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Plan your next career move

by Jennifer Harper

Got a career goal? Make a plan and work towards achieving that goal using the SMART model.

Identifying a career choice is hard work. Taking the steps to get there can be even harder. That is why it is beneficial to have a plan!

Within that plan you can set yourself tasks – these tasks are the stepping stones you need to achieve in order to reach your ultimate goal.

So how do I do that, you may ask? Applying the SMART model is one positive way of being clear about what it is that you need to achieve when taking those steps towards your goal. The SMART model – first discussed and researched in 1968 by Dr Edwin Locke – is a tried and tested method of identifying your goal, working out what you need to do, and then committing to it.

So what does SMART mean?

Specific – Clearly identify something on which you need to work.

Measurable – How, or what, do you need to do to progress with this?

Achievable – Is this achievable? Do you have access – or the tools – to complete this?

Relevant/Realistic – How does this task impact on your main goal? Is it realistic to achieve?

Time-bound – When will you be able to complete this? Set a deadline.

For example, John would like to gain a role within an Accounts department but he does not have any relevant qualifications. John’s SMART goal could be:

S – Identify a relevant introductory Accountancy course, such as the AAT Foundation Certificate in Accounting (Level 2)

M – This course will take 6-12 months to complete. John registers with the AAT and identifies a training provider running this course.

A – John is able to devote one day per week to work on this course. However it costs between £600 and £2,000, with additional assessment and registration fees – he has identified using savings to pay for it.

R – Having read about the course and the relevance of AAT courses, John understands this qualification can open the door to many job roles, such as Accounts Administrator, Purchase/sales ledger clerk, or Trainee Accounting Technician.

T – John plans to enrol for the course this week and is hoping to complete it within a year.

You can apply the SMART method to anything, such as:

  • Updating your CV.
  • Applying for jobs – what kind of jobs are you going to apply for? How many applications can you realistically complete per week? Is this achievable?
  • Deciding to change career direction – what jobs would you like to do? What qualifications or experience is needed? How are you going to get those qualifications or experience? Who can you speak to? When are you going to speak to them?
  • Identifying a sector in which you would like to work (i.e. healthcare, Third Sector).
  • Implementing a new system at work – why is the new system needed? Who needs to be consulted? What steps need to be taken to complete this? What else needs to be in place? Is this realistic? When will it be completed?
  • Developing a schedule.
  • Organising your finances and making a savings plan – what are your weekly/monthly bills? How much is left over? What other expenses might you incur each week? How much can you afford to put aside? Is this realistic and achievable? How often can you put money aside? When are you going to start?

While looking at your SMART goal, it is really important to remember that you are human and sometimes life presents additional difficulties or obstacles. That is why it is essential to review your goal at regular intervals to make sure you are still able to commit, that it is still achievable, and it is achievable within the timeframe you set yourself. Don’t be afraid of reviewing the model – this is a sign of your commitment to working towards achieving your goal:

S – Has the task/action got a new focus?

M – Have you identified additional things you need to do or to consider?

A – Are there additional resources you need to access?

R – Are you able to achieve this?

T – Consider if you need to adjust your deadline.

Reviewing as you progress will help you to stay focused and to ultimately achieve your goal.

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