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Goals are not just things that you one day hope to achieve -- they're things that you've considered strategically and taken the time to write down in a formal way. If you have goals for your future employment, the only way to be sure you'll meet them is to create a plan to make them happen. That includes assessing your skills, learning everything you can about the job, then setting out a series of steps to realize your dream.
Try a few free online skills assessment tools to get a feel for the types of work for which you're well-suited. A simple online search will reveal some free resources. If you're in college, your academic adviser may have recommendations for skills assessments that will work for you.
Learn as much as you can about the career in which you work, or in which you want to work. Connect with people or organizations in the field on social media sites such as LinkedIn, then post questions about what steps they took to get where they are. Check out college or training programs that set out the steps needed to be the type of worker you want to be. Before you create goals, you have to know what's out there and how to get it.
Choose a specific goal and assign it a specific due date. It helps to say something like "in one year I want to be..." or "by next month I will ..." or "tomorrow I want to..." Write this end goal at the top of a large piece of paper. In the world of business and education, the acronym "SMART" is often used to describe the goal-setting process; it means goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. The process originated in the mid-20th century, and today is often used in the corporate world to set employment goals. The "specific" piece means naming a specific goal, such as becoming a lawyer. The "measurable" part is knowing when you achieve it. If your goal is to work at the corner pizza restaurant, the "measurement" is the fact that you got hired. The "attainable" and "realistic" parts mean it's something you can actually do. For example, setting a goal to make a million dollars by next week is, for most people, not realistic. And finally, the goal must be "timely," or "time-bound," meaning there's a specific time frame in which it can be done.
Work backwards from the end goal to come up with specific tasks or steps you need to take to meet that personal employment goal. This is directly tied to the "time-bound" piece of SMART goal setting. If it's your goal to become a teacher, you'll have to go to college and participate in student teaching, which means at least four years of study. Your backwards timeline may include passing teacher certification exams by a certain date; under that, you may write "finish student teaching," accompanied by a date. Under that, you may write "attend college" and the projected dates. Under that, you may write "apply for college," and under that, "assemble high school transcripts." If your goal is to get an entry level job, meanwhile, your goal is to get hired, and your backwards timeline may include attending interviews, buying interview clothing, researching the company, and preparing your resume. Try to include every single step that you'll need to complete, and give each step a date until you've worked backward to today's date.
Keep your worksheet handy as you go through the process of meeting that employment goal. Over time, you may find that you have to adjust your time frame or that you have new things to factor into your worksheet, such as a training session you need to attend or certain safety gear you need to buy. As you meet a daily, weekly or monthly goal, cross it off the list and reward yourself with a smoothie, a night out, a new outfit or some other personal reward. Have a friend or family member cheer you on and celebrate with you as you meet both small and large goals. Conversely, that person can help you stay on track when you encounter setbacks that make you want to stop pursuing your goals.
Share some of your goal-setting process with hiring managers or human resources managers at job interviews. They may be impressed with the methodical way you're approaching your future.
- University of Wisconsin-Madison: Department of Economics: Define Your Career Goals
- Mind Tools: Personal Goal Setting
- Eyes On Sales: How to Use the Right Questions to Define Your Goals
- RapidBI: Published History of SMART Objectives
- Social Networking and Education: Using Facebook as an Edusocial Space; P. Pollara & J. Zhu
- Mentor Michigan: Using Social Networking to Recruit Mentors
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