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How to Set Effective Career Goals

Monday, January 11, 2021

With the new year finally here, you might have ideas about what you want to achieve with your career or education in 2021.

Goal-setting is a valuable tool that can help you get there.

“Setting goals based on your dreams will give you the strength and energy you’ll need to face challenges and make changes in your life and career,” according to Alis, the Government of Alberta’s career-planning website.

While setting a goal can be as easy as writing a note on your phone, if you don’t set effective goals, it can be difficult to get results.

S.M.A.R.T. Goals

To ensure you have the best chance of success, Alis and many others recommend setting S.M.A.R.T. goals. These are goals that are:

Specific: Focus in detail on what exactly you want to accomplish. Remove any uncertainty about what you’re after and it will become clear what you need to do to get there.

Measureable: How will you, or other people, know if you’ve reached your goal? Figure out what concrete milestone you need to reach to clearly prove it. Where’s the finish line?

Achievable: Think about what you have control over. You can’t travel through time or change the weather. But there are many amazing things you can do if you put your mind to it.

Realistic: Consider what you can accomplish within your unique circumstances. For example, what skills do you already have? How much time will you have each day to work towards your goal?

Time-limited: Having a deadline can be stressful, but it’s also an excellent way to get motivated. Mark a date on your calendar and you’ll be more likely to work towards your goal.

In Practice

That’s the theory behind S.M.A.R.T. goals. To better understand how to put it into practice, here are examples of two types of goals. The first isn’t too S.M.A.R.T. and the second is:

Goal No. 1: I want to advance my education.

Advancing your education is a wonderful idea, but this first goal needs some work. For example, how specifically do you want to advance your education, and by when?

Goal No. 2: I want to earn my diploma in Business and Digital Marketing Management by December 2021.


This second goal is much better. It incorporates all five S.M.A.R.T. principles. For example, it’s specific: earn a business diploma. It’s also time-limited: by December 2021.

Get Going

If you want to take the next step in your career or education this year, it’s important to set effective goals.

“Making your dreams a reality starts when you set attainable goals and create a plan to reach them,” according to Alis.

By taking a S.M.A.R.T. approach, you’ll greatly improve your chances for success.

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