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    How to Set SMART Career Goals for the New Year

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    Many professionals use the holiday season to reflect on their accomplishments and set their intentions for the new year. Enter SMART career goals. Continue reading to learn what SMART career goals are, the benefits of using them, and how to write your own.

    What are SMART career goals?

    For starters, what are SMART goals? While there is some light debate about what each letter in the acronym represents, here’s an overview of SMART goals:

    • Specific: Your goal should start out by being specific, narrow, and detailed.
    • Measurable: Then, think about how you can measure your progress toward your goal (and success).
    • Achievable: It’s okay to dream big, but you also want your goal to be achievable. In other words, don’t set yourself up for failure.
    • Relevant: Your goal also should be relevant and based on your career and life ambitions.
    • Time-bound: Finally, consider the timeframe in which you want to achieve your goals.

    Now, “SMART career goals” are SMART goals that are specific to your career. In other words, they’re professional goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

    What are the benefits of setting SMART career goals?

    There are several reasons to set SMART career goals. Not only does setting them provide you with clarity and a sense of direction, but they also allow you to measure your progress against a defined target. Additionally, embracing SMART goal setting can provide you with accountability and motivation, since you know where you’re headed.

    An added benefit of adopting this framework is that you can reuse your SMART goals when it’s performance review time, when you want to ask for a promotion, or when you feel you’re underpaid at work, since the structure requires you to really think about what you want to achieve, how you’ll get there, and by when.

    If you decide to use SMART goal setting, you might also consider rewarding yourself when you reach your milestones. Importantly, you want the celebrations to match the loftiness of the goals. For instance, the way you decide to celebrate landing a new job will likely be more considerable than for completing a professional webinar.

    How do you write a SMART goal for your career?

    The process of writing SMART goals is straightforward once you get the hang of it. The following questions can support you in beginning to write out your SMART career goals:

    • Specific: Is your goal specific? If not, how you can make it more concrete?
    • Measurable: How will you measure progress (and success)?
    • Achievable: Is your goal achievable? If not, how can you improve your chances?
    • Relevant: How does your goal align with your values, career goals, and dreams?
    • Time-bound: When do you want to complete your goal?

    What are examples of SMART career goals?

    Lastly, what does this look like when it’s all put together? Let’s say your initial goal is to “improve my career.” Here’s how you would apply the SMART goal framework:

    • Specific: “Improve my career” could be more specific, so after engaging in some self-reflection, you might decide to change your high-level goal to something like, “Land a new engineering management job in the tech industry.”
    • Measurable: You might then decide to track your progress by making sure you spend 5 hours per week on your job search.
    • Achievable: After reviewing the current labor market conditions and your weekly schedule, do you find that both landing a new engineering management job in the tech industry and spending 5 hours per week on your job search feels achievable?
    • Relevant: You realize you need to be clear on what you’re looking for in the specific role and company if you want it to align with your values, career goals, and dreams. For instance, it’s important to you that the company is “making a positive impact in the world,” so you add that to your goal.
    • Time-bound: While you’re confident you can achieve your goal, you also want to be realistic, so you set six months as your timeline.

    What’s great about this framework is you can also use it to set sub-goals for your larger goal. Keeping with the above example of landing a new engineering management job in the tech industry, this might look like setting additional SMART goals for updating your resume, optimizing your LinkedIn profile, networking with people at your target companies, and refreshing your interview skills.

    The following are some additional examples of SMART career goals to serve as inspiration:

    • Improve my public speaking skills by attending Toastmasters meetings weekly for at least 1 year.
    • Complete a certificate in ABC software by the end of next quarter.
    • Build my personal network to include at least 2 additional women product management leaders within the next 3 months.

    Final Thoughts on Setting SMART Career Goals for the New Year

    As we head into the new year, consider using the SMART framework to set yourself up for professional success. Don’t be too hard on yourself if your goals change or need adjusting, since a small tweak to the timeline or how you’re measuring success are often all you need to get back on track and empower you to reach your goals. You’ve got this!

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