Defining Your Goals
To paraphrase Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” In other words, you need goals, which some have referred to as “dreams with a deadline.” The first step toward reaching your goals is your ability to envision and articulate them.
Many people are able to easily define their career goal (e.g., “I want to be a successful X”). That’s a great start, but to come up with an actionable plan, you’ll need to go further. First, undertake a thorough self-assessment. Then consider the questions below to start defining your goals.
SMART is an acronym that defines assorted key criteria that you may use to analyze your goal(s). SMART goals are commonly defined as those that are:
- Realistic (and relevant); and
An example of a specific goal is, "I want to work as a successful music supervisor on major motion pictures, television shows, and video games." An example of a nonspecific goal is, "I want to work in the music, TV, or film industry."
How will you measure progress toward your goal? Using the example above, you might keep track of how many films, shows, or games you are hired to work on to measure your progress.
Continuing with the above example, it's likely that your initial work will not be as a music supervisor as that position is generally for those who have built up more experience. However, that doesn't mean that your goal is not achievable. It just means that you'll need to understand the kind of work you'll need to engage in to set yourself up to achieve your ultimate goal. In this way, achieving your goal is not a yes-or-no question but a process that will involve a series of steps along the way. See the section below on short-term and intermediate-term goals for more.
What is the degree of difficulty others have faced in achieving your stated goal? Compare your set of skills, experience, education, and motivation to others in your field to establish benchmarks against which you can test whether your goal is realistic. As you establish and meet short-term and intermediate-term goals, be sure to examine them to ensure that they are relevant to your ultimate goal. Using our example, you might research successful music supervisors to learn more about their prior experiences and how they were able to reach a goal similar to the one you're interested in.
How much time can and will you give yourself to achieve your short-term, intermediate-term, and long-term goals? Giving yourself a series of deadlines may be helpful in keeping you on track and providing motivation. To make your deadlines realistic, research others who have taken a path similar to what you envision for yourself, and take note of the amount of time involved from each step of their career to the next one. Better yet, ask them for an informational interview to learn more. As you evaluate your research, don't give too much weight to any one person's experience. Instead, research a broad cross-section of those who have achieved your goal so that you will be able to define "normal" timeframes of success with some degree of confidence.
Questions for Further Defining Your Goals
Does it mean making a lot of money? Does it mean working with or for people you believe in and admire? Does it mean making a positive difference in the world? Ideally, all of these definitions of success would intersect, but if they don’t, which definition of is most important to you?
Is your career goal the only one that matters to you, or are other goals equally important? For example, do you want to make time with family a priority? If your career goals and other goals will be competing for your time, what are some ways that you may be able to facilitate their peaceful coexistence in your life?
While not unheard of, it’s very rare for anyone to jump directly from setting their long-term goal to achieving it. More often, there are a series of steps involved. By breaking down your long-term goal into a series of short-term and intermediate-term goals, you'll map out a path to achievement that's more realistic than that of the overnight success.
These are just a few of the questions you may want to ask yourself when setting your goals. The Berklee Career Center is here to help you explore these questions in more detail.