• Lindi Engelbrecht

How to set Career Goals with the SMART Method

Setting Career Goals using SMART

As we move to the end of the year, we all might feel overworked and maybe stretched to the limit. I love setting goals. I'm a firm believer in starting early, to give myself the right amount of time in order for my goals to have real impact in my life. It can be a therapeutic process and having a checklist to measure your progress against can be equally motivating.

Without setting goals or objectives, life becomes a series of chaotic happenings you don't control. You become the plaything of coincidence. Accomplishments like sending someone to the moon, inventing the iPod etc, are the result of a goal that was set at some point. A vision that was charted and realised.

Effective goal setting is one of the key factors in achieving success. And to do it right, you need to be smart about setting your goals. Or rather SMART.

You probably know how you're doing in your career right now (and if you don't, we have a free career assessment to help). So now, it's time to think about the next steps.

How to write effective Smart Goals

Once you know where you stand, it's time to write down where you want to end up. Don't worry; our SMART Goals worksheet has room for that, too. (Scroll down to download).

Personal Development is often one of the first things to get deleted from the priority list when life gets hectic.

Give your personal goals and objectives a fighting chance by writing them down. Make them SMART, and you'll have a much better chance of attaining them.

When setting personal goals, we recommend following the SMART guidelines to make sure you avoid getting discourage and actually reach them. SMART goal setting brings structure and traceability into your goals and objectives.

Specific "If you fail to plan.....you plan to fail"

What exactly do you want to achieve? The more specific your description, the bigger the chance you'll get exactly that. Good goals are not ambiguous. Rather, you need to have a clear, concise goal that you can set your sights on. General goals tend to get lost in the busyness of our daily lives. Example of a general goal: I want to find a new job. Example of a specific goal: For the next 2 months I will research companies that aligns with my values, update my professional profile and apply to 5 jobs in my selected organisations.

To get started, consider the five W's:

Who: Who is involved?

What: What do I want to accomplish?

Where: Location?

Why: What's the specific reason, purpose or benefits for accomplishing the goal. (Goals are great, but you also need to figure out your WHY to get what you're really after. )

When: What's the time frame?


Establish criteria for measuring progress on each goal you set. If you want to stay on track toward your goal instead of veering off course and risking disappointment and failure, you need to establish specific criteria for measuring and tracking your progress. Let's put it this way: If you don't know where you are going, how will you ever reach your destination. It means breaking your goal down into measurable elements. You'll need concrete evidence. Being happier is not evidence.

Ask yourself: "How will I know when my goal is accomplished?" When you measure your goals, you stay stay on track and you also tangibly experience the momentum that keeps you going!


Not all goals are worthwhile as others. Unless your goal is relevant to your overall plan for your life, achieving it may not accomplish anything. Your goal shouldn't be something that is standing on it's own. Think about how this goal relates to your company's goals or your personal or professional goals. How is it pushing you, or your company forward? You decide for yourself, whether you have the personality for it, or your team has the bandwidth.

If your goal isn't relevant to other goals you have, it might be difficult to dedicate the time and energy needed to see it through.


Every goal should have a time frame, because most of us have a tendency to procrastinate, it's critical that your short-term and long-term goals have a deadline. However, a word of caution, being too stringent on the timely aspects of your goal setting can have the perverse effect of making the learning path of achieving your goals and objectives into a hellish race against time - which is most likely not how you want to achieve anything.

So, now you should be motivated to not only set some new goals, but start achieving them. I encourage you to visually put it up, in order to check-in once a month to see where you stand. I like to write mine down, and celebrate the small achievements along the way. Also I don't get discouraged when I have to change a goal - life happens, and it's good to pivot or adapt.

It's not the strongest of the species, that survive, not the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change - Charles Darwin.