Employing Goals to Achieve Professional Success

professional-goals-imageKnowing how to use goal setting to achieve professional success can provide a strong foundation for career progression generally, but at a personal level, it’s first essential to define what success ‘looks like’ for you – perhaps earning a certain salary, or attaining a certain position? Once you have identified what success means for you, you can then use goals to help create a path towards this.

Stepping stones to success

From the very first career-based goal you set, you are taking ownership of your professional progress, something which also promotes accountability and allows you to question, check and evaluate your progress. As such, goals become stepping stones which help to:

  • Identify and address gaps in experience and skills;
  • Promote learning and skills acquisition;
  • Underpin all areas of future progress – career, earning and learning;
  • Inform your next steps, as even failing to achieve a goal brings a steep learning curve which can inform future action and goal setting;
  • Improve focus – on both the routes for achieving the goal and in evaluating it
  • Define outcomes – what you really want to do;
  • Map out the steps required and the timeline.

Goal setting can also have a role to play in stress management. It helps to organise steps into achievable chunks, rather than be overwhelmed or out of control.

Formally or informally

Setting career goals can be a part of formal appraisal process, but doesn’t have to be as formal – or as onerous. If not part of a formal process, personal goal setting can be something as simple as sitting down and asking yourself what you really want in order to progress in your career, then how you might achieve this.

The practice of professional goal setting is used in most sectors as well as in many individuals’ personal lives to help them fulfil goals. From the spheres of health, education and business have come many examples of good practice in professional goal setting, and at the heart of these lies what are known as SMART goals.

The art of SMART

SMART goals are so-called due to the acronym used to explain them and of course because they promote a standard which tends to be the smart way to make goal setting successful. The SMART criteria is generally:

S – Specific

M – Measurable

A – Attainable / achievable

R – Relevant, realistic or resourced (depending on the context)

T – Timed [setting a timescale – 2 weeks, 1 month, 6 months]

Of course, the best way to understand the SMART process is to see it in action. For example, a broad statement such as “I need a professional qualification” is something to which the SMART criteria can be applied, to not only transform this statement into a goal, but to also guide thinking towards the what, why and how of the steps needed to achieve the goal, the basis of the action plan for achieving it.

So, asking what, why and how questions when applying each part of the SMART criteria may transform this broad statement as follows:

I need a professional qualification”

SPECIFIC – identify the professional remit for this, such as Event Management and use positive action words which direct from ‘want’ or ‘need’ statements, towards the more purposeful ‘will’.  Combining this with consideration as to why this will be done, starts to shift the statement into much more of a goal already:

I will improve my professional status with a qualification in Event Management”

MEASURABLE – so how can success in this be measured? In this example, identifying the level of qualification can be a start, so a little research into the options which suit learning / earning opportunities can help to tweak this statement into a measurable goal:

I will improve my professional status by gaining a Diploma in Event Management”

ATTAINABLE – next, adding the action or route by which the goal could be achieved begins to transform it into a personal action plan. At this stage, the goal should definitely not still include words such as ‘want’ or ‘need’ but include only action words such as ‘will’ or ‘shall’.

Now, this stage of goal setting will be influenced by personal factors which you should consider carefully, as there’s no point in setting a goal which is impossible to achieve. So, what you add here should be decided in the context of your lifestyle, including any domestic or financial responsibilities or constraints. In the case of this example the availability of training opportunities which fit in with time constraints have been considered:

I will improve my professional status by gaining a Diploma in Event Management with a part-time course

RELEVANT or RESOURCED – taking a pause to consider how to keep the goal relevant to the required outcome, or what resources may be needed to achieve it is vital at this stage and should be added into the goal. So for example, if time needs to be freed up to attend the course and for study, the example goal may develop into:

I will improve my professional status by gaining a Diploma in Event Management with a part-time course and will [reduce my work hours / keep two days and evenings a week free] to commit to my studies.

TIMED – although creating time to achieve the goal has been part of the goal development, an overall time-line is a must in a SMART goal. The alternative, open-ended goals are a path to procrastination rather than positive outcomes, so setting a deadline, even an interim one, is essential! Consider too other factors, such as resources and keeping your goal attainable (those what and how questions) then add the context of when you want to achieve it all. In our example, this overall time-line could be driven by personal requirements or course-length, to become:

I will improve my professional status by the end of 2017 through gaining a Diploma in Event Management with a part-time course and will [reduce my work hours / keep two days and evenings a week free] to commit to my studies.”


I will improve my professional status by my next appraisal meeting through gaining a Diploma in Event Management with a part-time course and will [reduce my work hours / keep two days and evenings a week free] to commit to my studies.”

Using the SMART criteria for even informal career goals is essential if you are at the early stages of career development, but also if you have set goals but not so defined, as practising formal goal setting as a means for achieving professional success is also a skills-builder, enabling you to develop prowess in goal setting, monitoring and evaluation – skills which are vital professional practice for the higher echelons of event management itself.

The practice of goal setting for yourself also provides a strong record of the course of your career and how you have evaluated, responded to needs and challenges and taken control… something which lies at the heart of event management. Learn more on eventcourse.

blog 1Written by Justine Kane

Justine has spent the past 5 years as Course Director for an event management training Institute, placing hundreds of graduates into roles and tutoring them through to successful qualification.

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