STEM PPG Module 7: Goals & Action Items

Objective: Practice identifying and creating the steps for your professional journey- goals & action items.

Individual Activities

  1. Write down some notes about the last few goals you set for yourself. What were they for? Grocery lists? Getting a few papers read? Knocking out some analyses? When it comes to goals, there are a lot of different dimensions and contexts to use them:
    1. What was the scope of the goal? Did you expect to set the goal and complete it within the hour? Day? Week?
    2. Was your goal written down in a physical location? How frequently do goals appear in the place you stored the goal? Note that ‘in your head‘ is also a common answer
    3. Was your goal formatted in a way such that it had a binary yes/no completion, or were there different possible degrees of success?
    4. Would someone else understand and be able to carry out your goal, or would it require more context or special information specific to you?
  2. SMART goals are one of many ways to implement goal setting. Practice using SMART Goals:
    1. Practice setting a goal and then completing it the same day
    2. Practice setting a goal and scheduling it for a future day
  3. Have you ever experienced a meeting that ran on forever, everyone decided what had to be done before next meeting, and then at the next meeting it turns out nobody took responsibility for the tasks or someone did the tasks in a completely different way than previously agreed? Action items are a way to take various tasks and goals you have to accomplish and break them down into concrete, “bite-sized” pieces. The idea is to make all relevant information a part of the action item (think “Specific” from SMART goals) and ensure the description is clearly actionable. Answer the following questions:
    1. Identify some real-life examples of tasks you have seen recently and decide whether they were portrayed as good action items or not.
      1. For example, “Study for qualifying exam” is a poor action item because the verb “study” is ambiguous and the scope is too big. A better way to break it down into concrete action items would be “Read chapters 4-6 from X textbook”, “Write out summaries for top 20 relevant research papers”, and “Take the sample test from Professor X”.
    2. What are some common weak verbs like “study“? What better verbs or details could action items use for those situations?
  4. In your IDP (see PPG Module 1: Making an Career Development Plan), spend 10 minutes to revisit and update your goals.  Do you have new goals to add? Are you able to apply any edits to make your goals more actionable, concrete, and achievable?

Group Activities

  1. Discuss Individual Activity 2:
    1. What worked or didn’t about goals for same vs different days? Why?
    2. What kind of goals will you be setting for the future?
  2. Take turns discussing with your group any new career-related goals that you have identified through the PPG process.  For example,  how will you follow up on your  informational interviewing? Are there any professional development activities that you would like to pursue? Describe to the group how you plan to accomplish one of these goals with concrete action items.
  3. Creating SMART goals or action items may not take care of all barriers to successful completion. Discuss with your group what types of obstacles to getting tasks completed may still be in the way after SMART goals or action items are applied?