Goal setting is a helpful way to build the career you want. By setting objectives and creating a clear roadmap for how you’ll reach your intended target, you can decide how to apply your time and resources to make the most progress. Without goals, it can be difficult to determine how to work toward a certain job, promotion or another milestone.

When you set an objective for yourself, you should include each step necessary for success. In this article, we outline a framework called SMART goals along with a few tips and examples to assist you in your goal-setting efforts.

What are SMART goals?

SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based. Each element of the SMART framework works together to create a goal that is carefully planned, clear and trackable.

You may have set goals in the past that were difficult to achieve because they were too vague, aggressive or poorly framed. Working toward a poorly crafted goal can feel daunting and unachievable. Creating SMART goals can help solve these problems. Whether you’re setting personal or professional goals, using the SMART goal framework can establish a strong foundation for achieving success.

Below, we’ll demonstrate how to turn a goal like “I want to be in leadership” into a SMART goal. The words in bold describe your goals.

S – specific

Be specific! There’s no use in setting a generic goal because it won’t suit you personally, however, if you adapt the goal to apply to what you need, then it will be much more valuable to you. Of course, you want to prosper in your field of work, but isn’t everyone in the office thinking the same? 

Example: “I want to earn a position managing a development team for a startup tech company.”

M – measurable

Is it quantifiable? For instance, going back to the example objective of selling more, you can measure this by the number of units sold. Being a measurable goal allows you to identify when exactly it has been reached, i.e., what you desire as the end result.

Example: “I will apply to three open positions for the manager of a development team at a tech startup.”

A – achievable

The point of a target is to challenge and motivate yourself to complete a piece of work, if you were to set your target too high it can cause stress and so decrease the chance of your target actually being within reach. Likewise, if a target was too easy will inhibit you from pushing yourself and doing more. Setting yourself a reasonable target is crucial!

Example: “I will update my CV with relevant qualifications, so I can apply to three open positions for the manager of a development team at a tech startup.”

R – realistic

‘I’m going to own a multimillion-pound enterprise by the end of the month’ Might be a tad too ambitious, don’t get me wrong ambition is a leading trait, but maybe start with something more realistic, remember all successful businesspeople don’t just become successful overnight.

Example: “To achieve my goal of being in leadership, I will update my CV with relevant qualifications so I can apply to three open positions for the manager of a development team at a tech startup.”

T – time-bound

Deadlines. Not something we like, but something most of us need. Especially if you’re someone like me, who tends to procrastinate. For example, if you’re sitting at your desk knowing you have work to do, it’s easy to get lost in the world of the internet looking at cute animal photos or funny videos, but what if you were to say ‘Right, by 2 o’clock I want to have completed…’ then you’ve just motivated yourself to complete a job by an allotted time.

Example: “To achieve my goal of being in leadership, I will update my CV with relevant qualifications so I can apply to three open positions for the manager of a development team at a tech startup this week.”

Using the SMART goal framework sets boundaries and defines the steps you’ll need to take, resources necessary to get there and milestones that indicate progress along the way. With SMART goals, you’re more likely to achieve your goal efficiently and effectively.

Here are a few examples of how SMART goals can benefit people in different circumstances:

  • Sipho would like to change careers from customer support to design…
  • Aviwe knows that his goal is to become a sales manager but he’s not sure where to begin…
  • Thabo wants to get a job in the health care industry but doesn’t have industry experience…

Advantages

SMART goals present various advantages. For starters, they’re not vague. Whereas most goals people make aren’t very descriptive, SMART goals are specific, which ultimately helps increase their odds of being achieved. Also, SMART goals incorporate your plans. This helps you achieve your goal since you’ll already know the next steps to take. Since SMART goals require some form of measurement, they also provide you with the opportunity to track your progress. If you miss a small deadline within your overall goal deadline, you’ll not only know, but you’ll also have time to get back on track.

Disadvantages

Though SMART goals are very advantageous, they also pose some disadvantages. For example, because your goal will be well-planned out, it could lead you to become obsessed with completing your goal by a certain deadline. Also, it could make you crave more achievements in the future and could potentially set you up for a continuous cycle of wanting to achieve goal after goal. For some, SMART goal making could be overly ambitious.

Examples of SMART goals

Here are two smart goal examples:

Example 1

I will obtain a job as a high school math teacher within three months after graduating with my Bachelor of Science in Education degree.

  • Specific: The goal of becoming a high school math teacher is well-defined.
  • Measurable: Success can be measured by the number of applications, interviews and job offers.
  • Achievable: The goal-setter will have the appropriate degree for the job.
  • Relevant: The goal-setter is planning to get a job in the education industry after getting an education degree.
  • Time-based: The goal-setter has set a deadline to achieve their objective within the three months following graduation.

Example 2

I will earn a promotion to senior customer service representative by completing the required training modules in three months and applying for the role at the end of the next quarter.

  • Specific: The goal-setter has clearly set the objective to be promoted to senior customer services rep.
  • Measurable: Success can be measured by training module completion, filing the application and earning the promotion.
  • Achievable: The goal-setter will complete the training necessary to earn the promotion.
  • Relevant: The goal-setter is planning to apply for the promotion after finishing their training modules.
  • Time-based: The goal-setter has set a deadline to achieve their objective at the end of the following business quarter.

Setting SMART goals can help you move forward in your career and achieve the success you want. While goals can be challenging, using the SMART framework can organize the process and provide structure before you begin.

Do you need help with setting SMART goals?

Book a free Positive Psychology Coaching Programme Introduction Session, where we will share how our 4-part coaching sessions all share one purpose: to help you move closer to your personal goals and increase your well-being. In order to do so, we adopt a positive focus. Rather than merely focusing on what is wrong and what prevents you from reaching your goals, we will also consider your personal strengths.


In this intervention, we will focus on what is most important in your life and consider all the
personal qualities you already possess that will allow you to reach your personal goals and
deal with challenges that may arise on your journey.


We provide a manual to serve as a guide throughout the coaching sessions. It was designed for several specific purposes:
▪ to offer a theoretical background and context for the phases of this intervention
▪ to help you remember the action steps and commitments that you agreed on
▪ to serve as a logbook for the most important insights that result from this intervention

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