How Can SMART Goals Be Helpful to Your Engineering Career
Learn this simple management technique to write better goals to ensure a successful engineering career.
Go to any self-help blog or pick up any organizational skills book and you will learn that the key to getting things done is setting goals and having a to-do list. On the face of it, this will seem a very easy task to ensure efficiency. But if you have tried this for yourself before and you have noticed that you still struggle to achieve your goals, then it is because you are not setting your goals right.
Engineering is a STEM field and as an engineering undergrad, most colleges prepare you to tackle things through a scientific process. But once you join the workforce, you will realize that the best way to tackle engineering problems is through a technique frequently taught to management students.
How can SMART goals help tackle engineering problems?
Unlike traditional scientific problems, which require you to create a hypothesis, engineering problems require you to set engineering goals. Engineering problems do not leave room for hypothesizing what will happen but require you to set criteria that your solution should fulfil. Unlike a STEM approach that teaches you to experiment and do data analysis, as an engineering employee you will need to build or simulate prototypes and then test those prototypes. To achieve a result, your test results here will need to fulfill a list of criteria prioritized by you. This is where the technique taught in management schools comes in handy. SMART goals allow you to both assess your progress when testing and define the benchmark of when your problem or goal can be classified as solved.
So, what are S.M.A.R.T. goals?
The idea of SMART goals has been traced back to a paper written in 1981 by George Doran, Arthur Miller and James Cunningham: “There is a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management goals and objectives.”
SMART is an acronym for:
S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Attainable
R – Realistic
T – Timely
When you follow this “smart” way of setting a goal, you will notice it is easier to tackle any non-scientific problem.
A breakdown of this technique for further understanding
Specific: This reminds you to check whether you have set specific criteria for what your final product/goal needs to be.
Measurable: This reminds you to check whether your goal is measurable. The goal should not be the best, worst or longest, but should be quantifiable so you check your progress and keep track of when it will be achieved.
Attainable: This reminds you to check whether the goal you have in mind is actually achievable. Taken together with the above two points, your goal should be achievable and not fantastical, for which it needs to be specific and measurable, to ensure success.
Relevant: This reminds you to check whether the goal you are setting to solve your engineering problem makes sense. This helps you keep on track and ensure you are not wasting time on things that are not required to achieve the result.
Timely: This reminds you to check the progress of your goal according to the time set by you so that it is ready when due to your manager or client. Either you or the project manager could set the time, but you will need to ensure the best possible way to achieve the above four points in the time set for the problem to be solved.
How to apply SMART technique to your engineering goals?
Take any goal you have on hand and compare it with the SMART technique. Evaluate whether it fulfills all the five requirements of being SMART. The acronym itself seems self-explanatory but to get better at writing SMART goals, you will need practice. As a recent engineering graduate, the “smart” thing to do to prepare for good engineering job opportunities is to look up short-term courses that will help you build the necessary non-STEM skills required for the workforce. One such course is the HCL First Careers program, an HCL job-oriented training program that equips you with both technical and management and communication skills. Graduates who clear the program are also given job opportunities in the tech company.
Practice setting all your goals, whether professional or personal, according to the SMART technique. Check whether your goal fulfils all the five principles, as explained above, to ensure that you will accomplish or solve whatever it is you wish to. Using the SMART strategy makes your goal more objective, and you will be better prepared to start and achieve the goal successfully.