The Evidence Portal

Goal setting

Flexible activity

Mentors work directly with mentees to identify and set goals. The mentor then supports or coaches the mentee to achieve their goals. Goal setting can provide a sense of autonomy and accomplishment. It can help build the confidence young people’s confidence. 

The young person should be supported to identify and set appropriate and meaningful goals. These could be academic, social, personal etc. They should be supported to identify steps and strategies to achieve those goals and to implement any related tasks (e.g. call a service to book an appointment). They should also be supported to identify and implement strategies to over failure and any challenges that may arise. 

It is important that mentors have realistic but high expectations of what young people can achieve. 

How can it be implemented?

Goal setting should be embedded into regular catchups or sessions between mentors and mentees. Goal setting can be conducted in one-on-one mentoring sessions or in small group activities (i.e. 5-8 mentees). These sessions are typically conducted weekly.

To encourage the experience of success early on mentors can begin by helping the young person identify a valued goal that can be achieved relatively quickly. This can:

  • demonstrate problem-solving
  • introduce the young person to requesting adult support
  • provide encouragement
  • celebrate success. 

Over time, as the young person demonstrates their ability to accomplish goals, the mentor’s direct involvement in facilitating activities to achieve goals should fade. Mentors should encourage the young person to identify more complex and personally valued goals.

What should I consider when working with Aboriginal people and communities?

  • ‘Yarning up, not down’ is important when setting goals (Ware, 2013). Mentors and mentees should talk together about solutions to challenges, rather than mentors coming in with outside solutions. 
  • Focus on a small number of goals. Where the mentee has a large number of goals, the challenges may be too great and they may disengage from the mentoring process (Ware, 2013). Setting a smaller number of goals with the mentee can result in more sustainable change (Ware, 2013). Smaller goals can later be built upon, as larger issues are tackled.
  • Where possible, local Elders should be involved in the program as mentors or in other activities. This can enhance the cultural connections of young people. It can also improve the level of respectful relationships with local community leaders (Ware, 2013).

Who is the target group?

Youth-directed goal setting and coaching has been implemented with different target groups:

  • young people transitioning out of foster care
  • young people transitioning to high school 

What programs conduct this activity?

  • The TAKE CHARGE program utilises an individualised coaching approach where youth are provided with information, skills, opportunities, and support to successfully identify and pursue their goals. Topics are selected by youth and opportunities for learning are created. 
  • In Project Arrive, young people participate in small group sessions that cover a range of topics. These topics include goal setting, identifying motivations and necessary support to achieve goals. 

What else should I consider?

Youth who are in crisis may need problem solving support because goal setting can begin.

Further resources

Last updated:

25 Nov 2022

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We acknowledge Aboriginal people as the First Nations Peoples of NSW and pay our respects to Elders past, present, and future. 

Informed by lessons of the past, Department of Communities and Justice is improving how we work with Aboriginal people and communities. We listen and learn from the knowledge, strength and resilience of Stolen Generations Survivors, Aboriginal Elders and Aboriginal communities.

You can access our apology to the Stolen Generations.

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