Get S.M.A.R.T in your Professional Development

Professional Development Series.

In my previous article, I discussed how to identify strengths, and explained why focusing on your strengths to develop excellence is a better approach than trying to correct your weaknesses. Here we will look at how to define your goals using the steps discussed in the previous articles in the series.

Writing Your Goals

If you have been working through this series, you should have a good idea where you would like to be in your future career, and which of your strengths can help you achieve it. Review this information as you write your goals. Writing clearly defined goals allows you to plan a path to reach them, provides a way for you to measure your progress, and keeps you motivated. The following S.M.A.R.T. goal format is a common outline to use when writing your goals.

S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Specific:A specific goal helps you focus your attention on obtaining it. In order to create a specific goal, answer the following six questions:

Who – who will be involved (i.e., my mentor; my colleague; just me)

What – what will you be achieving (i.e., complete three presentations)

Where – what location do you need to perform the goal (i.e., at work; at a college)

When – time frame to completion (i.e., within three months)

Which – identify contingencies and constraints (i.e., change work schedule to allow attendance at user group meetings)

Why – purpose or benefit of the goal (i.e., learning to manage a team will assist in getting promoted to a management role)


Measurable: A goal needs to be measurable so you can track your progress and know that you have completed it. The measurement should be objective, not subjective. (i.e., I completed 3 speeches and achieved an average audience feedback rating of 4 or above vs. I completed 3 speeches and engaged my audience).

Attainable: Goals may stretch your talents yet they should not be extremely easy or extremely difficult. Ask yourself these questions: Would I be able to accomplish this without any making any effort or need to list it as a goal? Is the effort required to accomplish going to crowd out any other goal or work I am performing at the same time?

Realistic: Your goals should be relevant to your desired career path or support your other goals in reaching it. If your goal is to learn how to watercolor, but it is not necessary to achieve your career goals, the recommendation would be to move that to a personal goal list.

Timely: You should strive to plan on being realistic in your timeframe; this doesn’t mean they cannot be adjusted based upon circumstances. Being too ambitious will frustrate you if you fail to achieve the goal by the set date. However, using timeframes too far in the future may allow you to lose your sense of urgency for completing the goal, and affect the timeframes of your other goals.

I hope this short series prompted you to start thinking about your goals, and assisted you with creating a plan to reach them.


Going forward, individual articles will explore strategies and resources for some of the most common career goals.

For a more in depth look into how to define your goals, take a look at:




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