Set SMART Career Goals for 2014

As 2013 draws to a close, it’s time to dust off your New Years resolutions and set career goals for 2014. However, despite your best intentions, you’re likely to abandon your goals less than a month into the New Year; this is because your goals might be too general, too large or too vague to achieve. 

To stay truly committed to your goals, rewrite each one using the “SMART Goals” formula: Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic, and Time-Bound. Here’s an explanation of each element, with an example:  

Specific: A goal should be as specific as possible, stated clearly in 1-2 sentences. “To find a position where I can earn more money” is vague. “To find a position where I can double my income over 3 years” is more specific. 

Measurable: A goal is measurable if there is a specific outcome to be attained. The more quantified a goal is, the greater the likelihood is that the goal is measurable. Compare these two statements: “I want to earn more money” (non-measurable); “I want to earn 35% more in gross income” (measurable).

Action-Oriented: A goal must be action-oriented to be achieved; you must do something to make it happen. Nothing will happen if you wait for the ideal employment situation to fall into your lap. You need to “shake the trees” and engage in multiple activities, such as tapping into your network or researching online and library databases to find companies where you might like to work.

Realistic: While it’s wonderful to dream big, setting the bar too high can be frustrating. When you add some realism into your goal, it will be more achievable for you. For example, you set a goal in January 2014 of finding a position that pays $125,000 by March 2014. This may be unrealistic under the prevailing rule that you can expect to search at least one month for every $10,000 in desired annual income. So you might want to adjust this goal to January 2015 instead of March 2014, even though you may reach it ahead of schedule. 

Time-Bound: When you set a date and timeframe to reach your goals, there is a greater likelihood that you will achieve them. Using the example above, your goal can be worded like this: “To be in a/an [insert your industry] position where I am earning $125,000 by January 2014.” Of course, this is a large goal and you will need to break it down into sub-goals and benchmarks in order to track your progress and maintain motivation.   

If you revisit your goals and rewrite them using the SMART formula principles, I can guarantee that you’ll position yourself for greater success in 2014 and the years to come.

© Joellyn Wittenstein Schwerdlin, The Career Success Coach 2013

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    Take Small Steps to Reach Your Big Career Goals

    Want to reach your career goals more deliberately, with fewer roadblocks? Look to the principles of Kaizen: small steps toward continuous improvement. An excellent book on this topic is: One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way.

    The author, psychologist Dr. Robert Maurer, has proven that Kaizen can help people achieve career and life goals in a gentle, non-fearful way: “Rooted in the two thousand-year-old wisdom of the Tao Te Ching-‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’- Kaizen is the art of making great and lasting change through small, steady increments.”

    While working as a corporate consultant in the mid-1980s, Dr. Maurer became intrigued with Kaizen principles. When he saw how successfully Kaizen worked in business settings, he felt confident that he could adapt Kaizen principles to help his private clients who had trouble reaching their personal and professional goals.

    Dr. Maurer saw Kaizen as a way for his clients to reach goals by getting past their natural fear of change, creativity and success. He concluded that his clients’ struggles were due to simple brain physiology, specifically the amygdala of the brain cortex, which controls the “fight or flight” instinct. Typically, when people begin a new goal or project, the amygdala automatically sets off an alarm which triggers fear, shuts down the “thinking part” of the brain cortex, and prevents forward progress.

    According to Dr. Maurer, the key to using Kaizen effectively is to “tiptoe past the amygdala” and “keep it asleep” by breaking down a large goal into small, comfortable steps. By taking small steps, the brain’s cortex continues to work and starts to create “software” for desired changes which constructs new nerve pathways, builds new habits, weakens resistance, and speeds goal attainment.

    To further understand this model, look to the diagram below, from page 25 of the book:

    Large goal >> fear >> access to cortex restricted >> failure

    Small goal >> fear bypassed >> cortex engaged >> success

    For example, if you cringe at the idea of networking for job search and career purposes, start with one small step: write down the name of just one person to contact: someone who would take your call, no matter what. Next steps could be lifting the phone, dialing the number, and saying “hi” when your contact says “hello.” Most likely, since you already have a good rapport with this contact, your chat will go well, which will help you be less fearful of making your next call.    

    Kaizen has worked for dozens of Dr. Maurer’s clients. One compelling case study he cites is a stressed, single working mom who needed to exercise for health reasons; but she was resistant and fearful of it, besides being time-crunched with family and professional obligations. By first agreeing to march in place for 60 seconds in front of the TV every night, she joyfully expanded to full aerobic workouts within a few months.

    Dr. Maurer describes six ways to implement Kaizen in chapters 2-7. One is “taking small actions” which are tiny and almost trivial. Using the networking example, think of how it can be divided into even smaller steps, i.e., picking up a pen. Another is “asking small questions.” With the same example, a small question could be: “Why is networking so scary for me?”

    To learn more, visit Dr. Maurer’s website: or purchase his book from

    © 2010 Joellyn Wittenstein Schwerdlin. The Career Success Coach.  All Rights Reserved.

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