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Career Goals versus Great Outcomes

Career goals versus great outcomes. Is there a difference? Most goal-setting advice tells you to set SMARTER goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-based, Evaluated and Reviewed )- but do you understand exactly what that means? For the longest time I thought that I understood, but my goals showed me that I did not.

Journal detailing career goals and outcomes. A yellow mark sits on the on journal.
Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

When I first heard about SMARTER goals, I started setting them immediately! Who doesn’t want to be utterly prepared by setting goals and reaching them? But there was one problem: the goals I was setting, though they were SMART, they weren’t fully attainable by me. The goals I was setting was my desired outcome. My goals were Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-based, Evaluated, and Reviewed, but all of the actions required to meet that goal required the actions of others. 

Discovering The Difference between Career Goals and Outcomes

After further exploration of this situation I constantly found myself in, I began to look closer at the goals I was setting and create more strategic steps and actions for my goals.  

Since that time, I have come to realize that when people typically set goals, the goals are actually desired outcomes. Goal is defined by the New Oxford Dictionary as, “ The object of a person’s ambition or effort.” An outcome is the desired  result.

Fast forward a few months later, my then employer and every company I applied to said, “No.” I felt like I’d failed, and so then, I evaluated and  reviewed my goal and based on the non-accomplishment I adjusted the amount. And guess what?–I still did not reach my goal. This was because the goals I set were more of the outcomes I wanted. Outcomes happen after you set your goals.

To elaborate, I reviewed some of my career goals from 2013. Here are one of my career goals statement examples “start making $20,000 more a year within six months.” That goal was SMART by definition, but I alone would not be responsible for it. Reaching that goal required me AND someone else because I can’t control how much someone is willing to pay me. I can ask for it and negotiate, but the final decision was not mine. 

I was setting career goals that had a necessary component of action by others to complete my individual career goal. In my case, I couldn’t finish the plan because the completion was tied to someone else. Goals like these are challenging, whether the career goals short term or long-term.

So how do you strategically set SMARTER goals? Goals where you are not tied to the achievement of them but the follow the direction that it leads you in? How do you set goals and recognize your self-worth whether you reach them or not?

A true goal and outcome

A career goal answer: You set goals that lead you towards the desired direction and objectives on which you alone can take action. This is not to be confused with seeking others for help or support. If you need help or support please ask for help. However, if you are unable to make the next step because you are waiting for someone else, it may be time to evaluate your goals to ensure that you have the ability to attain them. If you can find help, that is great, but ultimately the goals you set are ones that you are responsible for.

Think of goals as a trajectory. This is an opportunity for you to find a direction. An employee of the month is not a reasonable goal because you cannot control whether or not you are selected for that award. Setting a goal of making a certain amount each year is also not reasonable because we can’t control what people will spend.

But here is what we can control: We can control how we interact with people, our attitude, and our time to complete tasks, which may lead to an employee of the month, which is the result, but the goal is to change our strategies and doing all of this can then lead me to the desired result.

So knowing this, you can reevaluate the goals you set. Are they specific to you? Are they measurable by a standard that you are aware of, but starting and ending? Do you have knowledge of the starting measure and ending measure?

If you change your goals in a way that allows you to have more control over them, and make them fun, you’ll be more likely to stick with them.

Check out my Youtube video for more! Or schedule learn more about my career coaching workshops!

LaPora Lindsey

Hi, I'm LaPora!

I am passionate about helping you define your own version of success in your career. By recognizing your worth and using rejection as a strategic tool, you can enhance your career or job search.

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