How to Set Achievable SMART Goals

Changing careers can be scary, we get that. You might feel as if you’re staring up a mountain, unsure of where to go or what to do next. But you’re not alone. Every semester, students come to us from all walks of life with the goal of building a new, rewarding career for themselves. But what’s the best way to reach your goal? By setting the right kinds of goals.

Why Goal Setting is Important for Success

Before we get into how to properly plan and organize your goals, it’s important to take a step back and understand why we’re going through this process. For many at Carolina Career College, the reason for coming here is the same as their goal — to start a new, rewarding career in a field they love. But, in order to get there, in order to be as successful as they know they can be, they need to create goals.

Setting goals provides you with a long term vision for your plan and short term motivation. Your long term vision (or goal) may be to become a Network and Systems Specialist, but in the short term, you can set smaller goals based around classes and projects to keep you motivated and engaged. And, as you achieve your smaller goals, your self-confidence will begin to grow. What once seemed like a giant mountain now only looks like a large hill.

In short, when you set goals for yourself, you trigger positive behavior and guide your focus with what’s ultimately important.

The Many Different Types of Goals

Goal setting, in theory, sounds easy. You just set a goal, such as “I will become a Systems Administrator” and you’re done, right? Well, not exactly.

In order to be successful, not only do you need to create goals, you need to make sure they’re the right goals to get you where you need to be. Depending on what you ultimately want to accomplish, your goal may be a simple, one-step, short-term goal. Or, it could be something long-term with numerous short-term goals under its umbrella. It’s important that you understand the differences between short and long-term goals, and how they work together.

Depending on where you look or what you read, you’ll get varying answers for what’s considered a short-term goal. But for us at Carolina Career College, we think of short-term goals as something that can be accomplished in 12 months or less. Getting an “A” in a network infrastructure class could be an example of this.

On the flip side, long-term goals take longer than 12 months to accomplish. However, most long-term goals take even longer, typically around 3-5 years to complete. An example of this might be landing a senior or management position once you get into the field of your choice.

How Do Short and Long-Term Goals Work Together?

It’s not always the case, but for many people, short-term goals are part of their larger long-term goals. And when you think about this, it makes sense. For example, if your goal is to run a half marathon in nine months but you can’t even jog five minutes, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Whereas if you set smaller goals that can be accomplished along the way, such as running a mile at one month, a 5K at three months, 10K at 6 months, etc., you put yourself in a much better place to succeed. Going back to what we said before, using a mix of goals provides you with long-term vision and short term motivation.

How to Set Realistic SMART Goals:

If you’ve ever done your own research on goal setting, you’ve probably come across the term “SMART goals” from time to time, and for good reason. The methodology provides a framework that helps organize your goals by giving them a sense of direction. The acronym SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Based. Let’s break this down further.

  • Specific: Make goals clear and as detailed as possible.
  • Measurable: Define how success will be measured.
  • Achievable: Is the goal realistically achievable?
  • Relevant: Reflect back on what you ultimately want: Will this goal help you get there?
  • Time-Based: Give yourself an allotted amount of time to complete the goal.

Not only does the methodology provide a framework that helps organize your goals, but it also can help determine if the goal is a good one or not. “My goal is to be a better person” is not a great choice, not because it’s a bad thing to want (we should all strive to be better people!), but because it’s not specific and it can’t be measured.

An example of a great SMART goal would be a student that is studying to become a Desktop Support Technician claiming “I want to complete my CompTIA A+ 220-1001 and CompTIA A+ 220-1002 certifications in 6 months.” This is a great goal because it’s specific, its success (or failure) is easily measured, 6 months is an adequate amount of time to prepare, and it’s relevant to their program.

SMART goals can be big or small, short-term or long-term. It doesn’t matter. As long as they meet each criterion of the SMART framework and ultimately help you become the person you want, that’s all that matters.

Tips for Setting Goals

Even with something as helpful as the SMART methodology, it can still be difficult to figure out what your actual goal needs to be. If you’re struggling to come up with ideas, try making a list of your skills and abilities as they relate to your program. From here, you can identify your strengths and weaknesses, and make goals based off them. Also, try doing a bit of research on the career you want. What are some of the big things employers are looking for? Is it a particular skill? Experience? Whatever it is, your research will lead you to the answer.

By taking the information listed above and applying the SMART goal methodology, you will put yourself in the best possible situation to succeed. Ready to get started on your future? Let’s talk!

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