Careers Advice

How to set achievable professional goals

The New Year is great opportunity to start afresh, reassess your goals and set some new ones. Alongside your personal New Year’s resolutions, consider setting some professional ones too. Karla Sam-Sin, Programme Manager – Highlands and Islands at ScotGrad, has some top tips on how to set and achieve your goals next year.

Published: 20/12/2016

Setting objectives or goals is a great way to focus your career aspirations. They can give you long-term vision and short-term motivation, and allow you to take pride in your achievements.

First, consider what you want to accomplish. Do you want to learn a new skill or develop one you already have? Do you want work experience in a specific sector or in a specific role? Set goals that motivate you and write them down to make them tangible.

Goals should be “SMART”:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-appropriate

For example, instead of having "to learn Italian" as a goal, it's more powerful to use the SMART goal "To have completed a beginner course in Italian by the 30th June 2017."

Other things to keep in mind:

  • State each goal as a positive statement – "Improve my writing" is a much better start than "Don't make spelling mistakes."
  • Set priorities – When you have several goals, give each one a priority. This helps you to avoid feeling overwhelmed by having too many, and helps to direct your attention to the most important ones.
  • Small goals, big rewards – If your aim is too ambitious or out of reach, then it can seem like you are not making any progress towards it. Keeping goals small and setting out a plan of incremental improvement will give you a better chance of achieving them.
  • Set performance goals, rather than outcome goals – Prioritise areas for improvement where you have as much control as possible. If you base your goals on personal performance, you can control the achievement of them, which will, in turn, be more rewarding.
  • Set realistic goals – It's important to set goals that you can (and want to) achieve. Your parents, partners or peers can all set some for you but they may not be relevant or realistic. Make sure your goals are right for you and achievable.

By keeping these tips in mind, you’ll be crossing them off your list well before this time next year.

If you’re looking for extra guidance, get in touch with your careers service