Do you know the major differentiator that separates the career trajectories of the good from the best? It's not a question of skill, talent, or even luck. It's an underrated thing we refer to as setting solid professional development goals.

Setting development goals helps one build better focus at work. These goals motivate you to concentrate on your daily performance and evaluate what’s best for you. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you happy with your job, or could you do better?
  • Do you know the direction your career is heading?
  • Where do you see yourself in the next five to ten years?

If the answers to these questions do not excite you for your future, you need to learn how to set goals. This article will teach you the basics of setting and choosing the most viable professional development goals with a successful track record.

What are Professional Development Goals?

Professional Development Goals are your goals, keeping your career in mind. These goals aim to improve the relevant skills and knowledge contributing to your long-term career plans. Ideally, your personal and professional goals should make your life easier and help build a strong career path.

Goals are intensely personal. Achieving a goal can range from

  • Improving skillset
  • Gaining a certain amount of experience
  • Acquiring extra education
  • Gaining leadership skills
  • Getting new certifications,
  • Climbing positions in the workplace

Development Goals for work are supposed to be unique from person to person. They should improve your current work progress and cater to your future aspirations. This is why it’s important to have a clear strategy while planning these goals.

Importance of Professional Development Goals

Setting professional goals pushes you to reach your full potential by honing the following traits:

1. A vision for your future

Get a better idea of what you will be doing the next year or the next 5 years. When the decision has been made, you have better clarity about what kind of skills, education, and certifications you need to acquire. Take action that lines up with your vision and mission.

2. Improves your existing skills

A clear understanding of your goals will help you understand how to improve your existing skills. Even if you are good at what you do, there is always room for improvement. Improving yourself consistently makes you a better employee and could help you achieve your goals faster.

3. Makes you a company asset

Companies prefer employees with definite career goals. When their personal goals align with the job they are hired for, they become an asset to the company. Such employees add value to the company through their enhanced skills and competencies.

4. Become more productive

Once your goals are set, you will be motivated to work harder daily. This makes you productive at your workplace. Meeting these goals and having a sense of accomplishment yields better results.

In addition to these, there are many other reasons why professional development goals are important. You must also consider looking out for a company that allows you to grow. Here are a few numbers to prove the importance of professional development opportunities at work.


How do you set professional goals at work?

There exist various methods and frameworks for setting career development goals. One of the most commonly used frameworks is SMART goals.

The SMART framework was initially developed to shape goals for modern businesses. With time, it evolved as a broader approach to goal-setting in all areas. The acronym SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Hence, while deciding to set your professional goals, remember to use the SMART framework.

  • Specific: Be specific about what you want to achieve. Vague goals will not motivate you to push yourself every day.
  • Measurable: Figure out a goal for which you can track progress. Set milestones to measure the results.
  • Attainable: Having unrealistic goals will only have you disappointed. Your goals should depend on your abilities, experience, and the deadline you have set for yourself.
  • Relevant: Your professional goals should relate to your career expectations. They should also have a personal impact. Ensure that once you achieve them, you will be happy.
  • Time-bound: Procrastination is a common enemy. To avoid it, set a definite start and end date for your goals.

5 Steps for Setting Goals:

The framework mentioned above only defines your goals. When it comes to setting goals, consider what you want to do and how to integrate it into your life in a methodical manner. The process can be described with the following steps:

Define your end goal.

Setting up goals starts with defining your end goal.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What position do you want to end up in? How much salary do you expect to earn?

When you have a clear idea of your end goal, you can start to create a roadmap backward. This roadmap would help you decide how you need to proceed toward your goal.

Discover your weaknesses.

A great way to discover your weaknesses is by looking at your latest performance review.

Look at the part where your peers or manager give you feedback about improvements.Carefully observe what areas you need improvement on and if those are relevant to your goals. Find weaknesses you need to improve on to get closer to your goal.

Lay out a plan.

When you are done deciding your end goal, it’s time for you to plan out how you will achieve it.

The plan should ideally contain all the skills, experience, certifications, and education you will require to achieve your goal.

Simply put, it is a roadmap that will assist you in keeping track of all the "tiny" goals that are components of bigger goals. Besides that, it will state what actions you intend to take in response to the weaknesses you identified.

Break down your goal.

Having a massive goal in mind will drain you mentally.

Break your goal down into smaller tasks that you achieve daily. The smaller your tasks are, the more likely you are to achieve them.

To keep yourself motivated each day, track your progress on the smaller goals you achieve.

Evaluate yourself daily.

Keep track of your goals and achievements regularly. It will ensure you’re on the right path when regularly assessing your progress. The absence of self-assessment may also let you to lose track of your long-term goals.

Have a journal or a task sheet to measure your growth daily. Improve your time management skills, so you have enough time to focus on the key areas of your goals.

Once you follow these steps, you’re likely to get closer to your goals within the specified time.

Remember not to overburden yourself with work. Manage your time in a structured manner. To determine whether your goals benefit your upskilling journey, periodically assess your skills.

Avoid comparing yourself to others. Their goals might be different from yours.

Let us now look at some examples.

Examples of Professional Development Goals

Get certified or get a degree.

Rapid digitization has rendered many skills obsolete. But it has also paved the way for exciting new ones that comes with higher pay, autonomy, and opportunities. Unless you actively seek to improve your skills, you will be at a distinct disadvantage compared to the rest of the candidate pool.

You can take an online course to grow your expertise on a subject further. This will help you stay updated with the latest techniques and trends in your field and enable you to learn from a mentor.

Employee training is a part of the learning and development policy of many companies. Not only does it help employees grow, but it also improves retention.

93% of employees are positively impacted by a well-planned employee training and development program.

Talk with your HR to learn more and see if you can apply for the same.

Improve your communication skills

Communication is your ticket to success if you pay attention and learn to do it effectively.
Theo Gold

A lack of communication skills at the workplace might hinder your growth. Be it speaking during presentations or putting forward ideas during a discussion, good communication skills come in handy everywhere.

Assess if your verbal or written communication needs improvement. Verbal communication can be improved by taking up a public speaking class and bringing up conversations with your peers. For written communication, you can take up a writing course.

Communicating your thoughts, ideas, and opinions during work is important and gets you noticed. As you climb the corporate ladder, your communication skills must improve consistently.

Building a network

Are you only communicating with people inside your team? If yes, you need to put effort into building relationships outside your team.

A professional network will help you gain better insight into your industry and, most importantly, expand your career opportunities. A healthy network outside your company helps you learn new things and widen your knowledge.

You could start by attending more meetings, conferences, and professional events.

Platforms like Linkedin come in handy here.

Take up managerial duties.

Good management is the art of making problems so interesting and their solutions so constructive that everyone wants to get to work and deal with them.
– Paul Hawken

Improving management skills is one of the most important professional development goals one must acquire. Taking up more such responsibilities will get you noticed so you can present yourself once the opportunity arrives.

Having management experience is always beneficial and looks good on the resume. It highlights your soft skills, such as decision-making, problem-solving, and being a team player.

You could start by talking to your manager to understand what areas you need to improve and what more responsibilities you can take up.

You could also read Leadership SMART Goals - Tips and Examples.

Concentrate on work-life balance

72% of workers consider work-life balance important when looking for a prospective job.

A healthy balance between work and personal life is important to remain sane at work. In addition, it also improves productivity at work since your mind would not wander off into personal life issues.

For starters, you need to be in a healthy corporate culture to be able to have this balance. If your company is not providing you with the same, you should rethink your future there.

You could start maintaining the balance by following a strict work schedule and not worrying about office stress at home.

If you’re facing too much stress, you could start exploring some stress management techniques at work.

Avoid doing leftover work during your off days. You must realize that spending time with family and friends is equally important as your deadlines.

Update yourself with new technologies

Technology has taken over all areas of development. Whatever your area of expertise is, new technologies are bound to be developed.

Do a small research project on what technologies are trending in the market in your field. There are other technologies and software that boost productivity and work efficiency. These could be communicated to your teammates as well. You could introduce new technologies in your workplace to improve team productivity.

Being tech-savvy is always a plus and could set the groundwork for promotion and better offers.

Here’s a quote to motivate you to start deciding on your goals and acting on them:

Your career is like a garden. It can hold an assortment of life's energy that yields a bounty for you. You do not need to grow just one thing in your garden. You do not need to do just one thing in your career.
– Jennifer Ritchie Payette.

You’re all set

As you might have observed, professional goals are not out of the box. They are simple improvements you want to make in your regular life. When you’re honest about what you want to achieve, you will be dedicated to working for them.

Follow the above-mentioned steps to advance your career efficiently and effectively. If you do not have specific goals, you could start by setting short-term goals for yourself.

Once you set these goals and start acting upon them, you’ll find a better version of yourself professionally. Having a motive makes people work harder.

This article has been written by Pansy Thakuria. She works as a Content Marketing Specialist at Vantage Lens. Her areas of interest include marketing, mental well-being, travel, and digital tech. When she’s not writing, she’s usually planning trips to remote locations and stalking animals on social media.