When starting a new job or internship, you should set goals for what you'd like to achieve or gain in your role. However, sometimes, it can be difficult to figure out where to start—especially if you're a career changer who's just entered a new field.
If you're not careful, your goals could end up daunting—or even impossible. Instead, use the S.M.A.R.T. criteria to ensure your goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Here are five questions you can ask yourself to help you achieve this:
1. What Exactly Do I Want To Accomplish?
The emphasis here is on the word exactly. Figure out what you'd like to learn and gain from this position, and be as specific as possible. Think long-term: How can this job be a stepping-stone along your career path? If you're transitioning to a new career, you may need to start with small steps to get to your larger goal.
If you are unsure what you want to accomplish, start by looking at your job description. This will give you an idea of what you are expected to do and what experience you will gain. You should also set up a meeting with your manager. He or she can help you focus your goals and give you ideas for achieving them.
For instance, a goal like "I want to do well at my internship" is too broad—what do you want to do well? Instead, set a more specific goal, like "I will complete my tasks by the deadlines set and meet with my manager once a week for feedback."
2. How Can I Track My Progress?
To see if you are on track to accomplish your goal, you need a way to measure your progress. If you use numbers, you'll know exactly how far you have left to go.
For instance, "I will network more" is difficult to measure—how do you know what "more" is and when you've reached it? Figure out a way to quantify that goal: "I will attend two networking events this summer and connect with one person at each event." You'll know you met your goal when you've attended those events and connected with those people.
3. What Steps Can I Take To Achieve This Goal?
Your goal may require hard work, but it shouldn't be so difficult that you get discouraged and quit. Come up with different steps you can take to achieve your objective.
If you can't break your goal down into steps you know you can accomplish, it's either too broad or too challenging. Narrow your focus and manage your expectations, and you'll find yourself with something you can attain.
A goal like "I will create an award-winning ad campaign this week" doesn't explain how you can do it—and it's an ambitious goal that may not be possible in such a short amount of time. Try breaking it down into steps like "I will brainstorm campaign ideas at the team meeting this week, draft a script for a commercial, and submit it to my manager by the end of the month."
4. What Resources Do I Need To Achieve This Goal?
You can develop new skills, but you want to make sure that your goal is realistic given your current skill set and resources.
If you've never done something before, chances are you won't be a pro right away. But with a little help, you can make your goal more realistic. Your manager can offer feedback and advice, your employer may offer workshops, or you might consider shadowing someone who has more experience in the field.
"I will become an HTML expert this month" isn't realistic if you know nothing about HTML—you need more time to become an expert, and you need to know how you'll learn about it. Figure out what resources you need and incorporate them into your goal; for example, "I will attend my company's HTML workshop this month and work with a Web designer each week on HTML."
5. When Do I Want To Accomplish This Goal?
Setting a timeline ensures your goal has an end. Give yourself enough time, but don't put the deadline too far in the future—you want your deadlines to motivate you to work hard.
You also have to make sure this timeline is manageable with your position. For instance, you can only accomplish so much during a 3-month internship, so that may not be the time to set long-term goals.
A goal like "I want to write a book someday" has no deadline, so you could put it off indefinitely—and never accomplish it. Instead, try something like "I want to publish a blog post every 2 weeks for the duration of my internship." The deadline of "every 2 weeks" will keep you accountable. When you meet your deadline, you'll have accomplished your goal.