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Unlock Your Success: 7 Goal Setting Tips Every College Grad Should Know

Goal setting is not top of mind for most college students.

Every year, more than 2.3 million people across the United States graduate college, hoping to enter the workforce and use their academic achievements.

After years of long nights, studying for exams, attending lectures, and working hard toward their academic goals, graduates are faced with a new challenge: they must take the tools they’ve learned and use them in the real world. 

But going from the classroom to the boardroom is no easy transition, and without a path forward, grads end up jobless and lost. 

Goal setting is the ideal way to ensure that the entrance into corporate America is smooth and successful. 

So, if you are about to walk across that stage and need to plan your future, we have everything you need to know to set goals to help you stay the course and slay your first year after college. 

What are you waiting for? Let’s go! 

Why Is It Important To Set Goals After College? 

The last few months of college consist routinely of interviews and the constant search for the “perfect job.”

Even so, finding employment right out of graduation may not be as easy as it once was. By the end of 2023, the unemployment rate for new graduates was  4.4%, an unusual shift from some decades ago. 

Companies are no longer hiring graduates with open arms, and so it has become imperative that these new workforce members set goals to ensure a smooth career transition. 

Goal setting is important because it narrows down the kind of work you’re looking for and how much you’re looking to be paid. It eliminates passive job-hunting and sets you up for a long and successful career.

Personal Questions To Help You Get Started On The Right Path.

Goal setting is not easy, especially when deciding what career you will have for years to come. 

To establish your goals, try asking yourself some of these questions provided by ZenCare:

  • Was your college major still aligned with what you want to pursue professionally?

  • If the perfect job was to land in your lap right now, what would it be?

  • What do you see yourself doing in 5 years?

  • What are some skills that come easily to you?

After answering these questions, try writing your career goals down. This allows you to see the plan on paper and helps generate ideas to set things in motion. 

Not sure how to go about this? Not to worry, we have you covered. 

How Do You Set Goals After Graduating College? 

There are six well-known strategies to help you get started on goal setting.

The first strategy to help with goal setting is known as S.M.A.R.T. This acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. By crafting goals that fit these criteria, you can lay the foundation for your future and what you want in a career. 

If you are more of a big-picture person, try the B.H.A.G. method, which stands for Big, Hairy, Audacious, and Goal. Use this strategy to set goals for yourself 10 or more years later and work backward to set smaller goals to reach them. 

Next is the B.S.Q. method, which stands for “Think Big,” “Act Small,” and “Move Quick” allows you to plan smaller goals around your one large goal and create a timeline for achieving these milestones. It’s like being the project manager of your own life!

The OKR Method sets broad objectives and defines their success through some criteria which usually involves numbers. For example, your objective is to pay off a loan- the result of that is 1) You work overtime x amount of hours 2) You keep working overtime for X amount of months and 3) For the months you work overtime, X amount of money goes to paying down your debt. 

In the Growth Hacker Method you take a very scientific approach to your goals. First you form a hypothesis or goal, determine how you measure its success, then you set the goal, implement your plan, track your progress, make any adjustments, and review how it worked.

The Locke & Latham’s Five Principles to goal setting: Clarity, Challenge, Commitment, Feedback, and Task Complexity, take the SMART strategy and account for the difficulty of your goal. While you don’t want to shy away from difficult goals, you want to make sure you check in regularly with your shorter term objectives to see progress and not get discouraged. 

Additional Tips For Achieving Goals 

  • Write Down Your Goals – With any plan, mapping everything out is the best way to get started. This allows you to visualize your next steps and build motivation for the plan moving forward. This means writing out ideas, long-term and short-term goals, and how to achieve them. Writing out a time frame for each step within your plan is also crucial to staying organized on the right track. Most people feel more comfortable about an idea when they see all the details laid out in front of them in a specific order. 
  • Create Steps to Achieve Those Goals – As mentioned in the step above, breaking down the one big goal into steps is always the best approach to keeping your plan organized. Some steps may be more time-consuming, so having the entire pathway laid out in one place is good. Steps may include networking, gathering written references, or developing your resume. You may be tempted to take shortcuts, but remember, these steps are all a part of that one big goal you’re looking to achieve. Skipping one step may affect the outcome of several others long down the line. 
  • Create A Personal Mission Statement – Creating a personal mission statement will help you evaluate personal goals, beliefs, and achievements. Throughout the job-hunting journey, you will return to the personal mission statement several times to ensure your values are still playing a role in your decisions. Don’t just take the first job offer because you’ve been rejected by several beforehand; ensure that it aligns with your personal beliefs and goals.  
  • Stay Focused – The current job market is challenging. One job opening can lead to hundreds of applicants and often make someone feel unqualified or hopeless. Applying for jobs at any time of your life can be very time-consuming, especially when waiting to hear back from employers. Even so, you must remain focused. Keep applying; no job is too big or too little. Don’t settle; remain optimistic that you will find the right career. Keep focused on the end goal, and maintain that drive that got you here in the first place. 
  • Celebrate Achievements –No matter how the job-hunting is going, be sure to recognize your hard work. This means celebrating that interview that you think went well or getting a call back from an employer. These small celebrations act as a reminder of what is to come as you continue to work towards your goals. This may be something like seeing a movie, taking yourself out to dinner, or buying a new clothing item you’ve wanted so badly. It ensures you’re patting yourself on the back or finding personal ways to commemorate your achievements. 
  • Ask For Feedback – Next, you’ll want to reach out to those around you for feedback on your plans and progress. Whether it’s family members, friends, colleagues, or a former educator, it’s good to ask what’s going well and what’s not. Feedback from your peers is crucial because it gives an unbiased outlook on your efforts. If you require help during any part of your journey, seek advice from a career counselor; they will have a fresh perspective that will inspire you to continue. 
  • Check In With Your Progress & Address Accordingly – Goal setting is all about trial and error. You may need to adjust your goals, refine some ideas, and take more time on some steps than others. Unexpected events occur throughout life, so it’s essential to check in with your progress routinely and make changes as you see fit. Over time, your goals can change as you meet new people and are presented with new opportunities. For example, you may have to relocate to a new, unexpected city or take less pay to get the job you’ve always wanted.

Finding Purpose Outside Your Work 

Research has found that between 27% to 30% of the current general population can be described as workaholics.

Don’t let this be confused with someone passionate or dedicated to their career, but instead, someone who works compulsively with an inability to do things they enjoy beyond working. 

When entering a career, taking time to yourself to explore your other callings in life beyond work is healthy. 

Reach into your spiritual gifts, and remain dedicated to the things you are passionate about. 

Be sure to prioritize things that matter and give back to the community around you. This can be done by volunteering, attending local events, helping other people set goals, or just finding your purpose beyond work.

Define Your Work 

Transitioning from college into the workforce can be unfamiliar territory. 

Setting both big and small goals ensures a smooth and successful shift into the next part of a new graduate’s journey. 

Achieving one’s goals does not happen overnight, but dedication, faith, and developing a sense of purpose will help you reach those goals. 

There are several effective methods for setting goals, each dedicated to creating a timeline for achieving these milestones. 

Regardless of what steps you take or how long it takes you to reach that final goal, remember to find a purpose in what you do, remain passionate, and ensure that it serves you, both mentally and spiritually. 

Don’t let your work define you, but let you define the work you do. Remain proud of the achievements you reach along the way because your hard work got you there in the first place. 

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