Smart goals and goal setting for career enhancement

Richard Miller


Goal setting has been a very important tool of people who want to achieve various difficult tasks, and with job hunting it is something that can and should be considered by those who are looking for employment, or are interested in improving their careers. While there are a numerous ways to set goals, there are a couple of things that one may want to keep in mind when setting career (or any other) goals.

For years one tool that was taught in business schools and business seminars is goals that are defined and framed through a set of guidelines called SMART. “SMART goals” refers to an acronym that means Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-constrained. The first is for the goal to be specific with the avoidance of generic or undefined objectives. Measurable requires the goal to have quantifiable qualities that can be clearly articulated and measured. Achievable is, for obvious reasons, something that is realistic and not setting someone up for failure to reach the goal. Relevant is going to have several implications, but the most important is that it is something that is going to be important to the goal setter. Finally, the time constraint might be one of the more critical aspects for getting things actually completed.

While the application can be used for all areas of life, it can be particularly applicable for career enhancement. As an example, “I need to get something published” is not a SMART goal due to its lack of most of the goal setting  requirements laid out, with the possible exception of its relevance. Utilizing that example, a SMART goal would turn into: “I will have a 4000 word article published one year from today (with the date written) in a peer reviewed journal in the field of phonology.” Remember that if the goal is not achievable, or seems too much of a stretch, why not start with something a lot easier. Another example (for those just starting out) might be, “I will get one 500-word article published on on the meaning of phonology by 60 days from today.”  While the first one may be an excellent idea, the second one might be much more achievable. Again, these are only examples and they would vary from person to person, but keep it so that your goals are yours and reflect what you are focused on, and be sure not to violate any of the five parameters.

Most experts would agree that by goal setting you prepare your subconscious to direct your actions towards the goal or goals that you have set. Setting the “rudder of a ship as it leaves port to cross the ocean” is how Brian Tracey put it. So, I would encourage anyone with employment goals to give these ideas a try as they enhance their professional careers. They can be combined and used in conjunction with the “balanced scorecard” that was introduced in an earlier column. In addition, be sure to use them as they will give you specific targets that you’ll be able to work towards achieving.



Doran, G. T. (1981). There’s a S.M.A.R.T way to write management’s goals and objectives. Management Review, 70(11), pp. 35-36.

Tracy, B. (2010). Goals!: How to get everything you want—faster than you ever thought possible. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.