What is a professional objective? Simply stated, it is a career goal. Professional objectives appear on professional documents, such as résumés, or they may be used to direct a personal career plan. Why should you write them? First, answer a question. Do you like to use recipes or do you prefer to cook experimentally? Experiments may yield mouth-watering meals. However, following recipes results in more consistently palatable productions. Admittedly, even recipes fail from time to time. Suppose an important phone call distracts you and you leave your dish in the oven too long. Regardless of how carefully you added the ingredients, your meal would burn.

What do successful dishes and burned food have to do with goals? Goals are like recipes for life. No one can guarantee the success of goals because unexpected, unpredictable events occur in life. However, experts agree that goals contribute to long-term success. Like a recipe, goals ensure you know what you need to do to accomplish a certain outcome. For instance, if you have only two of three eggs required by a recipe, you know you need another egg. Goals provide structure and direction. Don’t you agree that your chances of making a tasty meal are higher if you follow a recipe than if you throw a bunch of random ingredients together? Finally, goals help you envision the results of your endeavors, thereby motivating you to keep working toward them. Why do you think photographs of delicious-looking plates so often accompany recipes? Authors want you to see what your finished product could be.

Food analogy aside for a moment, research demonstrates a direct connection between goals and business success. How can you write practical professional objectives? Here is one of the most effective methods for setting goals.

The SMART Method

Each letter in the acronym SMART represents a characteristic your goal should have.
Be specific. What exactly do you want to accomplish? When? How? With whom? Do you want scrambled eggs, poached eggs, or an omelet? Wouldn’t your methods of handling the eggs change based on what specific egg dish you want to eat? Similarly, you need to pinpoint what exactly your goal entails to progress toward it.

Break your goal into measurable segments. A great cake recipe has a measurable amount of flour and sugar. Likewise, you need a measurable way to monitor your progress. Will you take two graduate level courses each semester until you complete your degree? Will you sell five percent more product per quarter until your department has the highest sales in the company? With measurable data, you can gauge how far from your goal you are at any given time.

Make sure your goal is attainable. Look at the effort, time, and resources you will need to invest. Weigh these factors against your current obligations. Is it possible to accomplish this goal in your current circumstances? When you don’t have all the ingredients for a gourmet entrée, you can often make a simpler version. After examining your goal, simplify or enhance as necessary.

Is your goal relevant to you and your other goals? If you are allergic to peanuts, would it make sense to cook yourself a big batch of peanut brittle? How will the consequences of attaining your goal affect your life? Modify goals that do not fit into your overall employment outlook.

What is your time frame? Set deadlines to create a sense of urgency. Try to pin a specific date to goals and milestones.
Once you have met the criteria of the SMART method, you have the ingredients for a great set of professional objectives. Use these goals to shape the trajectory of your career path. To share these goals with others, such as on a curriculum vitae, you will need to take additional steps:

Don’t take the easy way out!

Including a career objective on a CV is optional. But leaving it out can make you seem lazy, unfocused, or overly busy. By comparison, candidates who take the time to write one seem hardworking, clearheaded, and accessible.

State the goals that are relevant to the job at hand.

How would a batch of muffins turn out if the recipe’s author mixed in a few lines from his award-winning beef chili recipe? If that sounds gross, then you can understand why CVs with clashing, unfocused goal statements repel recruiters. Mention one or two directly relevant objectives.

Focus on your potential employer.

Your CV already details your experience, education, and achievements. You don’t need to restate these in your professional objective. It’s purpose is to convince an employer that you fit the needs of his company. If your objective sounds self-focused, a potential employer may conclude that you care little for the company’s interests. Would he be likely to hire you?

Keep it short.

If there is more than one candidate for a job, and there usually is, a recruiter doesn’t have time to spend hours poring over a single resume. Show that you value her time by using fewer than fifty words in your statement.

Be honest.

If you followed the SMART method, you should have eliminated unrealistic goals. Take a second look at your statement. Can you fulfill all that you have promised?

Study the great and not-so-great examples.

Every aspiring cook wants to study successful chefs, but even horrible cooks are worthy of consideration. How so? You learn what not to do. If your CV isn’t getting responses, examine your professional objective in light of this article’s tips. What can you improve? Ask recently hired acquaintances if you can glean pointers from their resumes or study some good examples from online résumé sites.

Professional goals are part of the recipe for success. Set specific, measurable, achievable goals that are relevant to your life. Seek to achieve them within a reasonable period. Study good and bad examples. Once you have identified your goals, incorporate them into your professional documents. Choose goals that are relevant for each document and keep them brief. If you are applying for a job, try to imagine the job requirements as a list of ingredients for a recipe. Do you have what it takes? If so, your goal should include the company’s interests and your honest appraisal of how you can meet its needs.