Successful Goal Setting

Aimee 1Given her extensive contribution to careers and helping jobseekers find their voice, I couldn’t think of anyone better than Aimee Bateman from whom to seek expert advice for students on setting productive, achievable goals. Now founder and CEO of the award winning consultancy careers website, CareerCake, she has worked for some of the largest recruitment companies and is a recognised employment expert.

So I asked Aimee for some top tips for students on how to set achievable goals, become more productive and improve your overall personal development! Here is what she had to say;

A: We all have dreams and goals, and aspirations for what we want out of life, but without careful planning, we may struggle to make them a reality. Achieving your Master’s degree, saving up to buy your dream house or achieving an amazing career are all accomplishments that do not happen overnight. Each, takes careful planning.

So, how can you avoid putting things off and actually make real changes?

Here are my top tips:

Make your goals clear

In the past I’ve been guilty of being vague about things that I want for my future.  You need to be focused and specific.  When you’re clear about what you want, other people can clearly understand and you’ll be surprised how much support you’ll get. It will feel like everything is falling into place and that you’re on the right path.

“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” – Tony Robbins

Check-in about your ‘why’

For every goal you set, ask yourself, why you want that goal five times over.  This will ensure the goals you want to achieve stand out from the ones that you want for superficial reasons. 

For example: I want to buy a house

  1. Why? So I have somewhere nice to live
  2. Why? So I can have people around and have a place of my own to decorate
  3. Why? So I can say that I’m a home-owner
  4. Why? Because my parents own a home

Just because your parents own their house, doesn’t mean that you should.  Don’t feel that you need to do things because that’s the ‘done thing’ or a social norm!

Plan how you’re going to achieve them

Now that you’ve made your goals really clear, and you’ve eliminated the ones that you included just because you felt you had to do them, it’s time to make them a reality. For each goal write five things you need to do to make them happen.  You can’t make all your life goals happen at once, so focus on one thing at one time.  Make sure your actions are SMART (Specific, Measureable, Actionable, Realistic and Time bound).

Get a goal buddy

There’s a lot of research out there that supports the case for having someone to support you, who you can reach your goals with.  Even if you’re not working towards the same goal. Share what your goals are, then give each other weekly updates. This will be incredibly useful. In fact, according to a study by Dr Gail Matthews from Dominican University, when using a goal buddy, you’ll be 33% more successful in accomplishing your stated goals.That’s huge!

There are many different reasons why this works. Maybe it makes you more focused, or that you’re slightly competitive and want to be seen to be moving forward with a goal or because you don’t want to let your peer down.Whatever the reason- it works!

Expect setbacks

Sometimes our ego gets in the way of us being able to deal with the fact that things need to change. If this is the case, you might be required to learn new things or tweak your approach.  That’s fine.  Don’t beat yourself up.  Learn fast and move on fast.  If you don’t change the input the output wont change either.

“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals; adjust the action steps.” – Confucius

Enjoy the journey, not the destination

For me, this is the most important step.  If you live for reaching the goal you’ll mostly be living for what’s next.  Once you hit a goal, you’ll have a small celebration and then be right onto achieving the next goal. Then the cycle repeats.  

When you enjoy working towards achieving your dreams and goals, you’re making sure that you’re spending more time in a happy state. That’s important. When you’re happy you’re more likely to reach your goals: your productivity increases, you’re more likely to get a promotion, you may be up to 10 times more engaged at work, you live longer and much more!

“A person should set his goals as early as he can and devote all his energy and talent to getting there. With enough effort, he may achieve it. Or he may find something that is even more rewarding. But in the end, no matter what the outcome, he will know he has been alive.” – Walt Disney

Interested in learning more about how to set goals around your personal and professional development or have been inspired by Aimee's advice?

Take a look at the following programmes delivered by the Career Development Service, which focus on themes covered in this post.


The Sprint programme is designed for undergraduate women to work on their career and personal development by taking them through a series of workshops to improve self-confidence and assertiveness and will be delivered by qualified Sprint trainers from within and outside the University.


Frontrunner is aimed at all students, with its main purpose being to develop leadership skills, employability and networks. It is delivered by Common Purpose in collaboration with the University of Leicester.

So if you want to take part in either of the development programmes be sure to sign up. Applications open next week – don’t miss out!

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