Module 02: Research and Exploration

2.6 Setting Goals and Building an Action Plan

Jane Career swings her golf club and as the ball reaches into the air, five works appeal in the sky: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.

Setting career goals and a set of action steps to achieve them is a great way to stay motivated while experiencing the ups and downs of your career. Be open to adapting your goals as you learn more about yourself and the world of work. Even though you might still be exploring various career or job options, it’s a good idea to set some career goals and lay out the action steps required to achieve them. Setting goals and creating an action plan allows you to identify alternative scenarios and actions that can be taken to take advantage of unplanned opportunities.

When setting goals, it’s important to list each step toward meeting a goal as it will provide more clarity and momentum and will keep you motivated to stay on track to reaching your career target.

You want to make sure that each goal is SMART:

  • Specific (detailed, clear, not very big or general, state exactly what’s expected)
  • Measurable (quantifiable, concrete, observable progress toward achieving this goal)
  • Achievable (realistic, attainable, barriers could be overcome)
  • Relevant (supports other goals, makes sense)
  • Time-bound (has a specific target date or deadline)

Make sure that your career goals consist of all 5 SMART components.

  Check Jane’s “SMART” goal below and then work on applying the same approach to your own goal.

  • Jane’s career goal: Office Manager
  • My career goal is:
Table 2.2 Jane’s SMART Goal Example
Jane’s Example My Goal
Specific I want to gain more experience in my current role and work up to an Office Manager position.
Measurable I want a salary increase of between $10,000 – $15,000.
Achievable I will look for promotions within my current organization to gain managerial experience.
Relevant It will be a natural and timely progression of my career.
Time-bound I want to move into a managerial position within the next 2-3 years, which gives me time to gain more experience and to look for opportunities.
  • Jane’s SMART goal then becomes:

Goal #1: To become an office manager within the next 2-3 years with a salary increase between $10 -15,000 per year possibly within the same organization.

Action Plan

Now that you’ve set several goals, you can reflect on the actions you can take to achieve them. Breaking down your goals and then further breaking down each action into individual steps makes achieving your goal feel more manageable. Make sure to set a target date for your actions so you can monitor your progress.

Some of the actions may include:

  • Learn more about a particular job through informational interviewing
  • Research the labour market using online resources
  • Explore professional development options
  • Learn about the certification process for a particular field

Use the table below to set up an action plan for yourself, repeat for every goal you have.

Jane Career’s SMART Goal example

Goal #1: To become an office manager within the next 2-3 years with a salary increase between 10 -15, possibly within the same organization.

Table 2.3 Action Plan
Action Step 1 Step 2 Resources Target Date
Obtain a Project Management Certification Research different educational programs, preferably online Sign up for classes starting in September Online research;
Check with other colleagues who have this certification
The end of the next year

  Action Plan Exercise

Having made your goal SMART, you can set up the steps to attaining that goal using the downloadable Action Plan.


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Centennial College Career Success Guide Copyright © by Career Services and Cooperative Education, Centennial College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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