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Goal setting: How to create career goals

Goals shouldn’t just be another administrative task, instead they can help bring your long-term career vision to life. Your goals should motivate you, keep you inspired, and give you something to strive for—at any stage of your career. Check out these goal-setting strategies.

First 30-60-90 day plan

Within the first few weeks of a new job, you may be asked to define what you’d like to achieve in the first 30, 60, or 90 days. This method provides a good balance of structure and routine to keep you on track and sets you up to learn on the job, while adding value right away. The first 30 days should focus on learning. The second 30 days should focus on making real contributions. And the final 30 days should focus on going above and beyond to excel in your new role.  
Think of this as an opportunity to show your skills to your new boss—highlighting your time management, prioritization, and organization skills. 

S.M.A.R.T goals

When creating career goals, if you’re unsure where to begin, consider the S.M.A.R.T. method (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound)—a framework that helps guide you through the goal-setting process.* 

  • Specific: Think back to the 5 “W” questions: who, what, where, when, and why. Drafting goals with details that answer these questions help clearly define what you want to accomplish. 
  • Measurable: Adding a benchmark, a way to measure your goal, makes it easier to track your progress and know when you’ve reached your target. Measuring success doesn’t always have to be tied to numbers and metrics, it can also be based on feedback. 
  • Achievable: Goals are important, but only if they are realistic. Can you actually accomplish the goal you’ve set? You should always stretch yourself, but be mindful of potential limitations that are outside of your control.  
  • Relevant: Create goals that matter to you and your organization—they should have purpose. Think about the big picture. How does your goal connect to the overall company strategy? Professional goals should help move you and the company forward at the same time. 
  • Time-bound: Goals need to have a deadline, something to work toward. Understanding there’s a finish line helps you to map out milestones along the way. This keeps you motivated and provides opportunities to celebrate small victories. 

Goal expectations

You may feel tempted to prove your value by pursuing aggressive and ambitious goals, but pacing yourself is important. Have patience and perspective. You won’t know everything right away, so don’t assume you’ll be able to solve the organization’s biggest pains within one season. Likewise, learning and mastering every aspect of your job can take time. As a result, it’s a good idea to periodically review and update your goals to ensure they still align with your long-term career aspirations.

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*Jennifer Herrity, “Guide on How To Write SMART Goals (With Examples),” Indeed, September 30, 2022,

This information is general in nature and provided for educational purposes only.