Understanding professional development goals
Setting goals for professional development is an important part of advancing your career. Whether your goals are to be more productive at work or become the CEO of a corporation, the only way to get there is by setting actionable goals you can work on every day. Here we explore what professional development goals are, why they are important, steps you can take to set this type of goal, and several examples to give you ideas when creating your own professional goals.
What are professional development goals?
Professional goals are goals you set that are focused on improving your career and increasing your competencies and capabilities in the workplace. There are several development goals you can set to further your workplace success, and the exact goals you set should be dependent on your unique aspirations in terms of career. Goals can be related to learning new skills, obtaining new degrees or certifications, getting more experience in a certain area, moving up in your workplace, and aiming for any other aspirations related to advancing your career.
Why are professional development goals important?
Setting professional development goals are important for several reasons, including that they:
- Give you an idea of your vision for your future: Many people know what they want to do in the next year, but do you know what your long-term career goals are? Where do you want to be in five or even 10 years? Establishing goals allows you to identify your long-term aspirations and begin to take action in reaching those aspirations.
- Help you hone existing workplace skills: Even if you’re great at what you do, there is always room for improvement or advancement. The greatest athletes don’t simply rest on their laurels and use their current level of fitness to ride out their success. Rather, they regularly practice to get stronger and faster. The same is true in the workplace—working on honing your current skills allows you to get better and grow in new and different ways, which can ultimately make you a better employee and even more successful in your career.
- Encourage you to become a better employee: Employers highly value employees who are dedicated to their jobs and the advancement of their careers. Rather than simply showing up to work and completing your duties for the day, taking time to get better at what you do will make a positive impression on your employer and could even open the door to advancement within your organization.
- Improve productivity: Have a goal to work towards can provide a steady stream of motivation and boost your productivity in the workplace. This is especially true when you separate your goals into individual tasks and work to complete a task each day or week. Making progress, even when it’s small, can keep you motivated to push through and get the job done.
How to set professional development goals
The following are steps you can take when setting goals for your professional development:
- Decide what your end goal is. A good way to set goals for your professional development is to start with the end goal in mind. Where do you want to be in five or 10 years? What job title do you want to have? What company or industry do you want to work in? What accomplishments do you want to achieve? Knowing your end goal will allow you to work backward to create smaller goals that allow you to ultimately reach your larger professional goals.
- When in doubt, reference your most recent performance review. If you aren’t sure where to start or what areas you should work on professionally, take a look at your most recent performance evaluation and see what your manager or employer recommended you improve upon. For example, maybe one improvement your manager noted was to complete more tasks on time. This gives you a solid foundation on which to build a professional goal and also ensures your making the desired improvements as requested by management.
- Use the SMART goal method. The SMART goal method, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound, is a great tool to use when establishing goals. This method ensures your goals are both actionable, realistic, and able to be measured, all of which will keep you on track and motivated to reach your goal.
- Break your larger goals into smaller tasks. The more you can break your goals up into bite-sized tasks, the more likely you are to continue pursuing that goal. Take each larger goal you set and break it down into tasks you can complete each day or week to work towards that goal. Check off each task as you complete it to show you the progress you’re making.
- Regularly review your progress. It’s easy to lose sight of goals, especially if a goal you’re working on is more long-term. That’s why it’s important to regularly check in with yourself and review your progress. Realizing that you are making progress towards each goal will keep you motivated and also ensure you’re still on the right path to achieving each aspiration.
Examples of professional development goals
The following are several examples of goals you can set to further your professional development:
- Improve your professional and networking relationships.
- Improve your time management skills and productivity in the workplace.
- Obtain a new certification or degree.
- Grow your professional network by attending more networking events.
- Read two professional development books a month.
- Complete a leadership training course.
- Improve your communication skills in the workplace.
- Join one professional organization related to your current or dream career.
- Increase your responsibilities and duties in the workplace.
- Apply for a promotion within your organization.
- Get to know how other departments in your organization function and consider volunteering an hour of your work week to helping out in a new department.
- Attend a workshop related to your current or dream job.
- Choose one skill to improve and focus on that for a month.
- Learn how to effectively give and receive feedback in the workplace.
- Learn how to better manage your energy.
- Develop a growth mindset.