Professional development goals are key to helping you succeed in your career.
Whether you’re looking to gain traction in your current role or learn new skills to apply to a dream job, or pivot to a completely different field, you must commit to your direction in order to make it happen.
If we want to feel like we’re moving forward in our work life, we need to have a big, overarching target to reach for, so that we can always keep growing and learning. By having specific and measurable goals to pursue, we will be contributing to our own future and improving our career prospects.
And don’t worry, having professional development goals doesn’t mean you’re required to put in longer hours at the office. Professional development can be anything from taking a class to widening your network to making a point to speak up more at meetings. Even striving to achieve work life balance is a worthy professional development goal.
Here are different ways that you set goals for your career so that you can feel confident, productive, and more fulfilled in your work life.
Examples of professional development goals
Learn a new skill: Our education shouldn’t stop when we leave school. Continuously learning and building your skillset is crucial to your career development and feeling fulfilled at work. Not only will learning new skills help you gain confidence in your current role, but it will benefit you as you move up the ladder or look to transition into a different field.
Take a look at your current role and responsibilities and see what kind of skill would support your career. Maybe that means learning a new skill that’s complementary to your current role. So, for instance, if you’re a graphic designer maybe it would help to take a class in animation or copywriting or calligraphy, so that you can “cross-train” different muscles and have a more well-rounded toolbox.
Are you hoping to get a promotion this year or apply to your dream job? Take a look at the job description for the roles you would love to have. What kind of skills are they looking for? Then reverse engineer it so that you can start building up those skillsets now. So if your dream job wants someone with project management experience, sign up for a project management course or see if your current company offers training in that area or even volunteer to lead a project in your team.
Widen your professional network: If you hate the idea of networking, you’re not alone. So many of us get a pit in our stomach just thinking about attending a networking event or trying to pick someone’s brain. Trust us, we know that networking can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Start small like setting a goal to reach out to a person you admire by the end of the month. Or, commit to attending at least one professional event a month. It doesn’t have to be a networking mixer, even something like attending a class or a coworker’s birthday can be impactful and help you network in a more organic way.
Create work/life boundaries: If we want to achieve balance in our lives, we need to make an effort to set clear and defined boundaries. You can set boundaries around your correspondence like “no emails or texts after 6 p.m.” or “no emails on the weekend.” When you go on vacation, set an automated email response so that you’re not replying to emails while you’re away.
Practice mindfulness: You don’t need a meditation room to practice mindfulness at the office. Even something as simple as taking five deep breaths before a meeting can do wonders for your state of mind. Try taking a 20 minute walk break in the middle of the day to clear your head. Or actually eat lunch somewhere other than your desk. Or take a 15 minute break to decompress in your journal. These are little ways that you can slow down and de-stress while you’re at work and achieve more balance.
Delegate non-essential tasks: Make a list of tasks that are consuming your time and energy, and see what can be delegated to someone on your team. Feel guilty about delegating? Or worry that it will come across as “dumping your work” on someone else? Try to approach delegating as something that’s positive and mutually beneficial.
Maybe some of these tasks could benefit another staff member’s career development. For instance, you might get annoyed at having to write your office’s email newsletter every week, but maybe there’s an intern or assistant who would jump at the chance to build their communication and marketing skills. Look for these win-win situations and you’ll have an easier time letting go of tasks.
Professional development goals: moving forward
According to Spanx founder Sarah Blakely, the one word that differentiates dreamers from people who actually achieve their goals is ACTION. Here’s a concrete action plan to help ensure that your professional development goals become reality.
Define your professional development goal. Now that you have some inspiration for a professional development goal, try setting a monthly goal that you’d like to achieve and commit to doing for that entire month. Make sure to write it down in your planner or Goal Planning Pad.
Have a one-on-one meeting with your manager. You can also meet with your manager to figure out how to best align your professional development goals with your company. Your manager will be a great resource and can tell you what strengths you can build on or what skillsets you should acquire. Use our Ink+Volt 1:1 Spiral Notepad so that you can get the most out of your meeting and leave with a specific goal and strategy.
Create a to-do list. Just like with any other big goals, professional development goals should be disassembled into simple pieces. So if your goal is to improve your communication skills, make a to-do list of tasks that you can do that month to help you approach your goal.
Your list can look something like this:
- Take a public speaking class
- Sign up for Toastmasters
- Volunteer to lead the next team meeting
- Watch and take notes on a TED talk
Review your progress. With your planner, do a weekly check-in with your goal and measure your progress. What areas are demonstrating growth and what areas need improvement? Don’t forget to take stock of your small wins and celebrate your hard work along the way.
You can choose one professional development “lane” like widening your professional network and or creating work-life balance, and commit to that lane for one month. Then move on to the next development lane and so forth. See what strategy works for you and your career.
Which professional development goal will you commit to this month?