Setting Goals for Career Success

Excerpt from Exceeds Expectations: Take Control of Your Performance Review

Setting goals is the best way to take small steps toward the larger, more futuristic goal of your dream job. Goals must be defined and measurable. They should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. The more detail your goals have, the more likely you are to reach for them and attain them. Writing goals defines them and makes them real. Goals provide direction and motivation and are useful in communicating to your manager in a performance review where you want to go and how you want to get there.

  • Specific: The goal must answer the 5 W’s – who, what, when, where and why. You should be able to see, touch, smell, taste or hear the results of the goal.
  • Measurable: You should know if the goal has been achieved or how you are progressing toward the goal. There should be milestones you can track.
  • Achievable: The goal should be attainable. It must be possible. Otherwise, why would you even want to try?
  • Realistic: The goal should be something you are capable of and interested in achieving. Unrealistic goals would not be worth pursuing.
  • Timely: The goal should include a time frame. When will you complete the task?

Goals should cover all areas of one’s life and can generally be divided into three categories: 1) professional, 2) educational and 3) personal or family. Even though we’re focused on the workplace and your professional space, the other goal categories may impact your motivations, opportunities and other priorities related to your career. For you, each category may include several goals; however, too many can lead to a lack of focus or may simply become overwhelming. Goals can be far-reaching – those goals you want to achieve by the end of your lifetime. Goals can also be short-term, such as one-year or five-year goals. Short-term goals help define intermediate steps on your way to your lifetime goals.

Tricia’s Take on 5 Year Goals:

I struggle with five-year goals. I have things I want to accomplish in my lifetime and I have things I want to accomplish this year, but my intermediate goals are not defined in a time frame. I understand what I like and where my strengths lie so I keep those in mind as I look to the future. Five-year goals are meant to bridge the gap from short-term to lifetime goals. Even though I don’t specifically define five-year goals, I know what I hope to accomplish somewhere between now and the end of my lifetime. Writing five-year goals works for many people and ensures progress is being made toward lifetime career goals. You determine what works best to keep you moving forward. What works for me is keeping my vision of the future clearly in front of me. Every year I define my next steps and pay close attention to the one-year goals I set.


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