Success stories don’t happen overnight. The difference between a person who is constantly advancing in their career and one who is stagnant is their ability to set and achieve professional development goals.
Think of your current employment status, are you happy with the way things are? Do you know what you’re doing? Is your career headed in the right direction? Where do you see yourself in the next five to ten years?
If you can’t come up with answers that leave you excited about what the future holds, that might be a sign that you’re stuck professionally.
Professional development goals are realistic roadmaps that guide your career and steer you towards growth and success. The purpose of these goals is to help you improve your professional skills, competence, and knowledge.
It’s meant to enhance your character and potential to make you a more appealing candidate to employers. Actively investing in your professional growth is important because it’ll qualify you for better job opportunities.
It’ll also allow you to stand out, make more money, explore new skills and interests, become more innovative, and be wildly successful.
When setting professional goals, always use the SMART framework to plot your way and make it easier for you to accomplish your aims.
- Specific – Vague goals are much harder to accomplish than specific goals. Don’t just say you want to make more money, be clear about exactly how you’re going to accomplish this.
- Measurable – There needs to be a way for you to track how you’re progressing towards achieving the goals you set. How will you know when you’ve reached a goal? Come up with milestones to help measure your outcomes.
- Attainable – Don’t set yourself up for disappointment by trying to achieve impossible things. Make sure your goals are realistic in terms of your skills, experience, and the timeframe you’ve set.
- Relevant – Your goals should be things that benefit your career or life in some way. If the project you’re investing effort into isn’t relevant to your career goals, consider setting it aside for something else.
- Time-bound – Set specific start and end dates for accomplishing your goals so you don’t end up procrastinating too much and failing to complete them.
Regardless of what you do or where you are in your career, here are some examples of professional development goals that you can work towards.
As the saying goes, knowledge is power. No matter how experienced you think you are, there’s probably still a lot about your job role or industry that you’ve yet to learn.
Do some research and find out what skills will help you become better at your job. What skills does your manager or supervisor have that you don’t? Is there any skill that would adequately equip you to take on the job you want?
Taking the time to learn these skills would improve your value and place you ahead of your peers. You’ll have more accomplishments to include in your resume, making it easier for you to land better-paying jobs or kickstart your dream career.
Don’t rest on your laurels. Find out where you can learn those skills and what you need to help you gain that knowledge, then follow through.
Reading more books is a great professional development goal that you can set. It doesn’t require you to exert a lot of energy to accomplish it. You can simply kick back and absorb information wherever you are.
When you read books that are related to your field, you can discover powerful information that shifts your perspective. You can unlock ideas that you’ve never thought about before that could help you perform more effectively at your job.
Reading can also improve your vocabulary, writing skills, and critical thinking ability while reducing stress.
Do some research to find highly recommended books about your field, then create a reading list. Plan to read one of those books a week or a month depending on your reading speed and schedule.
Continuing your education is a great way to stay up-to-date on the current information and trends within your profession. It can also help you improve your skillset, gain fresh expertise, and give you a bigger professional advantage.
Many companies provide career development opportunities to enable their employees to advance their education. Talk to your human resources manager to see if your employer offers such programs.
If not, you can always take professional courses and earn additional degrees/certificates on your own. Online educational programs like Coursera, Udemy, Product School, Skillshare, and MasterClass offer a wide range of courses in various fields.
You can take them from the comfort of your home and earn a recognized certification. Alternatively, you can register for postgraduate studies. Just make sure that what you’re learning can benefit your career.
Being able to receive and deliver clear information can improve not only your work efficiency but that of your colleagues as well. This is what makes improving your communication skills a great professional development goal example that you can set.
Take a writing course to help you better your written communication so that it shares information in a compelling, clear, and cohesive way. If your verbal communication leaves something to be desired, you can sign up for a public speaking class.
Learn how to share your ideas confidently and discuss with other people without coming off as harsh or hurtful. The more you advance up the career ladder, the better communicator you’ll need to be.
Assuming more managerial responsibilities at work will help you get noticed and provide a stepping stone into official leadership roles when the opportunity presents itself.
Talk to your current manager to find out what areas you can improve on and which additional responsibilities you can take on to prove your skills as a leader.
If they don’t offer any concrete steps for achieving this goal, you can always take some leadership courses online. Do tasks at work that no one else is willing to do.
When you see a vacuum that needs to be filled, step up and take charge. This will help boost your skills, give you much-needed recognition, and prepare you for the position of manager ahead of time.
Successful people don’t have a stress-free life, they just know how to effectively manage stressful situations and get the job done regardless.
If you let yourself get overcome by stress at work or in your personal life, it could have a negative impact on your productivity. The quality of your work can also suffer as a result.
To learn how to manage stress, the first thing to do is determine your exact problems when it comes to dealing with stress. Once you know what they are, you can work on finding the right options for resolving them.
Try out a few stress management techniques until you find one that best suits you. Knowing how to cope with stress can improve your life remarkably and make you a more dependable employee.
Another great professional goal example that you can adopt is changing jobs or your career. If you’re bored with your current position and you don’t see any opportunities for growth at the company, consider quitting and going to work elsewhere.
Switching jobs is a good way to increase your income and career satisfaction. Look for a challenging and exciting role in a different company and sow your oats there.
Start applying for new roles before you quit your current job. Or make sure you have enough money saved up to live off of for at least three months if you resign before getting a new offer.
Alternatively, you can give up on your current career path completely and pursue a different career. Sure, it’s going to be scary and confusing to start afresh. But as long as you keep your eye on the goal, you’ll be climbing up the ladder in no time.
Networking is a crucial part of career development. The opportunity that could change your life can come from knowing the right people.
Set a goal to meet and connect with other professionals in your industry and beyond both online and in-person. Join LinkedIn groups that are relevant to your industry or profession.
Attend conferences, join local career-oriented groups, or just hit up someone in your field that you respect and build a mutually beneficial relationship with them. Having a strong network can help raise your career profile and boost your reputation.
It can also expose you to people who can offer support, ideas, recommendations, and advice to help you navigate and transform your career.
Are there new programs or software related to your niche that can boost productivity or efficiency? Make it your professional goal to learn them. This will make you a more valuable asset.
You can even communicate this knowledge and the importance of it with the rest of your team at work and turn it into a group goal.
It’ll establish you as a tech-savvy person who is willing to embrace new processes. Additionally, the additional skills can better position you for promotions, raises, and better job offers.
Improving your time management skills is another example of a professional development goal you can work towards. It will help you get more done with your time so you’ll have more accomplishments to show off at the end of the day.
Effective time management will also enable you to dedicate more time to non-work activities that you enjoy. You can accomplish this goal by creating a daily to-do list or schedule with an allotted time frame for completing each task.
Also, you can track how much time you spend on specific activities and identify areas where you can speed up processes. You might need to cut down on some time-sucking activities that you currently engage in like watching Netflix during work hours.
Think about the aspects of your character that would serve you better if they were improved upon. You can make it a goal to transform those weaknesses into strengths and create a strategy for achieving them.
Understand where that weakness is coming from and try to come up with concrete steps for addressing it. For example, if you’re not great at time management, you can implement techniques to track and better utilize your time.
It’s okay if you’re not an expert at every part of your job. There are going to be things that someone else is better at than you. But you don’t have to just throw your hands up in defeat.
What you need is to work on getting better or at least gain basic competence at that task to get your work done effectively.
Understanding how other departments work is another example of a constructive professional development goal. It can help you figure out how to do more for the organization.
When you know how your position impacts the various departments and contributes to the overall workings of the company, you’ll learn exactly how valuable you are.
You’ll be in a better position to transition from one role into another. In the process, you can even form new relationships that will serve you well when you’re looking to transfer to a new department.
Also, you can easily identify gaps in the system and suggest modifications in work processes to help a division of the company run seamlessly.
So how do you go about accomplishing a goal such as this?
It’s easier than you think. You can start by asking for a tour of a different department, buying lunch for a member or another team in exchange for picking their brain, or attending a team meeting for another division to see what they’re up to.
This is a short-term goal that can work wonders for your professional development. It’s specific, measurable, achievable, and related to your career. You can also complete them within a designated time frame to show that you’re a self-starter who can follow through.
Look for challenges in your role that you’re equipped to handle and take them on. Or come up with new ideas on how to tackle old problems.
For example, you can update old documentation like an employee handbook that hasn’t been reviewed in years. Propose and develop a mock-up for a new product. Or even discover and target a hidden market segment.
Finding and solving challenges at work will not only keep your job exciting and fulfilling, but it’ll also signal initiative and leadership abilities to your employer which could put you on the fast-track for a promotion or raise.
Your performance metrics or KPIs (key performance indicators) are the data that’s used to measure your success at work. Increasing these metrics will put you in a good light at work and prove that you’re an efficient worker.
It’ll also make it easier to show how you have improved certain aspects of the organization which would contribute towards achieving long-term goals like securing a raise and earning a promotion or proving your experience in a job interview.
The performance metrics that you track will typically depend on your job role and responsibilities. Some examples include increasing customer satisfaction, generating more qualified leads, or helping the company reduce overall costs.
It could also be delivering projects within set deadlines, raising brand awareness, and multiplying followers on your company’s social media accounts. Whatever it is, just make sure you’re performing better than you did the previous year.
Being able to maintain a healthy balance between life and work is key to a more productive and happier lifestyle. It can greatly improve your general well-being, prevent burnout, and even boost your creativity at work.
If you find yourself spending too much time working and barely enough time relaxing or hanging out with friends and family, it’s time to find ways to balance your home life with your work.
You can do this by sticking to your fixed work schedule and shutting down your computer immediately when the official work day is over. Insist on not taking work home.
Avoid checking work emails during off-hours. Push leftover work to the next workday rather than using chunks of your time to complete projects.
If you possess a strong knowledge of a sector or industry and critical analytical ability, you can make it your goal to establish yourself as a subject matter expert.
This will set you up as an authority in your field and help you establish your personal brand. From there you can work on building a large network and promoting yourself on various social media platforms.
It may take a while for you to achieve the level of influence that you aspire to. But once you’ve become established as the go-to thought leader on a subject, there’ll be plenty of opportunities to advance your career.
You won’t have to go hunting for jobs, offers will come to you.
Being a part of today’s workforce, especially in white-collar positions, means having to participate in hundreds of meetings. And in those meetings, there’ll come times when you’re required to speak or give a presentation.
Improving your presentation and public speaking skills can help make this endeavor a breeze. It can also earn you a reputation as a great speaker who grabs people’s attention and gets them to buy into a message.
I don’t need to tell you that the world loves charismatic, captivating, speakers. Accomplishing this professional development goal can really help with your career progress.
Look into the different types of presentation techniques and always pick the right one for every occasion. Build a story around your message and don’t forget to consider the design and layout of your presentation slides.
Creating a website to house your personal and professional accomplishments is one of the best ways to strengthen your online presence.
When potential clients, employers, or recruiters want to find out more about you, they’ll probably search for your name on Google. Make sure that they find an accurate representation of your professional brand in the form of a portfolio or website.
You can use your website to showcase your skills and the cool projects you’ve worked on. It can also house your resume, portfolio, blog, or personal mission statement.
Another professional development goal example that can positively impact your life and career is getting a promotion or raise. Depending on your aspirations and career trajectory, it can function as a long-term or short-term goal.
The first step towards reaching this goal is evaluating your qualifications and figuring out what you want your next role to be. If you have enough skills and experience to meet the requirements, it won’t take you long to land the promotion.
However, if you need to pick up additional experience, skills, or education, it might take you longer to complete this goal.
When you feel you deserve a raise or promotion, put together your performance metrics. Create a list of all the tasks you’ve completed and how they improved the business, then take it all to the person in charge.
If you’re interested in forging your own path and creating something from the ground up, you should consider launching your own business. But before you take that jump, make sure you have the grit to handle entrepreneurship and all of its ups and downs.
Also, you need to carry out extensive research into the market and industry you want to break into. Running a successful business is a long-term commitment to ensure that you’re physically and financially ready to embark on that journey.
As you can see, your professional development goals don’t have to be something extraordinary. They just need to reflect your desires, priorities, and ambition so you’ll be passionate about working towards them.
Setting clear goals will provide clarity, vision, and a way to effectively measure your career progress. But that’s only half the battle, you need to keep motivating yourself and ensuring you stay on track.
Tom loves to write on technology, e-commerce & internet marketing.
Tom has been a full-time internet marketer for two decades now, earning millions of dollars while living life on his own terms. Along the way, he’s also coached thousands of other people to success.