strategic goal setting - goals written on typewriter

‘Tis the season for New Year resolutions! Yet why is “goal setting” one of our least favorite personal progress activities?

Whether we care to admit it to ourselves, nearly every one of us is a goal setter. Meaning, we all have something that we look to doing in the future. Be it a better job, a new home, losing 10 pounds, or training for a 5K or a marathon.

Keep reading and, hopefully, you’ll find out that goal setting can actually be fun!

Mingling Professional and Personal Goals

At API, we help our candidates with their goal-setting process. And in doing so, we often share with them a list of thought-provoking questions.

Before starting, we suggest that a candidate review their answers with someone close to them. Why, you might ask? Because the personal aspect of goal-setting is very connected to professional side. And vice versa.

To put the idea into context: imagine getting a promotion at work. When that occurs, it impacts a lot more people than just you alone, doesn’t it?

Following are some questions we ask our job-seeking candidates to consider before setting goals.

  • How do you like to spend your free time?
  • What’s most important to you? For example, consider: Family, hobbies, faith, relationships, leisure activities, volunteerism, finances and location.
  • Do you believe that having more education would advance your career?
  • If extra funds were available, would you take classes and finish an undergraduate or postgraduate degree program? Would you study to become a CAM?
  • Where do you want to live? Where do you NOT want to live?
  • What’s the income range you need/would like to achieve?
  • How do you want to contribute in your job?
  • What type of people would you choose to be on your team at work?
  • What type of work environment inspires you?
  • How would you define “professional success” for yourself?

Engaging in this self-examination process is a great first step—a warm-up, of sorts—for your goal-setting exercise. It prompts you to reflect where you are today. And, possibly, where you could be in the future. 

Take Action When Goal Setting

As mentioned, reviewing your interests is a very constructive task before setting your goals. But the second step will require action and follow-through. You must write down your goals and review them often.

Truth be told, I’ve been guilty before of writing down my goals in January and then sticking the list in a drawer. Only to find the list six months later!

And, in that, I know that I’m not alone.

Not everyone has the focus to remember in June what goals they set for themselves in January. And with today’s competitive market, it’s more important than ever to stay on top of your goals. That is, if you hope for advancement.

After identifying your goals, the next step is to set a MONTHLY calendar reminder and review them for any activity. Then, during the review process, reflect on what happened the past month to either help or hinder your progress. Understanding distractions and/or missteps can help you improve and effect even greater progress next month.

Map Out Your Goals

One way to impede progress is to set your goals haphazardly. The key is to create a plan—like a roadmap. Then move ahead a little bit at a time.

As part of your plan, notate what you’re happy with, as well as what you’d like to change. Be sure to consider the details and necessary steps to bring about the results.

Following are goal-related examples, both big and small:

Big Changes

Personal example: “Prepare house to sell when I get the new job offer.”

Professional Example: “Provide senior management team with analysis to convert fleet to Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) program.” 

Small Changes

Personal example: “Continue workout program and add four new core-strengthening exercises.”

Professional Example: “Read articles and attend webinars by industry experts on the topic of SAF.”

While we’re discussing changes, take into account that goal-setting doesn’t always have to be huge or life-changing. (Some people may feel that they already lead the “perfect” life!) In this case, a very small and manageable goal might simply be “Continue ‘status quo’ for now.”

What Makes a “Good” Goal?

One well-known acronym for developing goals is to use the “SMART” rule. A SMART goal is:

  • SPECIFIC – target a particular area for improvement.
  • MEASUREABLE – define a quantifiable indicator of progress.
  • ATTAINABLE – make it aspirational, yet achievable.
  • REALISTIC – know how you’ll achieve each goal, given available resources.
  • TIME-CENTERED – make it achievable within a specific time frame.

Let’s take a look at a potential goal, and see how it can become achievable. Here’s an example:  To say “I want to become Assistant Chief Pilot” is not optimal goal setting. Why? Because it doesn’t take into account how you’ll get there, and if it’s attainable and realistic.

Following is an even better, more specific and realistic example. “To help earn my next leadership role, I’ll take on more ancillary duties this year. I will volunteer to be our team’s Safety Officer and manage our safety management system.”

Another is: “We’ll continue to conduct our regular safety briefings. I’ll also prepare our team for the upcoming external audit that will support our successful IS-BAO stage III registration.”

As you can see, a goal doesn’t need to shoot for the moon. Instead, it suggests realistic, small steps to achieve larger success.

Your Turn

Of course, these are just a few of the goal-setting tips we share with our candidates. Now that you have the fundamentals for good goal setting, how might you get started with your own goals?

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