5 Great examples of SMART goals for your career

Mark Horoszowski

Mark Horoszowski is the co-founder and CEO of MovingWorlds.org.

In our earlier article, we shared a guide on how to create SMART goals that will help you reach your true potential. In this post, we get even more practical examples of good (and not-so-good) SMART goals for different aspects of career growth, from promotion to career change.

Setting goals tony robbins quote

Example of a Promotion SMART goal

Not a SMART goal: “Get promoted next year”

A good SMART goal: “Get promoted to a role with more managerial responsibilities while providing me with support to develop my manager abilities, but still gives me the ability to interact with external stakeholders within 12 months, even if it doesn’t result in a wage increase”

Why we like this goal: A promotion won’t make you happy. Instead, frame your goal around what you want to learn and the type of work you want to do to help you grow, learn, and provide new opportunities. The  time bound nature of the goal is critical, and the reminder that wage growth is not the primary incentive helps set a firm foundation that the intent here is to grow and enjoy your work, even if it doesn’t pay more.

Example of a Career Change SMART goal

Not a SMART goal: “Get a new job at a nonprofit”

A good SMART goal: “Find a job within a bikeable commute that contributes to social good, uses my strengths in business and operation process engineering, and provides the opportunity to keep learning from people with more experience, and do it in the next 18 months”

Why we like this goal: Getting a new job won’t necessarily make you happy. In fact, attrition at nonprofits is actually really high because the work is hard and burnout is common. What’s good about this goal is that it factors in other big considerations for this person, like  biking to work, building on specific skills, and focusing on continued learning. By flagging that the goal is to work with people with more experience, it helps you select potential organizations , and then screen for the ability to learn from colleagues during the interview process. Like all good goals, it is also time-bound – providing a timeline for a job search sets benchmarks for success.

Example of a Career Discovery & Decision SMART goal

Not a SMART goal: “Figure out what I want my next job to be by the end of next month”

A good SMART goal: “Complete at least one career discovery task every week of the next 52 weeks that helps me find a career path that will build on my StrengthFinders strengths, align with my desire to address income inequality, be on a team that I enjoy working with, and has responsibilities that align with my Imperative Purpose drivers.”

Why we like this goal: If you don’t know your career path, this goal will help you find your way. It provides a tangible start by completing the StrengthFinders task, and also a weekly benchmark. The goal is not ambiguous, but focused on realistic achievements in a way that will still stretch the person and enable them to find out more about themselves and what they want from their career.

Example of a Professional Development SMART goal

Not a SMART goal: “Get better at data science to secure my job at my company”

A good SMART goal: “Identify my biggest gap in growing as an individual contributor in the field of data science and grow my skills to a level that people across my nonprofit, by the end of 2019, recognize me as the subject matter expert on this topic and use me as a resource to see how data science can help them make a bigger impact”

Why we like this goal: This goal adds some great specificity about what it means to be an invaluable addition to a team, and to ensure that the person is developing the skills that the organization will truly need. Helpful follow up SMART goals to aid in achieving this one would include specific steps to grow data science skills, such as working towards a certificate in the field, undertaking an additional degree, or attending conferences with experts.

Example of a Leadership Development SMART goal

Not a SMART goal: “Be seen as a leader in my company”

A good SMART Goal: “By the end of the year, build my leadership skills by immersing myself in new scenarios where I will develop in specific areas of cross-cultural collaboration, strategic planning, and influencing – and have at least 3 people more senior than me with my organization recognize my growth as a leader.

Why we like this goal: This goal will help the goal setter actively think about how to bring company leaders along on the learning journey, which will ensure accountability, mentoring, and visibility. Like other goals, it is time-bound and specific enough to ensure that the person will develop on a well thought out path, and in a way that acknowledges the  person knows more than just leadership theory, and actually has the ability to lead effectively.

Example of a Starting Your Own Consultancy SMART goal

Not a SMART goal: “Be location independent by the end of 2020”

A good SMART Goal: “Sign contracts to fill at least 50% of my needed salary with strategic marketing consulting projects with brands that inspire me by September 1, 2020 so that I can comfortably live in my desired city/apartment and have flexibility in deciding whether or not to take on additional projects.” 

Why we like this goal: This goal setter is worried about how financial security hinders their ability to take their next career step. So, this goal focuses less on the outcome, and more on the important inputs that will create a life with increased flexibility and greater control over the projects they take on. Sometimes SMART goals can help you evaluate your work-life balance – perhaps you’ve stretched enough for now and it’s time to take a step back. Of course your goals must be aligned with your career, but it’s crucial that they are aligned with how you want to live your life.

In Summary

Writing goals is hard, and in fact, no person’s goals will be perfect after the first, third, or even fifth iteration. But following the SMART format and using the examples above will help you get closer and start making progress. And remember – this goal is yours, and it should evolve just as you do. So start writing your goal, and make sure to follow our 5 tips on what to do after you’ve written the goal to increase your chances of success!

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