While there are several different ways to set goals, there are a few steps you can take to ensure the best possibility of success. Your goals should have five key elements to make them achievable. These five elements make up what is known as the “SMART goal” framework. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based. Let’s take a closer look at how to set a SMART goal:
1. Make your goal as clear and detailed as possible
For example, instead of “I want to be better at public speaking,” you can say, “I want to successfully give a 10–15 minute presentation to an audience of 50 or more people.”
2. Define how you will measure success
For example, if you want to switch from a job in sales to a job in marketing, you might set milestones along the way that address how to develop the skills and experience marketing employers are looking for. To do this, you might set your measurement as learning and focusing on one skill per month.
3. Check whether your goals are achievable
Setting goals you can accomplish within a reasonable timeframe will help keep you motivated and focused. You should work to understand the full scope of your goal ahead of time to ensure it is possible to accomplish.
For example, if you are in your first professional developer job and your goal is to become a senior-level .NET developer, you might need to set smaller, short-term goals before reaching this larger goal. If you find that a goal is not achievable because you don’t have enough experience, one of your new goals should be to gain more experience.
4. Make sure your goal is relevant
You should set goals that align with your values and contribute toward your long-term goals. Each goal you set should be relevant and meaningful to you, moving you closer toward where you want to be. To make sure you are setting relevant goals, you might ask yourself, "how will achieving this goal help me?" "Does accomplishing this goal contribute toward my larger, long-term goals? Why does this goal matter to me?"
5. Set a beginning and end date
Setting a timetable to achieve your goal can both help keep you motivated and on-schedule. Before setting a goal end-date, be sure to research all the milestones and possible roadblocks you might run into along the way. For example, if your goal is to get promoted to the next level at your company, you might give yourself six months. If you haven’t achieved your goal, you might give yourself extended time or reconsider whether your goal is achievable and realistic.
Setting both personal and professional goals will help give a structure and path to success. Many employers value candidates that have a record of setting and achieving goals. This shows that you can be a focused, goal-oriented employee. Employers often ask about goals in interviews, so you should prepare to talk about your goals and what you’re doing to achieve them during the hiring process.