f you want to be ready to set off on your professional journey, then you need to have a clear outline of what you want to set out to achieve. This means you need to map out your goals in a clear and concise manner. So, here are some ways to create goals that will help you better your professional career.

The SMART framework

Colorful diagram of SMART framework
A detailed outline of the SMART framework. Image courtesy of Indeed

SMART is an acronym for “Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic and Timelines”. This acronym refers to categories that you can classify different facets of your goals in.

Here is a more detailed breakdown of the acronym:


Your goals need to be as detailed as possible, and they should be goals that you genuinely want to achieve. If you set specific goals for yourself, then you will not feel uninterested and confused about them. Therefore, you will feel more inclined to fulfil them.


Your goals need to be quantifiable. This is because you should be able to understand when you have achieved your goals by using some unit of measure.  


It would be really beneficial if your goals contained action verbs that are related to specific behavior. This way, you will be compelled to execute specific ventures, rather than general and abstract objectives.

Realistic (or Relevant)

You have to keep your past accomplishments in mind when you are setting your goals. Whatever you have done in the past should inform you what your capabilities are, so that you can create goals while keeping in mind what sorts of tasks and motives you are more prepared to perform.

Timelines (or Time-based or Time bound)

You need to establish a deadline for fulfilling your goals. Having no deadline for fulfilling your goals can be detrimental to your professional career, because you will not be able to grasp the concept of time management, thereby risking your chances of seeming irresponsible to those working with you. 

If you utilize the SMART framework, then you can break down your goals into smaller steps. Also, with the SMART framework, you can set precise goals, especially when you keep these helpful tips in mind:

  • Focus on short-term goals first: First, work on your short-term goals, and then progress to working on long-term interests. This is because short-term goals are goals that take one to three years to complete, while long-term goals take three to five years to do. As you achieve success in your short-term goals, that success should feed into you, so that you may have more courage in accomplishing your long-term goals.
  • Be specific about goals when setting them, but please do not overdo it: You definitely need to clearly establish your career goals, but if you make them too specific, then they could seem unattainable to you. Therefore, instead of saying, “I want to be the next CEO of Tesla, where I’ll create a billion-dollar product,” try saying something like, “My goal is to be the CEO of a successful company, and it would be even more superb if that successful company was one that I started myself.”
  • Make it clear in your mind about how you are going to reach your goals: You should be able to explain the actions you will take to improve your career prospects. If you cannot explain the steps that you take on the ladder to professional success, then you need to break your various goals down into more manageable chunks.
  • Please do not be self-centered: Your work should not only help you advance in your profession, but it should also support the goals of your employer. If your goals contradict too much with your employer, then this could be a sign that the job you have taken is not a good fit.

Next, here are some frequently asked questions regarding setting career goals:

Are you unsure about what you want to be?

Be honest about your uncertainty. The employer that you are interviewing for should be aware about what activities you see yourself doing in his or her workplace, and how exactly you will contribute to the company.

Should you lie about what your career goals are?

It would be disastrous for you if you lie to your potential employers during your interviews, because when you are unable to answer any follow up queries, you will end up looking and feeling foolish.

Is it better to have an ambitious goal, or should you play it safe?

Your goal should be challenging, but relatively sensible, because If you assign yourself a goal that is way beyond your potential, you will feel overwhelmed, but if you make your goals too easy it shows people that you lack incentive.

Can you have several career goals?

It’s best to have one clearly-defined career goal and stick with it, because that shows that you have focus and drive, but you might have multiple smaller goals that can actually lead you to your ultimate long-term career goal. For example, if you want to be a school principal, you might set for yourself initial goals to achieve like becoming a classroom teacher and studying education administration, which will help you climb the education sector ladder and reach the post of a school principal.

Next, here are some more helpful tips when setting meaningful professional goals:

Get Feedback

When you make progress in achieving your goals, please take some time out to seek advice or share your insights concerning your journey with your mentors or confidantes.

You Must Create the Right Conditions for Success

For successfully fulfilling your goals, you need to keep to two conditions: time and practice.

You need to give yourself sufficient time to fulfil your goals, and an incentive to train and study in order to attain your goals.

Next, here are some examples of goals to set for your job and career that you can take inspiration from when you are ready to form your own goals:

Picture of two women in office smiling
If you want to maintain an optimal performance level in your professional life, it would be wise to set goals that sincerely boost your skillset. Image courtesy of Marie Deveaux.

If you want to change your job...

Try and network more with people in your desired company.

Plan to take a vacation this year.

Assign tasks that you are no longer responsible for to your other coworkers.

Learn how to say, “No, I cannot” when you are asked to take on too much workload.

If you want to switch your career...

Pick up and learn a new skill that is essential to being a part of your desired career.

Commit to making a number of new contacts and mentors in your desired field this year.

Assemble a list of people who could submit letters of recommendation or be character references.

Dedicate yourself to getting training or going back to school.

Construct a financial plan that can keep you afloat while you pursue your desired field.

Read the most recent books and research articles related to your field.

Inspect your work-life balance and make any changes to maintain a balance if necessary.

If you want to get a promotion...

Become a mentor.

Reduce your company’s business expenses by a certain percentage.

Brainstorm strategies that can improve your productivity and organization skills at your workplace.

Become a better communicator.

Find a way to reduce your work hours without compromising your productivity.

Find unique techniques that can help you be a better team player.

Seek a new training opportunity to address any sort of weakness in the management of your company.

Seek feedback from a boss or trusted coworker every week, month, or quarter.

If you want to ace a job interview…

Identify any personal boundaries at work and know what you should do to make your day more productive and manageable.

Identify any steps to create a professional image for yourself.

Go after the career of your dreams to find work that does not feel like a job.

Look for a place to pursue your interest and apply your knowledge and skills.

Find a new way to collaborate with experts in your field.

Identify opportunities to observe others working in the career you want.

Become more creative and break out of your comfort zone.

Ask to be trained in more relevant skills for your work.

Ask for opportunities to explore the field that you desire and widen your horizon.

Set your eye on a specific award at your workplace and go for it.

Picture of two women working on a laptop
Your professional goals can only be considered truly meaningful when your coworkers and other people who are a part of your work environment also benefit from your goals. Image courtesy of the balance careers.

Now that you are fitted with all of the tools and resources in your metaphorical toolbelt that are needed to form the best career path possible, go out there and make your professional career dreams come true!

Dec 13, 2020