Chapter 2: Career Goals

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this chapter, the reader will be able to:

  • Make SMART goals for your career and education
  • Explain the difference between long-, mid-, and short-term goals
  • Assess, formulate, and reformulate goals

Terms to Know

  • Commitment – Dedication and interactive engagement in a process, loyalty to a cause, and the ability to follow through with a project.
  • Goal – The object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result (Lexico, 2021).
  • Objective – Similar to a goal, this is a desired aim, or the statement denoting that goal includes a timeline and an endpoint in sight.
  • Reflection – A process of reviewing and documenting that enables an individual to learn from their previous trials and errors, their faults, and their experiences.
  • Routine – A set sequence of actions that provide structure, improve time utilization, and enhance work quality.
  • Self-assessment – A process of self-study where an individual identifies their personal traits and attributes which enable them or hinder their progress.
  • State – The particular condition that someone or something is in at a specific time.
  • Trait – A personal or professional attribute, when viewed positively this can give a worker an advantage in their task completion process.

Case study: Mackenzie (they/them) contemplates their future

Mackenzie has always been passionate about mental health. They know that they want to help people overcome the stigma associated with mental health challenges and change the way we talk about anxiety and depression. They are in their last semester of their Social Service Worker certificate program. They have some important decisions to make about what they will do next. In May, they will complete their certificate and will be eligible to graduate. They could join the workforce full time. They could choose to stay one more year at college and get their Social Service Worker Diploma. The college also has a University Transfer Diploma, so they could even decide to continue on to a degree program. Each option will impact the debt they take on, the money they make at work, the jobs that are available to them, and how they will spend their time and energy. The decision seems overwhelming and they are worried about getting it wrong. How should they decide what is next for them? What do they want their future to look like? It is time to set some goals.


Goals are a way of identifying an outcome we want to work toward. They give us a sense of purpose and help us to focus our minds and actions. Goals direct our attention toward the future and can help us to take a big idea and turn it into a series of small actions that build toward its completion. Goals take us from thoughts like “wouldn’t it be nice,” “some day,” “if only,” or “I wish…” to assertions like “I did,” “I achieved” and “I am”. Goals also help us to solve problems. When we struggle with life challenges like job loss, health changes, relationship problems, or financial setbacks, goals can help us to identify our priorities and determine how we recover. Goals are also important to help us make choices and decide what opportunities to act upon. Your decision to go to school and your decision to participate in work-integrated learning is likely connected to a goal or aspiration you have.

Achievable goals start with thoughtful contemplation. You need to think through what your goals are and how to turn them into action. An achievable goal is a goal that you are able to fulfill with effort and action. You can use a similar process to define and action goals in all areas of your life. There are four areas that will contribute to your success: honest self-assessment, commitment, patience, and the existence of a routine.



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Getting Ready for Work-Integrated Learning Copyright © 2022 by Deb Nielsen; Emily Ballantyne; Faatimah Murad; and Melissa Fournier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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