Tips on Using the S.M.A.R.T. Method to Define Your Career Goals

By Joyce Harold: Resumes by Joyce

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Goal setting plays an important role in many areas of our personal and professional lives. As senior leaders, in business we spearhead key initiatives and set priorities to drive revenue and market share while coaching and steering our teams to achieve operational and financial objectives. As a new year approaches, you may have a goal to advance in your career, obtain a certification, or possibly partner with a professional to secure help with writing your executive resume. On a personal level, we create goals for home ownership, retirement, a healthy diet and exercise to name a few.

Career advancement, along with being engaged in meaningful, challenging work, is often something we all strive for in our professions; after all it has a profound effect on our livelihood, overall health, and well-being. Using the S.M.A.R.T. method is a great way to set and achieve goals as I am a firm believer that there is a certain reality, reinforcement, and level of accountability associated with written goals.

S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timely.


The more specific you are, the better. For example, let’s say that you are currently an Educator who has a desire to make a career transition into a Project Manager role.

Your written goal might be worded as such: “By the end of this year, I will define my transferable skills, research industry requirements and starting salaries, and enroll in a Project Management Professional program.”

Capturing goals in writing and placing your list in a visible location can serve as a great reminder to help keep you focused and committed.


Track and measure your milestones and goal achievement. This is critical in determining if you are making progress on your road to success. Celebrate small movements in the needle to maintain your momentum, sense of accomplishment and motivation. Make your goal-setting process as simple and convenient as possible to increase your chances of success.

Measures might be viewed as:

  • I have researched project management jobs on LinkedIn and to understand the position qualifications, soft skills, and certification requirements.
  • I have created a list of my top strengths, career achievements, passions, key milestones. I have also reviewed my professional resume and prior performance appraisals for the past five years to further assess my transferable skills inventory.
  • I have researched and narrowed down three institutions that offer the Project Management Certification in terms of cost, registration process, location, and schedule availability.


  • I am updating my resume and/or researching resume preparation services for help with writing my professional resume and LinkedIn profile.
  • I have researched what a cover letter consists of for a career transition, and I am currently tailoring my cover letter toward project management positions.


For your goal to be attainable, it must be realistic so that you can envision it and avoid the risk of being discouraged if it is too far out of reach. In the above Project Manager example, the Educator is making a career transition into project management—which is very realistic considering the many transferable skills that link the two roles. Educators lead or execute many projects; they often have to factor in budget allotments, and work collaboratively with their peers during implementation phases of key initiatives.


Holding yourself accountable to a definitive deadline can help strengthen your focus, self-discipline, and mental fortitude. Along the path to achieving your goals, you might be faced with obstacles that have a tendency to derail or present a level of temptation in procrastinating. It’s completely acceptable if it takes you a little longer to achieve your goal; the fact that you are making progress is worthy of celebrating. This checklist can help serve as a personal reminder for keeping you on track and in step with accomplishing your objective.

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