School's In - What Will You Be Doing When School's Out? Things to think about when setting goals.

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Writing Goals1

For most of us, college is often overwhelming.  Amongst taking classes, doing homework, and managing school life, we are also making a myriad choices that will impact our long-term future, yet most of us are still unsure of our professional goals as we make those choices!  So, now is a good time to practice your personal process for creating, evaluating, and changing your professional goals. So, as you settle into your routine over the next few weeks, take some time to think about where you would like to be at the end of this school year.  Then think about the next two years, five or even ten years. Even if it’s only a few words, write these thoughts down and plan a time to review them.  

As you start your list, take some time to distinguish between making goals for the next few terms, months or years as compared to those bigger dreams you think about – whether it’s about a long-term career path or where you want to live or when, where, and what kind of family you want.  When it comes to school, make sure that some of your short-term goals – like for this school year! – include things like exploring career opportunities or scholarship opportunities for areas that interest you.

Make sure that your career goals include exploring new areas of interest, exploring career options within your current interest areas, as well as identifying when you’ve explored something and decide it isn’t for you as a career.

When we set goals it should be with the understanding that as we evolve, our goals may shift slightly or change completely.  One example of this is changing majors while in college, or changing careers later in life.  Both are strategic decisions that require a rewrite or shift in our goals. And we can be thinking about the plan to achieve those goals as our wishes evolve.

I’d like to think that goals are a means to the next step rather than means to an end.  We all are going to change ourselves, probably several times, over our lives, so get used to thinking of goals as lists you make and complete, then make another list.

I often meet with students who are entering school or reentering school that are approaching this next step with caution.  Many of Southwestern’s credentials are stackable, meaning students can complete a program, go into the workforce to gain experience, and return later in their careers to upgrade those skills and/or work toward a two- or four-year degree. This is a great opportunity for students who are trying out school or who want to make sure their student loan investment can pay off, and these programs often lead directly to jobs. 

This fall, new programs in Clinical Laboratory Assistant, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Office Receptionist/Specialist, and Dental Assisting are being offered.  All are one year or less, and provide hands-on training to get students skilled up and ready for the workplace.

Who benefits from this approach?


Today, few students can attend school without working to help pay the costs of their program.  In many cases, short-term credentials give students the skills they need to secure part-time and even full-time work in their chosen industry.  On the job experience is highly sought after by employers.  A balance of education and work experience in your chosen field can lead to being a highly sought after candidate.

This is also a great option for students who have a finite amount of resources and time, such as students with one-year athletic scholarships.  Completing a one-year credential provides an opportunity to experience intercollegiate sports while also setting yourself into the best place possible for getting a job in your preferred industry.

Consider utilizing the services of the Career Center in Stensland Hall on the Coos Bay Campus.  Your academic advisor who is required to sign off your academic plan is essential but isn’t the only person on campus you can see who can help you match academic programs with your interests. We have a number of tools in the Career Center to assess your current interests and apply them towards a career path.

No way, goals don’t do anything!

You might think all this talk about setting goals and writing them down is a waste of time.  Let’s see what research shows us about goal setting and how it impacts a student’s path to success.

A Harvard Study following graduates from their MBA Program and found that:

Ten years later:

 goal setting


I’ve used this quote for many years.  Now I know that it is a favorite of many who seek to inspire.


Goals that are written are more likely to be achieved. Read what some of the most respected leaders have to say on the subject:

Take Away: If a goal is worth having, you can block out the time necessary to define it. After you define it, you can create a plan to achieve it.  Make a commitment to yourself to pursue the plan and evaluate as you execute. Develop a plan of action that breaks down your intermediate, mid-term and long-term goals into manageable and measurable increments. If/when you discover there’s something in your plan that you cannot complete, take the time to reconsider your path. Seek out your advisors and update your plan. Then keep moving.

Seeing Is Believing

Before we can believe in a goal, we first must have an idea of what it looks like. To paraphrase the old adage: we must see it to believe it.

This is where visualization comes in, which is simply a technique for creating a mental image of a future event. When we visualize our desired outcome, we begin to “see” the possibility of achieving it.

Recently, I conducted a workshop on the Curry Campus in Brookings for students preparing for a practical exam for their certificate as a Certified Nursing Assistant – One. To receive this nationally recognized credential, students must successfully complete a state-approved nursing assistant training program and pass a competency evaluation that is administered by the Oregon State Board of Nursing.  Each of the students was encouraged to make time daily to visualize going through the required steps that would be evaluated by the Board of Nursing.

How does this work?

According to research using brain imagery,visualization works because neurons in our brains, those electrically excitable cells that transmit information, interpret imagery as equivalent to a real-life action.

When we visualize an act, the brain generates an impulse that tells our neurons to “perform” the movement. This creates a new neural pathway — clusters of cells in our brain that work together to create memories or learned behaviors — that primes our body to act in a way consistent to what we imagined. All of this occurs without actually performing the physical activity, yet it achieves a similar result.


All top performers, regardless of profession, know the importance of picturing themselves succeeding in their minds before they actually do in reality. You should take time to“see yourself reaching your goals .”  Can you see yourself receiving your diploma, getting an internship, the perfect job or a promotion, how about making a speech, or even buying your first home? 

You might be surprised to know who incorporates visualization into their regular routine.

Lindsay Vaughn , one of the most successful female skiers in history, the gold medalist says her mental practice gives her a competitive advantage on the course.

"I always visualize the run before I do it," Vonn told Forbes Magazine. "By the time I get to the start gate, I've run that race 100 times already in my head, picturing how I'll take the turns."

Oprah Winfrey , media giant and one of the wealthiest women in the world, might be one of the biggest celebrity supporters of visualization and positive affirmation.

The Oprah Winfrey Show, frequently showcasing success stories of positive thinking.  Oprah has provided many words of wisdom over the years, including: “Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life because you become what you believe.”

Olympic volleyball gold medalist,Karri Walsh said , "A lot of what we do is visualization.  To be able to ... take in the sights, the sounds, the stress, the excitement — that's going to serve us really well moving forward."  Walsh told USA TODAY. "

Even heavyweight champion, Muhammad Ali, used different mental practices to enhance his performance in the ring such as: “affirmation; visualization; mental rehearsal; self-confirmation; and perhaps the most powerful epigram of personal worth ever uttered: “I am the greatest””.

Muhammad Ali was always stressing the importance of seeing himself victorious long before the actual fight.

Additionally, mental visualization is the secret to success for Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, who is the most decorated Olympian in history.  Phelps says that his success stems from first visualizing himself winning each race before he steps foot in the pool.

In fact, Phelps claims he's been visualizing since he was seven years old, watching what he calls "his videotape" of the perfect swim in his mind each night before going to sleep to mentally map out his ideal swim for the next day.

How’s it going?

Set time aside to measure your progress towards your goal.  Be honest and realistic and be willing to change your direction if circumstances require it.  Be tenacious . . . find a way to push through. 

Finally, be willing to reach out for help or seek advice.  Consider speaking with a career coach in SOUTHWESTERN’S career center.   You might be surprised about the resources available to you.  Career Coaches can help you plot a path for a successful college experience and transition into your chosen career path.  

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About the Author: Teri Grier is a part-time instructor at Southwestern Oregon Community College and a nationally recognized Professional Certified Coach through the International Coach Federation. She has over 15 years’ experience onboarding, training and managing teams. She is a graduate from Georgetown University's School of Continuing Studies where she received a graduate certificate in Leadership Coaching.  In addition to her coaching credentials, she has a Master’s in Public Administration and a BS in Communications from Northern Arizona University.