Setting SMART Career Goals

What Are SMART Career Goals
and How To Create Them

Setting SMART Career GoalsIn today’s fast-paced work environment, it is crucial to have a clear understanding of where you want to go in your career. Setting SMART goals allows you to have clear, well-defined objectives that are realistic and structured. 

The acronym SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely.  With a solid framework, SMART goals can help individuals stay motivated to act on their dreams.

You can be better prepared to complete your goals using the SMART goal method. WVJC is here to provide to help you understand everything that goes into creating an effective SMART goal!


When developing a SMART goal, you want to make sure that your goal is manageable. If you make your goal too broad, it will be hard to know when or if you’ve completed your goal. With a specific goal, tracking your progress toward completing it becomes easier.

One way to help make your goal specific is to answer the 5 W’s: who, what, where, when, and why. Keep reading to discover how each helps make your goal more specific.


This answers the question of who is responsible for completing this goal. For example, if the goal was for yourself, which in most cases it will be, you could start with “I want to….”


The “what” answers the part that covers what the person or people identified in the previous step want to accomplish. For example, “I want to become a Registered Nurse.”


“Where” covers the location where the goal will be completed. With our example, it was identified that the person wants to become a registered nurse. This part will determine where they will become a registered nurse. For example, “I want to become a registered nurse at WVJC Morgantown.”


Here, you will identify the timeframe you want to complete your goal. Thanks to WVJC’s direct admission and accelerated Nursing program, you can earn your nursing degree in just 18 to 19 months.* With that in mind, our example would be, “I want to become a registered nurse at WVJC Morgantown in less than two years.”


The last of the five w’s that you need to answer is the why. Here, you will identify the reason you want to achieve this SMART goal. For example, “I want to become a registered nurse at WVJC Morgantown in less than two years because I want to be able to make a career for myself.”


A large part of a SMART goal is ensuring it is measurable. This allows you to track your progress toward your goal. Without a measurable goal, you are unable to track your progress and determine how close you are to achieving your goal or if you achieved your goal. If not, you can revise your goal to make it more measurable.

Continuing with the example, if your goal is “I want to become a registered nurse at WVJC Morgantown in less than two years because I want to be able to make a career for myself,” it can easily be broken down into multiple steps.

  1. First, research schools that offer an accelerated Nursing program
  2. Attend information sessions at your top choices
  3. Select the school you want to attend
  4. Passing your TEAS exam**
  5. Go through the admissions process (complete essays, have an interview with the program director, etc.)
  6. Start your classes at WVJC
  7. Passing your NCLEX-RN*** exam

These are just a few of the steps on a journey to becoming a registered nurse. When making your own SMART goal, use whatever works best for you. If you prefer having a more specific plan, you should make your goals more specific. If you prefer having a more generalized plan, you should use that. However, it is important to remember that you may have to make edits to them as you develop your SMART career goals.


A crucial part of making a SMART goal is making sure that it is not impossible. If your goal is unattainable, you will never complete it, making it hard to stay motivated. An example of an impossible goal is working as a Registered Nurse within two months without completing any of the training or exams. 

By making sure that your goal is something that is attainable, you can help yourself stay focused on completing it. Make sure to ask some questions about yourself to make sure that the goal is attainable, such as:

  • Can you afford to spend the time and money to complete this degree?
  • Are you prepared, physically and mentally, to attend school?
  • Do you have a strong support network to help you get through?


The next step is making sure the goal is relevant to you. First, a relevant goal can motivate you to complete it. If it pertains to something you want to achieve, that is all the more reason to complete the goal. Furthermore, it would be a waste of time to achieve a goal that is not relevant to you. 

Although our example meets all the criteria above, it would not be a reasonable goal for someone who wants to work in Information Technology (IT). A few questions that can help you determine if your goal is relevant are:

  • Is this something that you really want to achieve?
  • Do you care enough about this to put in the work to achieve it?
  • Does this goal align with your other goals?
  • Does this goal help you achieve your long-term plans?
  • How does this goal directly benefit you?


The last part of creating a SMART goal is making a goal that has a definite time frame towards completion. This means that your goal can be broken down into several steps, each with its own deadline. Having these mini-deadlines can help keep you motivated toward completing your ultimate goal and can help increase self-discipline. 

This step builds off of making sure your goals are measurable. A couple of examples of timely milestones include:

  • Research schools that offer an accelerated Nursing program by the start of next month.
  • Select the school you want to attend by two weeks after your last visit.

WVJC Is Here to Help You Achieve Your SMART Career Goals!

Now that you have created your SMART career goal, you are ready to complete the first measurable steps at West Virginia Junior College by Requesting Information or contacting the campus that works best for you!


*Length of the program is dependent on the start date.

**Passing the TEAS exam is required to get into Nursing School

***Passing the NCLEX-RN exam is required to become a Registered Nurse.