3 Questions to Ask When You’re Struggling to Be Specific About your Career Change Goals

It’s familiar advice. You need to set goals for your career. But many people struggle with career and work-life goals. 

How important are they? What difference do goals make? Do I need them? How do I choose the right career goals for me? Over the next few weeks, we will explore some of these questions. 

If you have some of these questions about your own career change, my hope is that this series will help.

Since it’s frequently used, our starting point will be the S.M.A.R.T.  model of goal-setting. 

As a reminder, according to this model, effective goal-setting requires goals that are:

  • specific
  • measurable
  • attainable
  • relevant
  • time-bound

This popular model is simple, easy to recall, and understandable. Its criteria are, at least partially, research-based.

But will SMART goals help you with your work-life transition?

Let’s begin with S for specific goals.  

How Might Having a Specific Goal for Career Change Be of Benefit?

How might making your goal specific help? Career change is often stressful. You may be asking if having a specific goal will help you to progress more quickly and reduce overwhelm? 

Choosing a specific goal is a way of narrowing your focus and making it easier to choose how to allocate your time and effort. Being specific may help you to plan a more efficient search.  

But if you’re struggling with specific goals, consider this question: 

What am I hoping to get from setting a specific goal? 

The next question to explore is what you can be specific about at this point in your transition. We’ll consider that next.

What Can you Be Specific About at This Phase of your Carer Transition?  

When it comes to career and work-life changes, there are many ways to select a specific goal.

For example, you might be specific about the industry you want to move to. You might say I want to move from banking to healthcare. 

Or you might be specific about your work-life balance. You have a specific goal of changing to a position where you can be office-based three days a week. 

You are the only person who has a full picture of your situation. The answers to these questions will be unique to you.

If you’re struggling to  identify what’s next in your career,  try describing what you want in more detail. 

Use the prompts below as a starting point. 

  • What I would like to be different in my work-life is …
  • What I want less of is ….
  • What I want more of is …..

Responding to these questions might not yet provide you with specific goals. But clarifying what is most important to you which help you to make some of the challenging choices that are often part of work-life transitions.   

Whether or not having specific goals will help you depends on your situation. But it’s also important to consider if specific career goals might slow your progress. We will finish this piece with that question. 

When Being Specific Might Hinder your Career Transition Progress 

In a rapidly changing area such as the world of work, ideas and customary practice may not keep up. Setting a specific goal won’t be effective without an up-to-date understanding of the labor market, current recruitment practice, and what employers are seeking

Friends or family, seeing you stressed, may want to help. But what worked for them may not work for you. If you’re a recent graduate, focusing too tightly on job titles or specific industries may be counterproductive. It’s important that your goals are based on up-to-date information.


If you’re struggling with setting goals for the career and work-life changes you want to make, it doesn’t mean that you’re not on the right track. There may be good reasons not to be too specific at this time.

Take some time to ask some new questions. Explore the benefit you are hoping for, what you can be specific about, and when specific goals may hinder your work-life transition progress.

In future weeks we will look at other aspects of goal setting for your career and work-life transition.  

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