For most college students, the long-term goal is obvious: graduate, then move into their chosen field of work in order to pursue a successful career. Obvious as it is, actually achieving this goal can feel like an overwhelming prospect on a day-to-day basis. That’s why it’s important to break down your vision for the future into more manageable short- and mid-term goals. Not only will they keep you on track throughout your studies, they will also keep you motivated. When goals are achievable it’s easier to stay committed and make daily progress on them.
For inspiration, 5 mid-term goals that are ideal for college students have been provided below, alongside some suggestions for how to advance them in the short-term.
What’s the Difference Between Short– and Mid–Term Goals?
Short- and mid-term goals often exist in relationship to one another. For example, if your mid-term goal is to run a marathon, your short-term goal may be to increase your distance every week until then. In order to achieve your mid-term goal, then, you first have to achieve a series of short-term goals. Short-term goals are helpful because they provide practical steps you can take in the moment that will move you closer to your mid-term goals.
From this, your mid-term goals can be broken down to find your short-term goals. A short-term goal should be something you can achieve in the next month at the most, while you could dedicate the next 3-5 years to a mid-term goal. Of course, there is also a relationship between mid-term and long-term goals. If your long-term goal is to own your own successful business before you retire, for example, then your mid-term goal may be to complete your degree in a business-related subject. One follows the other.
How Can I Set Achievable Goals?
It’s great to be ambitious, but unless your goals are achievable you are likely to lose motivation or concentration fast. The best way to find your short- and mid-term goals is to start with your long-term one. This doesn’t mean that you have to have a highly specific vision for the future. Many college students aren’t certain about what they want to do after graduation. Actually, in an ever-changing business context, it’s arguably better to be adaptable than rigidly fixed on one idea. Instead, when making goals you should start with your values – what makes you happy? What does success look like to you? One long-term goal might be to travel widely. Another might be to earn enough money to enjoy financial security in later life.
From there, move to your mid-term goals. For example, if your long-term goal is to travel, your mid-term goals may be to save a certain amount of money or to find a job with a good work-life balance which will allow you to travel each year. These are the mid-term goals that enable and empower you to achieve your long-term goal. For this reason, they are more specific. Short-term goals are more specific still. If your mid-term goal is to save a certain amount of money, then your short-term goal may be to prepare your own meals for a month, thereby avoiding expensive takeout food. This shows how a grand vision that may seem unattainable can be translated into an easily manageable everyday objective.
What are SMART Goals?
In project management, goals tend to be assessed against the SMART criteria to determine their usefulness. These standards can also be applied to personal and professional goals, especially those which are short-term, to ensure that they are feasible.
Specific: To stay focused on your goal, ensure your goal is focused. A goal with clear parameters is much more effective than a vague commitment. For example, compare “I will go to the gym three times this week” with “I will exercise more.” Specific goals tend to be more motivating.
Measurable: Using the same example as above, “I will exercise more” is not especially measurable. When you achieve your short-term goals, your motivation is renewed. It’s good to have a goal that you know when you have met it, like going to the gym three times. These small-scale victories propel you toward further progress in the long-term.
Achievable: Your goals should push you without making unrealistic demands. It’s important, especially as a student, to bear in mind the unavoidable financial and time constraints on your activities. If your goal is too demanding and it distracts you from your studies, it could become counterproductive. Unrealistic goals which go unmet can have a dispiriting effect.
Relevant: This is where the relationship with your long-term goal becomes crucial. It’s important that you can explain (even just to yourself) how your short- or mid-term goal moves you closer to your overall vision for the future. Otherwise, you are likely to lose motivation as there’s no obvious reason to persevere.
Time-bound: Unless you have a clear deadline for achieving your goal, it’s probable that you will procrastinate or prioritize more immediate concerns. When you have a busy schedule, it’s important to apportion time to this work. For short-term goals, keep the deadline within one month so it retains a sense of urgency.
5 Mid-Term Achievable Goals for College Students
- I will grow my professional network in my chosen field.
This is a mid-term goal that serves a range of long-term goals. To translate it into an achievable short-term goal, try something like, “I will send a personalized Linkedin message to two important people in my industry each week”, or, “I will attend four extracurricular events this month”.
- I will begin to develop influence in my industry.
Although this may sound vague, it can be easily translated into measurable and manageable short-term goals. One example may be, “I will publish a blog post every week and share it across my networks.” Another may be, “I will apply to join the panel at the conference this month”, or even just to ask a question of the panel members, it depends on what’s realistic for you.
- I will save enough money for a gap year after I graduate.
There are many possibilities for gap year travel, volunteering and internships after college. If this is something that interests you, it’s a good idea to begin financial planning now. One example of a short-term goal could be to work a part-time job over the holidays. Another could be to set up a direct debit to a savings account or apply to a specific scholarship fund.
- I will enrich my resume before I apply to jobs.
Often employers look for something unique and extra that will differentiate you from other equally academically excellent candidates. Examples of short-term goals that relate to this include, “I will take one Spanish class a week”, or, “I will organize a monthly student book club”. Making it something you enjoy will increase your motivation.
- I will stay abreast of developments in fields of professional interest.
While you study, the business world continues to evolve and innovate. Working towards this mid-term goal may help you position yourself effectively when it comes to beginning your career. A contributing short-term goal could be, “I will read one professional journal a month”. Small efforts accumulate to have a greater impact.
Why Should College Students Set Mid-Term Goals?
Although college students are undoubtedly already very committed, undertaking important academic work which will prepare them for their future career, it’s still a good idea for them to be goal-focused. Making mid- and short-term goals based on their long-term vision and values will maximize their opportunities, both personally and professionally, post-graduation. This is one way to ensure that they take full advantage of the many connections and resources available to them during this exciting period of their lives.