Career Success: How and Why Setting SMART Goals Will Benefit You

Goal-setting requires thinking — start with the SMART framework and see yourself reaching your goals as you planned. We take you through in detail below.

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Goal-setting may seem easy; achieving them is tough. It is not uncommon for many to lose track of their goals, simply because they have become hard to meet. This often occurs when the goals are:

  • Generic and vague
  • Immeasurable
  • Poorly framed
  • Not relevant for your future
  • There is no concrete timeline for achieving them

Goals must be set with the intention of achieving them within your capacity. Since everyone works differently at varied paces and with unequal resources, you need to set goals that are practical and realistic.

When it comes to career progress or pathway planning, knowing what you want to achieve at each stage of your career is important if you are serious about developing yourself.

The best way to approach this is to set SMART goals.

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What are SMART goals?

SMART goals can be characterised by five criteria:

  • Specific: Is your goal narrow and simple?
  • Measurable: Can you track your progress towards your goal?
  • Achievable: Is it possible to attain the goal within a specific time frame?
  • Relevant: Is the goal aligned with your long-term objectives?
  • Time-based: Can you set a reasonable timeline for your goal and stick to it?

Each criterion works together to let you carefully plan a goal. It offers a strong foundation for achieving career success.

SMART goals can be set at any time throughout your career, whether as part of your growth within an industry (macro), at your current job (meso), or as a personal accomplishment (micro).

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Examples of SMART goals

Here are some examples of SMART goals you can set for yourself on different levels — macro, meso, and micro.

1. Macro-level SMART goals

As you join an industry, you want to see yourself progress and gradually reach the pinnacle of your career. This means setting long-term career objectives and making all the plans to achieve them.

Consider an example of a fresh-entry architect who has eyes set on a multi-national company:

  1. Specific: I want to join company XYZ as a Senior Architect.
  2. Measurable: I need to build up a portfolio of works across multiple industries in at least three jobs.
  3. Achievable: I have to work for at least two years in each of the three (or more) jobs to acquire more than five years of experience.
  4. Relevant: The jobs I intend to work in before joining XYZ must be recognised in the industry.
  5. Time-based: I wish to apply to XYZ as a candidate with all the requirements within the next six or eight years.

Of course, setting long-term career plans like this would entail smaller SMART goals to achieve them. At the same time, being aware of industry changes and economic shifts is essential so that you can adjust your goals accordingly.

Read Also: Defining Your Career Goals in a Post Pandemic World

2. Meso-level SMART goals

Now that you have a long-term career plan in mind, it is time to look at the smaller short-term goals you need to achieve. Think of them as meso-level SMART goals, best achieved at the workplace.

Taking off from the earlier example, here’s an idea of what a SMART goal can look like when working in an architecture firm:

  1. Specific: I want to increase my experience in design and project management.
  2. Measurable: I want to project lead at least three accounts in industries A and B.
  3. Achievable: By the end of each quarter, I would like to secure the above accounts.
  4. Relevant: My work (drawings, blueprints, etc.) must be worthy of a design and project management portfolio.
  5. Time-based: I want to work in this firm and achieve this goal in two years.

3. Micro-level SMART goals

When it comes to micro-level goals, treat them as personal ones that you set for your own development outside of any job you may be hired in. Consider these as self-learning arenas.

Here’s an example:

  1. Specific: I want to earn higher qualifications in the architecture field.
  2. Measurable: I want to acquire a certification in XXX.
  3. Achievable: I have to set aside two hours after work each weekday to attend classes.
  4. Relevant: This certificate will give me credibility in working on larger projects.
  5. Time-based: I want to attain my certification within six months.

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How do you write a smart goal?

Writing a smart goal is easy as long as you understand the five criteria well.

This chart may be useful:

Specific

<Start with a simple and narrow goal> 

Measurable

<What are the tangible & trackable aspects> 

Achievable

<What would you need to do>

Relevant

<In what way is this goal important to long-term career plans> 

Time-based

<What is the ideal timeline to achieve this goal>

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