Setting SMART Goals for Career Success

October 25, 2021 | Teresa L

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The Fall season brings a sense of change and newfound energy with it. It’s a great time to refocus, get motivated and set career goals. When it comes to your career, setting goals and making them achievable is a way to hold yourself accountable.

One great career goal might be to learn a new skill or take an online course to make you more competitive in the labour market. This will help you gain an advantage over your competition.

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Check out the many eLearning resources and services offered at the Toronto Public Library. In particular, LinkedIn Learning and Gale Courses offer suggested courses on topics to keep you competitive in your field.


SMART is an acronym used for goal setting. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. Goals are part of every aspect of career and life and provide a sense of motivation, direction, clarity and focus.

So how can you go about setting SMART goals this season? Let’s breakdown each area of this acronym:

S – Specific: Goals that are well defined have a significantly greater chance of being accomplished. To make a goal specific, consider the five “W” questions. Who, When, What, Where, and Why?

M – Measurable: How are you going to measure your progress? If there are no criteria, you will not be able to determine your development and if you are on track to reach your goal.

A – Achievable: The goal must be achievable and attainable. The goal should make you feel challenged but defined well enough that you can achieve it. This will help you figure out ways you can realize your goal and work towards it.

R – Realistic: Is the goal within reach? Do you have the time and resources available to you to achieve your goal? As well, are you able to fully commit to your goal?  

T – Timely: Goals must have a start and finish date. If the goal is not time-constrained, you will have no sense of urgency and less motivation to achieve the goal.


Example of a SMART Goal

A newly graduated student may set a goal such as this:

As a new graduate from a certified Ontario college Paramedic Program, I want to become a Paramedic in Ontario by dedicating 5 hours a week to prepare for writing and passing the Ontario certification exam within 6 months’ time.

Specific:  The intended job title, and the paramedic certification exam are all listed to clarify what the goal setter wants.

Measurable: Achievement involves passing the exam and serving in a specific role.

Achievable: Each step is outlined within a realistic time frame that accounts for preparation, and study.

Relevant: As a graduate of a paramedic program, this goal is within the goal setter's industry.

Time-based: They have outlined hours needed to study each week and outlined when they will write the exam.

Taking the time to create SMART goals will help you refocus your career goals this Fall. Being intentional about your strategy will set you up for success.

Once you have defined your SMART goals, start each morning by reviewing your goals for the day and end each night by reflecting on what you achieved. Regularly following this routine will add intention and direction to your journey.


Post written by Catherine Crawford, 2021-2022 Career Coach in Residence.


Need help figuring out your career goals?

The Career Coaches in Residence program offers remote career and job search help for younger adults (18 to 29) from Sept 13, 2021 to Feb 19, 2022. Book a free appointment today.

For more career and job help resources, visit our Job & Career Help page.

The Career Coaches in Residence program is generously supported by RBC Foundation and with the support of several donors.

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