Setting Up For Success: Creating Professional Goals that Matter

Written by PortMA

Setting Up For Success: Creating Professional Goals that Matter

Setting Up For Success: Creating Professional Goals that MatterI recently came across the following quote by Aristotle and I was struck by the timelessness of his wisdom. 
“First, have a definite, clear practical ideal; a goal, an objective. Second, have the necessary means to achieve your ends; wisdom, money, materials, and methods. Third, adjust all your means to that end.”

Professional Goals need to be Specific

Setting goals is an important part of professional development. Whether it’s done formally (with the support and guidance from a supervisor/ manager as part of a professional review) or informally, the “operationalization” of professional goals is integral to achieving them.
The more specific one can be about what he or she hopes to accomplish, the easier it is to take the right steps towards accomplishing it.
That said, goal setting can be deceptive.
It is not enough to state, “I want to get better at writing reports.” This is not a well-defined goal. It is an admirable aspiration.
When you start to define what qualifies as “better” reporting, the attainability of this aspiration is challenged. For instance,

  • Do you want to improve your writing from a grammar or a style perspective?
  • Do you want to your reporting turn around time?
  • Do you want to reduce content and improve visualizations?
  • Do you want all of the above? If that’s what you want, when do you expect to achieve this?

I could keep posing questions, but by this point, the issue is clear: A vaguely stated goal is like trying to hold a cloud in your hand. It is an exercise in futility and frustration.

The SMART Model

Dr. Edwin Locke, one of the foremost experts on management theory, identified five basic principles for setting professional goals: clarity, challenge, commitment, feedback, and complexity.
The first element, clarity, is fundamental to success. Using the SMART model is an approach I have used to create clearly stated goals. SMART is an acronym for:

  • Specific: Goal is well defined and focused
  • Measurable: Outline how success will be measured so that both employee and manager/supervisor understand
  • Attainable: Ensure completion of this goal as it is written is realistic
  • Relevant: Goal aligns with the mission of the organization and/or is within the scope of the position
  • Time-Based: Includes a specific and realistic, date for completion

What I love about the SMART model is that it can be applied in any setting, whether you are looking to set professional goals for yourself, a department, or a specific project or program.
I’d love to hear how you approach creating and reaching professional goals. Weigh in on the SMART model and any other technique you use.
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