Be SMART to set and achieve your career goals

As summer approaches and you consider your options, we are here to help you map out ways to be strategic with your time over summer break. 

Whether you plan to use this time to build your network, develop your skillset, explore career pathways, or build your resume, your goals should be personal, value-driven, and above all else, SMART.

Consider the SMART acronym when planning your summer: 

SPECIFIC — clear, simple, and direct

Your goal should be targeted enabling you to hone in your energy and focus on one specific desired outcome.

You may use the five W’s to help you get specific: 

  1. Who are the stakeholders involved? (what is the role each of them plays)
  2. What is it that I want to achieve? (what is the desired outcome)
  3. Where will this take place? (virtual, community, organization)
  4. When do I begin? (timeline)
  5. Why am I pursuing this? (the value it provides)


I received critical feedback from my professors that my presentation skills negatively impacted my final grades in my courses. As an aspiring social science researcher, it is imperative that I further develop my ability to present and connect with my audience. I’d like to be more confident in my ability to present by the start of the fall semester.

MEASURABLE — concrete, quantifiable, thematic, and outcome-oriented

Your ability to measure your goals provides a framework for your starting point, deadlines, small wins, and progress towards your end goal while helping you stay on track and maintain motivation. 

  • What are the clear indicators that signify I am making progress towards my goal?
  • How much effort/output is moving the needle? 


By the time I complete my first presentation in the fall semester, I will be able to effectively engage with my audience throughout my presentation, make continual eye contact, and receive higher peer reviews across the peer grading rubric.  

ACHIEVABLE — challenging yet realistic

To achieve success, your goal should be within your reach. This may require skill development, collaboration with others, and tapping into external resources.


  • potential limitations in reaching the goal
  • and actionable steps to overcome such limitations.


This summer I will set aside 3-5 hours a week to complete a LinkedIn Learning course on Public Speaking. Additionally, I will join a public speaking workshop that meets virtually once a week for 12 weeks to practice my presentation skills. 

RELEVANT — personally important and impactful

Before taking on a new goal, ask yourself:

  • what is the added value of this goal?
  • is this in alignment with my career pathway or career exploration?
  • what purpose does this goal serve? 


Presentations have been worth about 25% of my final grade. If I want to be a social science researcher and present at conferences effectively, I will need to continue to develop this skill and track my progress this summer.

TIMELY — timeline-oriented and trackable

We can set many professional and personal goals, but if we don’t outline a timeline and our milestones toward the end result, it becomes difficult to manage and accomplish.

Think about:

  • how long do I have to achieve this goal?
  • what are my milestones along the way?
  • how can I break this down into sizable tasks? 


I will ask the workshop participants to take a pre-session and post-session survey on my presentation skills in order to assess my improvement over the 12-week workshop. This will provide further evidence on being ready for my first presentation this upcoming fall semester.

Summary of SMART goal

In our example, the final SMART goal would be:

I would like to be confident when presenting content and to do this I will set aside 3-5 hours a week to complete a LinkedIn Learning course on Public Speaking and join a public speaking workshop that meets virtually once a week for 12 weeks to practice my presentation skills. 


Goals are a personal desirable outcome, and it sometimes takes recalibrating or pivoting along the way. You can always connect with a career counselor for a virtual counseling session via phone or Zoom to discuss your aspiring career goals. We are here to help!