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Be SMART about setting your goals. Find out how to make achievable career goals.

What are SMART goals? These goals are:

S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Achievable
R = Realistic
T = Time-based

When making career goals, you want the goals to meet as many of these criteria as possible. Here's what each of the SMART terms means:


Specific means precise and detailed.

  • When you write a goal that is specific, ask yourself: WHAT are you going to do?
  • Be clear and detailed.

Instead of: "I want to be healthier." A specific goal is: "I'm going to eat at least two pieces of fruit every day."


Measurable means you are able to determine or figure out that you have hit your target.

  • When you write a goal that is measurable, ask yourself: HOW will you know when it is finished?
  • Use numbers in your goal.

Instead of: "I'm going to lose weight." A measurable goal is: "I'm going to lose 10 pounds."


Achievable means it's not just a dream, but your goal is within reach.

  • When you write a goal that is achievable, ask yourself: HOW are you going to do it?
  • Make a plan to achieve your goal.

Instead of: "I'm going to exercise." An achievable goal is: "I'm going to walk 30 minutes a day."


Realistic means it's possible to do the task within a fixed amount of time.

  • When you write a goal that is realistic, ask yourself: Can you do this in the timeframe that you have planned?
  • Be honest about how long it will take you to achieve your goal and how you will get it done.

Instead of: "I'm going to lose 10 pounds this week." A realistic goal is: "I'm going to lose a pound and a half each week."


Time-based means the goal is not open-ended, but there is a timeframe.

  • When you write a goal that is time-based, ask yourself: WHEN are you going to have this done?
  • Take small steps to complete your goal by the deadline.

Instead of "I'm going to lose 10 pounds." A time-based goal is: "I'm going to lose 10 pounds in two months.

Many people have goals like "I want to be healthier." They wonder why they don't achieve them. They would have more luck if they wrote a SMART goal like: "I am going to eat two pieces a fruit and walk 30 minutes a day in order to lose a pound and a half a week because I want to lose a total of 10 pounds in two months."

Exercise: Answer this question to find out if you know how to set SMART goals.

Which of the following goals is a SMART goal?

a. I want to live in another country.
b. I will graduate from college.
c. I will ask my boss tomorrow for two weeks of vacation beginning July 12.
d. I will save for retirement.

The answer is ... C. This goal is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based.

Next Steps:

  • Think about your goals and add them to your career plan.