set SMART goals in wood type

We’ve already talked about breaking down your career plan into long-term goals and short term goals. Today we’re going to talk about getting down to the most granular level of your career plan: your critical next steps.


Ideally, your next steps will correspond directly to one of your short term goals. Furthermore, your next steps will be like mini SMART goals all to themselves, though they may work better as a bulleted kind of to-do list with due dates, rather than as a specifically written out goal statement.


Next steps should be single tasks. You shouldn’t be able to think of any (or very many, at least) sub-tasks for them. For instance if you have a short-term goal of taking the ACT before the end of the school year, you next steps might look something like this:

• Check ACT website for test dates. (by 8/15)

• Choose a test date. (by 9/1)

• Check ACT website for registration deadline. (by 9/15)

• Register for chosen test date. (by 10/1)

• Take first practice test. (by 10/15)

• Research ACT study guides and classes. (by 11/15)

• Enroll in ACT study class. (by 12/1)

• Complete ACT study class. (by 1/1)

• Take second practice test. (by 2/15)

• Take ACT. (by 3/15)


Of course, you may not need to get quite that specific. A simple “Register for ACT, Study for ACT, Take ACT” may be sufficient for you. As long as you have a specific goal in mind and a specific due date for that goal, you should be fine. The point, of course, is to help you break down larger, more long-term and challenging goals into mini-goals that are completely achievable with just a little effort.  Most people don’t fail to achieve their dreams because they are incapable of doing so—most people who fail to achieve their dreams fail before they ever even start, simply because they could never figure out where to start.


By taking some time upfront to map out what exactly you need to do—where you need to start—to achieve your dreams, you’ll already be well on your way to achieving them. If you’ve ever heard the phrase: “how do you eat an elephant?—one bite at a time” you should get the idea.

Good luck!