How to Create SMART Career Goals

Updated Content on 3/17/2023

How To Create SMART Career Goals

How To Create SMART Goals

We all want to accomplish goals in our personal lives and careers, and setting SMART goals can help you achieve those goals! For example, perhaps you aren’t fulfilled in your current job and are looking for a more rewarding career, or maybe your goal is to be the first person in your family to earn a degree or diploma. 


Regardless of your end goal, going through the process of setting SMART goals can help you along the way. The most effective plan for achieving your goals outlines these five guidelines: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. 

Using these criteria to create your SMART career goals can set you up for success in achieving them. Keep reading as we walk you through each step to creating effective SMART goals!


SMART career goals must be specific, so you know exactly what to do in order to achieve them.

Here is an example of a specific goal: I want to graduate with a Practical Nursing diploma in one year to expand my career opportunities in Pennsylvania. This is a specific goal because it answers the following questions:

  • Who- You want to… 
  • What- Graduate with a Practical Nursing diploma…
  • Where- In Pennsylvania
  • When- In one year…
  • Why- To expand career opportunities… 

Now that you have created a specific goal, you can pinpoint the exact steps you need to take and create a plan to achieve your goal. 


The next step in creating a SMART goal is to make sure your goal is measurable. This is important so you can track your progress toward your goal. Then, as you complete your plan to achieve your goal, you can tell if you’re on track or need to adjust your plan. 

Separating a large goal into smaller milestones is the best way to ensure your goal is measurable. For example, if your goal is to become a practical nurse in Pennsylvania, a few milestones you can set for yourself could include the following:

  • Researching schools that offer Practical Nursing Diploma programs
  • Attending an information session
  • Completing your first class
  • Passing your NCLEX-PN* exam

By setting smaller, more specific goals to help you reach your overall goal, you have created a measurable way to track your progress. 


As you think about your career goals, it is important to make sure that they are attainable because it can be challenging to stay motivated to achieve goals that are not attainable. An example of an unattainable goal could be to start working as a nurse next month without attending school or passing your boards. While this could achieve your overall goal of working as a nurse, it is not attainable because you must both complete schooling and pass the licensure exam to be allowed to practice as a nurse. Setting huge goals for yourself may seem like a smart idea, but it can actually be discouraging since you cannot take the steps to achieve them.

Adjusting your goal to make it more attainable for your life and individual situation is one way to stay on the right track to achieving your overall goal. In our practical nursing example, things to consider to ensure the goal is attainable for you could be:

  • The length of the program. Can you spend one year in school?
  • Your support system. Do you have a strong network of support?
  • The commitments. Are you prepared to attend school?

Ensuring your goal is attainable will help you set yourself up for success and provide motivation for achieving your goal.


Another thing to consider when creating your SMART goal is whether your goal is relevant to you. Sometimes, people can set specific goals without considering how they can impact their overall career goals. Some questions to ask yourself when determining if your specific goals are relevant are:

  • Is this something that you really want to achieve?
  • Do you care enough about this to put in the work to achieve it?
  • Does this goal align with your other goals?
  • Does this goal help you achieve your long-term plans?

For example, the goal of earning a Practical Nursing diploma is relevant because it will help you achieve the goal of expanding your career opportunities in Pennsylvania. By achieving the goal of becoming a practical nurse, you’re taking the steps toward a long-term goal of a career in nursing. 


The last aspect of a SMART goal is to make sure your goal is timely, meaning it has a definite time frame to attain the goal. If you create a goal with no deadline, there is no sense of urgency to work toward the goal, and you could find yourself unmotivated.

Creating a timeline for your goal could involve creating smaller deadlines for the milestones along the way. For example, some smaller deadlines for our practical nursing example could be:

  • Complete research on schools offering Practical Nursing Diploma programs by this Friday
  • Choose a school and attend an information session by the first of next month
  • Complete your first class by the end of the following month
  • Study for and pass your NCLEX-PN exam* by the end of the following year

By breaking your overall career goal into much smaller, more manageable bite-sized pieces, you can feel more in control of your future and know the steps you need to take to achieve your goal in your desired timeframe. 

United Career Institute is here to help you achieve your SMART goal!

Now that you have created your SMART career goal, you’re ready to take the next step toward pursuing your dreams. United Career Institute is here to guide you throughout the admissions and academic process by creating customized plans to help you work toward your goal. 

Take the first step in your goal plan by calling 724-515-2440 or Requesting Information to get started today.

*Passing the NCLEX-PN exam is required to become a Practical Nurse.