Employees are interested in career development and climbing the professional ladder. However, clearly defining your goals and following them can be a challenge. Professional goals are often vague, uncertain, and don’t have a specific timeline. Because of that, you may not see the direction you’re moving in. In the long-term perspective, you (and your manager) will be unable to adequately estimate the progress in your work. The most efficient way to define and track your professional goals is SMART goals methodology.
A SMART goal is an acronym and a special approach to define career goals that gained public recognition in the early 1980s. The abbreviation appears to mark five main features of your future goal.
S – specific
M – measurable
A – attainable
R – relevant
T – time-based
Setting specific goals and tracking the progress can really benefit your performance and increase your image as a valuable employee within your company. Ultimately, this method helps you summarize all the criteria to make the goal the most realistic and likely to achieve. Let’s take a look at what each word stands for.
This means you have to filter your goal as much as possible, squeezing the very core of it. For example, instead of saying “I want to grow professionally” try saying “I want to take the position sales representative”. This way, you clearly understand the purpose and can outline the detailed plan to reach the goal.
A goal has no practical sense if you can’t measure your progress. How would you know your sales strategy is working, if you have no clue about the numbers? The second step in setting a realistic career goal is making it measurable. If you want to increase your number of leads, write “I want to increase the number of incoming leads by 15%”. The real number makes it possible to assess whether you’re reaching your goal or not.
Often, employees have high ambitions but fail to realize that some goals are not realistic. That’s why understanding whether your goal is attainable is important. Try to include realistic numbers and be down-to-earth about your own skills. It’s better to state the tangible goal than being frustrated when you can’t reach it in the set deadline.
A relevant goal is the one that is aligned with the vision and values of your company, not just your own considerations. Try to choose the goals that can benefit the company or at least your team. Additionally, you can include the explanation of why you chose this objective to work on, and how the positive result can contribute to the general goals. For example, you want to attend a conference or complete a course in a certain field. Explaining to your manager that you will gain new valuable skills and practical knowledge will likely increase chances of the goal to be attained.
Essentially, everything above has to be framed in a certain period of time. Some of the goals can be completed within three months, while others require a year. Thoroughly think about the deadline: will you be able to reach the needed result in the stated time? Also, time frames help you stay concentrated on work. If you’re setting a long-term goal, you can break the overall time into smaller periods to better track results.
To fully understand how to write SMART goals and how they work, let’s look at the example below.
For example, you work in sales and want to increase the number of incoming leads by 20 percent in six months. Why do you want to make it your goal? Because increasing the lead pool will create more possibilities for gaining new customers. Therefore, it impacts the company’s revenue. So, we have a specific (increase the number of leads), measurable (by 20 percent), attainable (it is a realistic goal), relevant (it will benefit the company) and time-based (six months) goal.
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