How to set SMART career goals

New Year's resolutions are hard to keep. Use this framework to make -- and keep -- career goals in 2017.

Missed target.

New Year’s resolutions are hard to keep. 

According to a study from the Journal of Clinical Psychology, 71 percent of resolution-makers are successful for two weeks. At this point in the year -- about one month in -- that number slips to 64 percent. Come June, just 46 percent keep their resolutions.

But why? According to Blake Angove, director of technology services and marketing at recruiting company LaSalle Network, it boils down to a lack of structure in goal setting.

“People don’t really come up with a plan to accomplish their resolutions,” he says. “They don’t think about time constraints, for example, or the steps they’re going to take to get there.” 

If you’re not happy in your job, for example, it’s easy to say that you’ll find a new job this year. Or maybe you want a promotion, or vow to learn a new programming language. Setting yourself up for success, Angove says, starts with having a plan.

Enter SMART goals. The acronym first appeared in a 1981 paper in Management Review by George Doran, a consultant and former director of corporate planning for Washington Water Power Company. Professionals and everyday people have since used it as a framework to help develop effective goals.

According to Doran, goals should be set based on five criteria:


Putting it into practice, let’s say you’ve resolved to improve your application development skills (coincidentally, it’s Computerworld’s No. 1 hottest skill for 2017). 

The first step: Target something specific to application development -- Drupal, for example -- then determine how you will measure progress: Maybe you’ll commit to watching a five-part video tutorial. Since it’s an individual goal, it’s assignable to you. Then, think about the results that you can realistically achieve given your available resources (do you have the time to watch five videos, or is your personal and professional life too hectic?). Finally, specify when you’ll accomplish this: Maybe you commit to watching one video after work each week for five weeks, for example.

A few other tips key to sticking to your resolution, according to Angove: Write it down somewhere you’ll see it everyday, set reminders in your calendar and consider finding a coworker who’s interested in making the same resolution.

“In IT, one of the biggest things that spell success are team-based goals,” he says. “A great way to hold yourself accountable is pairing up with someone who wants to pursue the same certification, for example, and hold each other to accomplishing it.” 

What goals -- and tips for success -- do you have for 2017?

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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