SMART Goals: Definition and Examples

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 19 December 2022

Published 12 September 2019

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Goal setting is a helpful way to build the career you want. By setting objectives and creating a clear roadmap for how you’ll reach your intended target, you can decide how to apply your time and resources to make progress. Without goals, it can be difficult to determine how to get a certain job, promotion or other milestones you want to achieve.

Whenever you set an objective for yourself, you should include each step necessary for success. To help, you can use a framework called SMART goals. In this article, we review how SMART goals work and explore several tips and examples to assist you in your own goal-setting efforts.

Related:

  • How To Utilise Goal-Setting Theory in the Workplace

  • How To Set Achievable Business Goals at Work

What are SMART goals?

A SMART goal is a carefully planned, clear and trackable objective. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based.

  • S = Specific: Be as clear and specific as possible with what you want to achieve. For example, instead of saying “I want to be in leadership” you might say, “I want to earn a position managing a development team for a startup tech company.” The more narrow your goal, the more you’ll understand the steps necessary to achieve it.

  • M = Measurable: What evidence will prove you’re making progress toward your goal? For example, if your goal is to earn a position managing a development team for a startup tech company, you might measure progress by the number of management positions you’ve applied for and the number of interviews you’ve completed. Setting milestones along the way will give you the opportunity to re-evaluate and course correct as needed. When you achieve your milestones, remember to reward yourself in small but meaningful ways.

  • A = Achievable: Have you set an achievable goal? Setting goals you can reasonably accomplish within a certain timeframe will help keep you motivated and focused. Using the above example of earning a job managing a development team, you should know the credentials, experience and skills necessary to earn a leadership position. Before you begin working toward a goal, decide whether it’s something you can achieve now or whether there are additional preliminary steps you should take to become better prepared.

  • R = Relevant: When setting goals for yourself, consider whether or not they are relevant. Each of your goals should align with your values and larger, long-term goals. If a goal doesn’t contribute toward your broader objectives, you might want to rethink it. Ask yourself why the goal is important to you, how achieving it will help you and how it will contribute toward your long-term goals.

  • T = Time-based: What is your goal time frame for achieving the goal? An end date can provide motivation and help you prioritise your goals. For example, if your goal is to earn a promotion to a more senior position, you might give yourself six months. If you haven’t achieved your goal in that timeframe, take time to consider why. Your timeframe might have been unrealistic, you might have run into unexpected roadblocks or your goal might have been unachievable.

Related:

  • Understanding Objectives vs. Goals (Including Examples)

  • What Is a Performance Indicator? (And How To Create One)

  • 9 Tips on How to Self-Motivate (With FAQs)

Why should I use SMART goals?

Using the SMART goal framework sets boundaries and defines the steps you’ll need to take, the resources necessary to get there, and milestones that indicate progress along the way. With SMART goals, you’re more likely to achieve your goal efficiently and effectively.

Here are a few examples of how SMART goals can benefit people in different circumstances:

  • Laura would like to change careers from customer support to design…

  • Aaron knows that his goal is to become a sales manager but he’s not sure where to begin…

  • Tania wants to get a job in the healthcare industry but doesn’t have industry experience…

Related:

  • How To Set Career Goals

  • How To Write an Action Plan To Help Achieve Your Goals

Examples of SMART goals

Here are two smart goal examples:

Example 1

I will obtain a job as a high school maths teacher within three months of graduating with my Bachelor of Science in Education.

  • Specific: The goal of becoming a high school maths teacher is well-defined.

  • Measurable: Success can be measured by the number of applications, interviews and job offers.

  • Achievable: The goal-setter will have the appropriate degree for the job.

  • Realistic: The goal-setter is planning to achieve the goal within a realistic timeframe after graduating from university.

  • Time-based: The goal-setter has set a deadline to achieve their objective within three months of graduation.

Example 2

I will earn a promotion to a senior customer service representative by completing the required training modules in three months and applying for the role at the end of next quarter.

  • Specific: The goal-setter has clearly set the objective to be promoted to senior customer services rep.

  • Measurable: Success can be measured by training module completion, filing the application and earning the promotion.

  • Achievable: The goal-setter will complete the training necessary to earn the promotion.

  • Realistic: The goal-setter is planning to apply for the promotion after finishing their training modules.

  • Time-based: The goal-setter has set a deadline to achieve their objective at the end of the following business quarter.

Setting SMART goals can help you move forward in your career and achieve the success you want. While goals can be challenging, using the SMART framework can organise the process and provide structure before you begin.

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