and achieve their professional goals.

Shirin Khamisa Founder Careers by Design