Creating S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Goal-setting is important in all aspects of your job in public health. Whether you want to accomplish a specific task or achieve a milestone in your professional career, goals pave your path to your getting there.

S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym often used in goal-setting to help identify key information required to keep your goal specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.

All OMP participants must create a Professional Development Action Plan (PDAP) or Employee Development Plan (EDP). These plans often ask you to list various short- and long-term career goals. Read on to gain tips on writing S.M.A.R.T. goals in public health.

Photo Credit: LuluLemon Athletica

SPECIFIC: Your goals have to be clear and unambiguous. To make a goal specific, you must articulate exactly what is expected, why it is important, who is involved, where it is going to happen, and which attributes are important to achieve your goal.

Poor Example: “I would like to complete some professional development.”

A specific goal will usually answer the five “W” questions:

  • What: What do I want to accomplish?
  • Why: Specific reasons, purpose, or benefits of accomplishing the goal.
  • Who: Who is involved?
  • Where: Identify a location, if applicable.
  • Which: Identify requirements and constraints.

Better Example: “I would like to complete 3 hours of professional development training from a course listed in the TRAIN Florida system in order to stay current and maintain credibility in my job.”

MEASURABLE: Having concrete criteria to measure progress helps to quantify or qualify attainment. How else will you be able to stay on track, reach target dates, or experience the exhilaration of achievement?

Poor Example: “I would like to increase my professional network.”

A measurable goal will usually answer questions such as:

  • How much?
  • How many?
  • How will I know when it is accomplished?

Better Example: “I would like to meet one new person in my department per week until I know everyone by name.”

ATTAINABLE: Goals should be reasonable. Although goals may be challenging and may require you to develop your attitudes, abilities, skills, and financial capacity in order to reach them, they should not seem extreme.

An attainable goal will usually answer the question:

  • How: How can the goal be accomplished?

RELEVANT: You must stress the goals that matter to your professional development. You may want to sky dive, lose weight, or learn to play the piano — but are these goals relevant to your professional career? Mentors can be very helpful in determining goals that are relevant to your industry, your current or future boss, team, or organization.

A relevant goal can meet these criteria:

  • Does this seem worthwhile?
  • Is this the right time?
  • Does this goal match my other efforts/needs?
  • Are you the right person to accomplish this goal?

TIME-SPECIFIC: Grounding goals within a time frame by giving them a target date is part of your commitment to a deadline. A time-bound goal is intended to establish a sense of urgency.

A time-bound goal will usually answer the questions:

  • When?
  • What can I do 6 months from now?
  • What can I do 6 weeks from now?
  • What can I do today?

Mentees should consider reviewing their PDAP or EDP in your mentor-mentee meetings. Mentors should follow help mentees design S.M.A.R.T. goals.

Parts of this post was adapted from “SMART Criteria”

If any OMP participant has questions or other suggestions, post them in the comments sections under this post (online) or email the program coordinator


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