How to Set Achievable Goals as a Mentee
As a mentee, it’s important to set realistic and achievable goals to help guide you toward your desired outcomes. Goals provide direction, motivation, and a sense of accomplishment. Today, we’re going to discuss the key elements of setting effective mentee goals as well as some common challenges associated with effective goal setting.
Before you create your goals, it’s important to begin by taking some time to reflect on what you hope to gain from your relationship with your mentor. It’s also important for mentors and mentees alike to communicate openly with each other about expectations so that both parties understand how best they can work together toward achieving mutually beneficial outcomes from the mentoring relationship.
Common Challenges Mentees Face
As you navigate the process of setting goals with your mentor, you’re likely to encounter a few common challenges. We can more or less divide these challenges into two main categories: difficulty defining and communicating your goals, and difficulty determining the size and scope of your goals.
1. You’re Indecisive About Your Goals
One of the most common challenges mentees face when setting goals is indecisiveness. When you first start a new mentoring program, you may have a long list of topics you’d like to ultimately address. Narrowing your focus enough to decide on a specific goal can feel like an overwhelming prospect.
If you feel like your goal-setting process is lacking direction, it can be helpful to take some time to reflect on your strengths, weaknesses, and interests in order to narrow down what you want to accomplish with your mentor. Additionally, your mentor may be able to provide guidance by asking questions to help you identify what they truly want out of a successful mentoring relationship.
2. You’re Having Trouble Articulating Your Goals
Another challenge mentees often face is difficulty articulating their goals. Even if you know what you want from your mentor relationship, it can be difficult to express your desired outcomes in clear language. You may be unsure of what you want out of the mentoring program or you may be feeling intimidated by the process of setting professional goals with an experienced mentor.
To overcome this challenge, it can be helpful to break down your larger goals into smaller actionable steps that are easier to articulate and track progress toward. Additionally, a good mentor can help by providing structure and support during goal-setting conversations so that you feel more comfortable expressing yourself clearly.
3. Your Goals Are Too Large
Setting overly ambitious goals is another common issue faced by many mentees. If you set overly ambitious goals that are too large to realistically achieve within the timeframe of the mentorship relationship, it can lead to frustration and disappointment when the goals cannot be accomplished as expected. While it’s important for mentees to have big dreams and aspirations, it’s also important for them to set realistic goals that are achievable within a reasonable timeframe.
To avoid this challenge, you and your mentor should break down large goals into smaller steps that are more manageable and measurable over time. This will help you make progress toward achieving the larger goal without becoming too overwhelmed or discouraged along the way.
4. Your Goals Are Too Small
On the other hand, some mentees may set too small of goals that do not challenge them and limit their growth potential in the long run. This could be due to fear of failure or lack of confidence in your own abilities, which makes it difficult to push yourself outside of your comfort zone when setting goals with a mentor. This type of goal-setting is not conducive to reaching your full potential within the mentoring relationship. Alternatively, you may simply be underestimating how much progress is realistically achievable in the time frame you’ve established.
To address this issue, you should communicate openly with your mentor to identify more challenging (yet achievable) objectives that will foster personal growth over time. Your mentor can help you define a goal that strikes the appropriate balance between pushing you and overwhelming you.
Setting SMART Goals
SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Effective goals should include all of these crucial attributes. When applied to professional relationships between mentors and mentees, SMART goals provide a framework for establishing clear expectations and objectives for the mentorship relationship.
- Specific - Your goals should be clearly defined with enough detail that both mentor and mentee can understand what is expected of them. Specific goals should not only name an outcome but also outline the path you'll take to get there.
- Measurable - You should have a way to track progress toward your goals so that both you and your mentor can measure how close you are to achieving your desired outcomes. Break larger goals into smaller milestones so you can visualize and acknowledge your progress with your mentor. This will help you stay motivated and it will make it easier for your mentor to help you keep on track.
- Achievable - Your goals should be realistic for you to achieve within the timeframe agreed upon by you and your mentor. If either party feels that the goal is too difficult or too easy then it may need to be adjusted accordingly.
- Relevant - Your goals should relate directly to a larger purpose or theme for the mentorship relationship and help move it forward in some way. How will accomplishing your goals move your career forward or make you feel more fulfilled in your professional life? How does the work you're doing with your mentor relate back to your overarching professional development? If the goals you’ve set are relevant enough, these questions should have clear answers.
- Time-Bound - You should associate clear timeframes with your goals to ensure there’s some healthy pressure to actually follow through with them. A concrete timeframe also makes it easier for your mentor to hold you accountable. It’s important to set a realistic deadline for each goal — if it’s too long there will not be enough urgency to motivate you to achieve the goal, but if it’s too short you’re just setting yourself up for failure and disappointment.
Example of an Effective SMART Goal
We’ll finish with an example of a well-written SMART goal for a mentee who wants to work with a mentor to improve their public speaking skills. You can refer to this example as a template or just for inspiration as you come up with your own goals.
“Within the next six months, I will demonstrate improvement in my public speaking skills, including self-confidence, body language, and vocal projection, by delivering a successful presentation at my professional organization.”
- This goal is specific because it defines an objective and details how you will know when you’ve achieved the objective.
- This goal is measurable because you can practice your public speaking skills in front of your mentor and receive meaningful feedback to serve as milestones.
- This goal is achievable because six months is a realistic amount of time to spend learning public speaking skills and planning and practicing your presentation.
- This goal is relevant because it will help you improve your communication abilities and most likely contribute to your career advancement.
- This goal is time-bound because you have specified that you will complete it within the next six months.