How to use S.M.A.R.T goals to get the career of your dreams

Goal setting is a common aspect of our lives. Whether you’re saving for a holiday, planning your next 5 years, or looking at your career aspirations, goal setting can be the difference between success and missing out.

But how do you make sure you plan your goals in a way that sets you up for success? How do you chart a course that helps you realise your vision?

Make your goals SMART.

S.M.A.R.T goal setting stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. It means you create your goals with structure and defined measurements so you can track your success in a specified time-frame. When you plan your goals this way, it creates transparency (you discover what you’re really going to need to do to achieve them) and confidence (because you’ll be able to see a realistic pathway to success).

S.M.A.R.T. goal setting often reveals that your goal, your ultimate destination and desire, needs to be broken-down into smaller goals and tasks in order to be achieved.

Let’s break down how to create S.M.A.R.T. goals.


Make your goal as specific as possible. Detail what you want to achieve. You can do this by answering: What do I want to achieve, where do I want to achieve it, how do I want to achieve it, and when do I want to achieve it by. Does my goal require the involvement of other people, or maybe a mentor? Why do I want this goal? What limitations do I face, that are specific to me, when it comes to pursuing this goal?

For example, if you say “I want a job in IT,” that goal is vague. You could break it down by asking yourself what area of IT you want to specialise in. Your area of speciality will help you narrow down potential organisations you’d want to approach for work. Having a list of organisations to work from will help you determine your limitations – do you need to have a certain amount of experience behind you before you can approach them? Remember, not all graduates automatically get hired by large companies like Google and Apple!

Once you’ve answered all the above questions, you should be able to come out with a clear, specific goal. Suddenly, “I want a job in IT” becomes “I want to gain career experience in data science over the next 12 months so that I can apply to work for [name of company], while still living in Sydney.”


In realistic terms, can you attain your goal? This doesn’t just mean is the goal possible, but are you willing to put in the time and effort to turn your goal into reality? If your goal requires funding, is the budget realistic? Will you need to move to another town, city or country to achieve it?

Remember you’re allowed to be ambitious with your goals, and people have achieved things that most deemed impossible! By asking yourself whether or not your goal is attainable, you’re giving yourself the chance to be realistic about your time, your knowledge, your finances and your talent. S.M.A.R.T. goals are here to set you up for success, not make you feel miserable over something you aren’t sure you can achieve.


This is part is about who you are now, vs who you want to be when your goal is a reality. Do you need experience, knowledge, or training to achieve your goal? Does your goal involve multiple people? Will you need extra finances to cover it – and are you willing to do extra work to cover costs?

Sure, getting paid to promote products on social media looks like it might be pretty fun, but do you really want the life of an influencer? Look at your end goal without the rose tinted glasses. Does your goal give you a life that you absolutely want for yourself, or does it just sound nice?

Look at the benefits to achieving your goal, as well as the negatives. Weigh up the costs both financially, physically and emotionally. If your goal aligns with who you are and what you want to be when you achieve it, then the goal is relevant to you.


S.M.A.R.T. goals have deadlines. But they’re also flexible, and have built-in accommodations for things like life and unexpected events. The best way to make your goal timely is to set a deadline but give yourself realistic time to get it done. If you know you’ve got a busy period coming up at your job, your progress on your goal might be slower than it would be during normal times.

By having a deadline that gives you enough time to complete it, plus a little extra in case you need it, you’ll have something tangible to work towards.

Putting it all together

Using S.M.A.R.T. goals to plan for your dream career is the best way to define, prepare, plan and start working towards making what you want a reality. By getting specific and figuring out the steps you need to take to achieve success, you can achieve anything.

by Jessica Hutchinson

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