Why should you set goals?
Do you know what you want to do after you graduate? Great! You don't? That's fine too. You might want to read about how to figure out what you want to do after your studies. Setting a goal can help maintain your motivation and commitment to your studies, as you have a direction and a dream to pursue. Having a goal can also help you in making decisions while you study, e.g. when choosing electives, an internship, or a student job.
Maybe you dream of sitting at the helm of one of the top companies in the country or of making a difference for the refugees of the world. You might also be passionate about creating value for a small local company, where you'll quickly see the results of your efforts. Remember that none of these possibilities are better than the other. You decide what you want to do.
How to set goals
There are many ways to set goals. We recommend using the SMART model - you might have encountered it in your studies. It’s a common and widely used tool for both projects and personal goal setting.
When you set a goal, it should be:
1. Specific - what do you want to achieve?
Your goal needs to be as specific as possible, so you'll know when you have achieved it.
If your goal is to ‘become a manager’ or ‘work with languages’, it’s hard to know when you have reached your goal. Have you achieved your goal if you become a team leader or do you need to be a manager at a big company? Do you want to communicate with partners in a foreign language or do you want to be a translator in the European Union? Try to describe your goal in more detail, e.g.:
- I want an internship at an embassy where I will work in SoMe and planning.
- I want a student job in an insurance company where I have to work with calculations and analysis.
2. Measurable - when have you achieved your goal?
You should be able to document and track your goal. Even if you have set yourself a 'softer goal' about your personal (career) journey, it is still important that it is measurable. Ask yourself:
- How do I know if I have reached my goal?
- What will it look like or what will I be able to do when I have achieved my goal that I can't do now?
3. Achievable – is it possible for you to reach your goal?
You should set challenging, but achievable goals. Is it actually within your power to reach? Is it worth fighting for? You're the one who has to fight for it when the going gets tough.
Try to describe all the pros and cons of your goal. What will you achieve and what will you have to give up? Is it worth the hassle?
4. Realistic – do you have the resources needed to reach the goal?
Take a look at your goal – is it realistic? Do you have the resources (e.g. time, energy, network) required to reach it?
Sometimes, a goal can be too ambitious. But sometimes it is not ambitious enough. It can be hard to keep the motivation for achieving goals that seem to easy to reach.
Assess whether your goal is realistic for you to work towards. Maybe you need to adjust the goal a little or it needs to be divided into smaller - and easier achievable - goals.
5. Time-bound – when is your deadline?
Most of us are skilled at procrastinating. But that won't help you reach your goal. To take your goal from dream to reality, you need to set a deadline for when you should have done what you set out to do. When do you want to reach your goal?
Are you working towards a long-term goal? Setting intermediate goals can be a good tool to ensure progress. Intermediate goals can also help you pressure test your goal. Is it realistic to become a manager two years after you've graduated, or do your intermediate goals show that you need more time and more steps along the way? Remember that your intermediate goals must meet the same SMART criteria as your main goal.
I did not reach my intermediate goal – what do I do?
Have you ever set a goal that you didn't reach? You probably have. It's quite common and something we all go through.
Don't give up. Take a close look at your goal and try again. Maybe you just need to make small adjustments to make it work. Maybe your time frame was too ambitious. Make the change and try again.
Do you still find it difficult to achieve your goal? Talking to someone about it might help. Talk to your fellow students. They probably have the same thoughts as you and you can help each other. You are also very welcome to book a guidance session and talk to us about it.