by Susanne Beier, M.Ed., NCC, NCCC, LPC

As much as we would like to think society is making it easier for women to achieve their career goals, that is not necessarily the case. Even as professional women, we often spend the bulk of our energy focused on our roles as caretaker or “cheerleader” for our children and husband’s dreams. Half the time women don’t even realize when, in the process of “living happily ever after,” they lose sight of their own career goals. Instead of dreams and ambitions, there is a feeling of emptiness and “what about me” in head and heart.

If you are looking not just for another job, but to get back on the track of your career path, goal setting is a must. Women especially need to take the time to define their own needs and ambitions. This process begins by not only accepting the fact that you do have dreams, but by actually developing goals to attain them. Whether you are just starting a career, changing jobs, re-entering the workforce, or going back to school, you need to set some goals for yourself.

Goal setting is a must in developing an effective job search strategy. Some statements are neither attainable as goals, nor are they workable actions. They may just be good intentions. You must extract the hopes and good intentions from your mind and transform them into that which can be realistically accomplished. How do your goals measure up against the following criteria?

Characteristics Of Good Goals

A. Specific
A “good” goal says exactly what you want to accomplish. If you wanted to work with people, for example, you would need to be more specific than that.  Physicians work with people and so do undertakers.  You want to “Help people.” Be even more specific, how do you want to help people? Your goal might state “I want to be a counselor helping the elderly,” or “I want to become a geriatric nurse.”

B. Measurable
Being specific helps to make your goal measurable. You need something by which you can gauge your progress and tell you when you’ve reached your objective. For example, if you are in school, at the end of each semester you can tally up the credits that you’ve earned toward your degree.

C. Challenging
Your goal should require you to do something that will allow you to grow and improve yourself. Good goals are stimulating. Commit yourself to actions, which will stretch you to do your best.

D. Realistic 
A “good” goal must be attainable. Do you have, or will you be able to acquire the skills, experience and training you need to get the job you want? If your life’s dream is to work as a geriatric counselor, you would first have to finish your Bachelor’s Degree and then you will need to go to graduate school to be licensed in the field.

E. Time-Limited
You should not direct a goal to some vague period in the future. Select a reasonable time limit in which you can accomplish each step toward your goal. “I will have earned 30 credits toward my degree by the end of this school year.”

F. Action-Oriented
When expressing your goals, your statements should have active tense verbs and be complete sentences. Don’t make statements about something you won’t do. Make positive assertions instead. “I will go back to school next semester,” or “I will be certified as a geriatric counselor by this time next year.”

G. Useful 
This is the crucial test. Have you selected goals that will be most relevant to bridging the gap between where and what you are now and where and what you want to be? Do your goals deal with eliminating the differences in your present situation and what you want your future to be?

Career change has become much more common in recent decades. In many fields, the ability to adapt to change is crucial to professional survival. With ever changing workplace trends, your personal goals and aspirations may change as well. Your new goals still need to reflect your personal needs and professional dreams. It can be done. It is done everyday. is committed to presenting diverse points of view. However, the viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at IMD.