We live in a fast-paced world where everyone is striving to make the most of their career. With each passing day, it is becoming more and more important to have a well-planned career path to take you where you want to. “Work Smart, Not Just Hard” is now a piece of everyday advice for young adults who are just now venturing into the world of professionalism. Let us break down what the SMART method is and how SMART goals are helpful for an engineering career.
What is the S.M.A.R.T mechanism?
The SMART mechanism is a technique introduced by career specialists to identify proper goals and help professionals achieve them realistically. As per the mechanism, a S.M.A.R.T goal satisfies these five criteria:
Let us take a look at what these individual factors are:
Setting up goals that contain words like “maybe”, “possibly” have no space in the SMART funnel. When you decide what you want to achieve, it has to be specific. E.g. Launch my own company. You can decide the name and type of company that you, as an engineer would like to open.
Another example of a specific goal would be, “Becoming a professor at MLRIT, teaching Electronics & Telecommunication Engineering to students.” When your goal is specific, it becomes easy to discard all the other paths that do not lead to that goal.
You should be able to measure your success at achieving your goal. It can either be broken into several small achievements or milestones on your path there. Let us continue with the last example. You can set your milestones at degree, post-graduate degree, PhD. and then fellowship. You can add fellowships, simultaneous teaching, assistant professor as more milestones and attach several points you gain for achieving each milestone. You can set your own milestone for the specific career goal that you have set for yourself. As you keep a track of your score, you will be able to measure your progress towards the goal you have set.
you set should be able to take action towards whatever goal you set for yourself. Setting up vague goals will most definitely not be actionable i.e. you won’t be able to determine what you have to do to reach the destination you set. In the first example of professorship, you can take a lot of actions such as applying for post-grad programmes, taking examinations such as GATE to get admitted to the institution of your choice, attend certain seminars, become a member of an engineers’ society/association, submit research papers etc. All of these actions will help you achieve the goal of becoming a professor with MLRIT. When you choose your career goal, make sure you too can identify actions you can take to achieve that goal.
Your goal should be relevant/realistic to achieve. Setting your bar too high will lead to disappointment while setting it too low will leave you unsatisfied. Set your goals in a way that you can achieve them realistically. Also, your goal should align with the actions, measurements and specifications you give it. E.g. you cannot take actions that lead to a business administration while taking steps leading towards a scholarly degree. Also, ensure you set your goal exactly as per your ability. One clever trick is to set your goal a little higher than what you think you can really achieve. You’re more capable than you would like to think you are.
Once you have set a realistic goal that you can achieve, measure and take proper actions on, put a time limit on it. Of course, the time limit would not be outrageously tight or ridiculously loose. Let us once again take the example of the professorship. Assuming you are 18 years old right now, it would take you another 4 years at a minimum to complete your engineering degree. Then another two years for a masters degree and then approx. three years more to complete your PhD with fellowships. Give yourself a buffer time of another one year, you get around 8 years to achieve your goal. You may add in factors such as family responsibilities (should there be any) to defer as and when the time comes to adjust your timeline on the go.
When you decide to make a career out of engineering, ensure your goals are specific. Measure your progress as you work towards achieving your goals. Take necessary actions to make progress better and smoother. Be sure that your goal(s) is/are realistic and relevant. Set a time limit to bring about a sense of urgency.
As you strive towards excellence in your chosen field, always remember to have a little flexibility. Don’t be too harsh on yourself, but don’t be soft either. The SMART framework will help you gain clarity on what you need to do. You can also break down your long term goals into smaller, short-term goals and then apply the same concepts to those smaller goals. Stick to the schedule, be clear on what you wish to do as an engineer, and you surely will be able to achieve what you aspire.