How to Make your Career Transition Goals More Attainable (and More Relevant)


The first two of this series of posts on goal setting for career and work-life transitions were about the first two criteria of the S.M.A.R.T goal model, S for specific and M for measurable.  This post asks if A for Attainable (the third criterion of the SMART model of effective goal-setting) is helpful for career changers.

A for Attainable: Do Career Changers Benefit from Choosing Attainable Goals?

Given that uncertainty is very much part of career transition, does it even make sense to talk about attainable goals? We begin by asking what we mean by attainable career change goals. Then we look at what else you should consider to make your goals more relevant and more effective.

What exactly do we mean by attainable goals? One meaning of attainable is achievable. On the surface, choosing career change goals that we believe are achievable sounds rational. You don’t want to waste time and energy on goals that are not going to be attainable. 

For example, some roles require specific abilities. To train as an airline pilot you need to pass specific vision tests. So whether or not a goal is attainable is defined not only by what you believe you can do, but also the criteria defined  by governing bodies and potential employers. 

Choosing what is attainable is often not as straightforward as the example above. A more nuanced approach is needed. To keep your goals relevant, it’s important to consider both your personal perspective and the context. 

Consider the Context

As well as meaning“achievable,” attainable also means “arriving at.” This is a reminder to consider both what you believe you can do and external factors that may be outside of your control. Paying attention to the context is critical. So what other questions will help you to choose goals that are as relevant and useful as possible?

As discussed previously, how you feel about your goals is important. One question to ask here is whether your attainable goals are connected to what’s most important to you in your work and your life. Are your goals aspirational as well as attainable? Returning to the fundamental questions of what you value most can be particularly useful when you reach difficult decision points. 

There are two more qualities that you can use to evaluate the usefulness of your goals. Ask yourself if your attainable goals are also agile and actionable. We will return to these two qualities in upcoming posts when we discuss the final two dimensions of the S.M.A.R.T goal model, R for realistic and T for time-bound.

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