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Set your professional development goals to advance in your career

Set your professional development goals to advance in your career

Artwork by: Katya Vakulenko

  • Professional development goals: what are they and why do they matter?
  • Characteristics of good professional development goals 
  • Why are professional development goals important?
  • 11 Examples of professional development goals to consider
  • 1. Move into a new field
  • 2. Earn a promotion
  • 3. Learn an in-demand skill
  • 4. Create a better resume
  • 5. Have more time off
  • 6. Improve your communication
  • 7. Create a portfolio or professional website
  • 8. Expand your network
  • 9. Locate a mentor
  • 10. Get certified
  • 11. Make more money
  • How to set your professional development goals in 6 easy steps
  • 1. Think about what’s missing
  • 2. Develop a vision
  • 3. Break your goal into small tasks
  • 4. Keep it SMART
  • 5. Create accountability
  • 6. Monitor your progress
  • Key takeaways

If you’re struggling to move forward in your professional life, it might be helpful to set professional development goals. In this blog, we’ll explain how to do this step-by-step and provide examples of these goals.

Feeling stuck at work? It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone has experienced professional stagnation at one point or another, and there’s no reason to feel down. At times like these, it’s important to refocus your attention and determine what you want for your personal and professional life. In other words, it’s time to set some goals. 

Overcoming stagnation is all about identifying specific problems and developing tailored solutions. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by setting professional development goals. These are definite objectives that are within reach and that can help you achieve the kind of professional satisfaction you seek. If you feel stuck, this is the place to start.

Everyone has a different vision of what the ideal job looks like, and your goals will be unique to you. Despite this, there are some goals that can make a positive difference for anyone. In this blog, we’ll list some common professional development goals and provide tips to get you started on your own journey. Before we wrap up, we’ll cover the following topics:

  • Professional development goals: What are they and why do they matter?

  • 11 professional development goals to consider

  • How to set your professional development goals in 6 easy steps

Professional development goals: what are they and why do they matter?

Professional development goals are simply personal objectives that you can set to help you optimize your work life. These are little steps that you can take on the road to becoming a better employer or employee. Since everyone’s jobs and objectives are different, professional development goals can take many shapes. Some professionals focus on earning promotions or learning new skills, while others may seek a better work-life balance or improved relationships with coworkers. 

Characteristics of good professional development goals 

As we mentioned above, it’s essential to tailor your goals to your individual circumstances rather than picking a goal from a list. For a goal to be right, it should meet a few basic criteria, including:

  • Specificity. When developing your professional goals, nothing is more important than specificity. Whatever goal you choose should be clearly identifiable so that you can gauge your success. Instead of aiming for a better work-life balance, for example, aim to spend 5 hours less in the office each week.

  • Manageability. It’s vital not to bite off more than you can chew when setting professional development goals. Choosing a manageable goal will make it easier to achieve success and avoid discouragement. 

  • Measurability. If you set a goal, make sure that you have a criterion for measuring success so that you can check it off your list. It’s also important to set a timetable that you can use to contain your goals. 

  • Relevance. Always choose goals that are directly relevant to your professional life. This will help you avoid distractions and will allow you to see a clear improvement at work.

Why are professional development goals important?

Setting and achieving professional development goals can have a massive impact on your everyday happiness and job satisfaction. Here are a few of the benefits of setting measurable goals at work:

  • Personal fulfillment. Greater personal satisfaction is one of the simplest and most important benefits of setting professional development goals. By setting and achieving objectives, you’ll avoid the feeling of being stuck and achieve a sense of achievement and forward momentum.

  • Greater opportunity. By setting and achieving professional goals, you’ll become a more competitive employee in your field. This may lead to greater opportunities and increased career flexibility.

  • Improved work relationships. Everyone likes working alongside driven and accomplished professionals. Setting and achieving goals will make you a more compelling coworker and improve your relationships with those around you.

  • A better personal life. Success in one area often leads to success in others. If you improve your professional performance, you may find yourself excelling in your off time. Additionally, you won’t have to stress about work when you’re not there.

  • Long-term career viability. The modern job market is competitive and ever-evolving, with new skills constantly coming online. Setting goals will allow you to stay up-to-date with these changes and ensure your long-term competitiveness in your field. 

  • Reduced burnout. There’s nothing more exhausting and discouraging than the feeling of standing still with no change in sight. Setting and achieving goals is a great way to avoid this feeling and reduce professional burnout.

  • Work-life balance. Achieving one small goal at a time allows you to clear your plate at work. This may give you more time to spend on the things and people that you love.

11 Examples of professional development goals to consider

Although your path to professional happiness will be unique, it might be helpful to review some common professional development goals. Skim this list and see if any of these objectives speak to your own situation. If so, try to tailor them to your unique needs.

1. Move into a new field

Everyone wants to work in a field that makes them feel like they’re making a difference. Since there’s so much demand for these positions, many people end up settling for a career that makes money, leaving their dreams in the rearview mirror. If you’re feeling stuck in an industry that doesn’t match your values or passions, it might be time for a change.

Moving into a new field is a good long-term goal but it can be a long and complicated process. If you plan to switch industries, try to break the process down into smaller goals. Start by analyzing your current skills and experience and identify any gaps that you’ll need to overcome. Next, try to develop a strategy for leveraging your experience into a job in your industry of choice.

2. Earn a promotion

Upward mobility is one of the best paths toward career satisfaction. If you’ve been in the same role for a while, getting a promotion might be exactly what you need to overcome exhaustion and malaise. 

Before you earn a promotion, you’ll need to excel in your current position and demonstrate potential for advancement. Be open with your goals and talk to your supervisors about promotion opportunities.

3. Learn an in-demand skill

There’s nothing static about the job market. A skill set that was in demand five years ago might become obsolete due to technological changes or market saturation. If you want to stay competitive, it’s vital to track changes in your industry and adjust accordingly. 

Figure out what skills are most in demand. These days, you can learn almost anything online, and it may be easier than you think to up your game.

4. Create a better resume

If you’re not getting the jobs you want, your resume could be the culprit. It’s the first point of contact between you and recruiters, and it’s vital to keep it in top shape. Start by updating your resume and then compare it to top resumes online. 

If you’re looking for a place to start, Resume.io’s online resume builder is just what you need. Using premade templates can seriously improve the appearance of your document, especially if you’re not much of a graphic designer. Finally, tweak your resume for each application, making sure that it’s optimized for each company’s priorities.

5. Have more time off

Almost everyone could use a little extra time off. It’s a great way to avoid burnout and create a better work-life balance. If you have more time with friends and family or more hours for your hobbies, going to work won’t seem so ominous. 

If you’re looking for more off time, try to figure out how to be more productive at work. This may leave you with a little more leeway. Alternatively, you could reduce your hours or ask your employer for a flex schedule.

6. Improve your communication

Communication is one of those skills that everyone can benefit from. Whether you work in sales or wait tables, verbal and written communication are the keys to success. Better communication can improve your relationships with your coworkers and clients and help you avoid conflicts. Finding your voice can also help you convey vital ideas, contribute to your team, and move into leadership positions.

If you want to become a better communicator, the best thing you can do is listen carefully to effective speakers and read works by great writers. This will give you vital insights that you can incorporate into your own speaking and writing. If you’re looking for a more systematic approach,  there are a variety of online courses, in-person seminars, and books that offer helpful advice from great communicators. These programs focus on the minutia of communication, including things like emotional intelligence, nonverbal cues, tone, and active listening. 

7. Create a portfolio or professional website

If you’re a creative, a project manager, or a consultant, a portfolio is a must. These days, most portfolios are digital presentations that display your best work. Making a website is easier than ever, and most people can build one for free using one of many domain providers. Even if your work doesn’t require a portfolio, it might be helpful to build a personal website to introduce yourself and host your CV. At the very least, create a detailed profile on LinkedIn and make as many connections as you can.

8. Expand your network

Personal connections are one of the secrets to career success. While the digital age has reduced face-to-face interactions, there’s no substitute for knowing someone personally. Even the most qualified candidates rely on personal contacts to land the jobs they want. 

If you’re feeling stuck and isolated at work, try to expand your network. You can start in the office by making friends with your coworkers. Next, try to attend industry conferences or seminars and use social media to find people with similar professional interests. 

9. Locate a mentor

If you’re a young professional, it can be hard to find the ladder to success. In these situations, it’s important to harness the experience and knowledge of older professionals. If possible, try to find a mentor in your workplace. It could be a supervisor, or simply a more experienced individual who has the same job as you. A good mentor can help you improve your performance, identify growth opportunities, expand your skill set, and avoid beginner mistakes. Aside from these benefits, a mentor can also provide everyday encouragement to get you through rough patches in your life.

10. Get certified

In many industries, credentialing is an important part of professional advancement. This is true for accountants, project managers, designers, medical professionals, counselors, financiers, hospitality personnel, and many others. If you’ve been stuck in the same role for a while, find out if earning a certification might help you earn more. Many certification courses are now available online, making it easy to earn your credentials from home. 

11. Make more money

This is a major career goal for just about everybody. Even if you’re living comfortably, a little extra money couldn’t hurt. The solution to this challenge will vary based on your situation, so analyze your options. In some cases, the answer might be a promotion, while in others, it might be necessary to move into a new field or department. When it’s time to look for a higher salary, it’s beneficial to do a comparative analysis of average compensation in different fields. If this sounds like a good idea, you’re in luck! Resume.io offers an easy-to-use salary analyzer tool that you can use to get a better understanding of the current job market. 

How to set your professional development goals in 6 easy steps

Ready to make a change? If so, here are six simple steps that you can take to set and achieve your goals:

1. Think about what’s missing

If you’re feeling unsatisfied with your work, it’s essential to drill down and find the exact cause of your discontent. Without finding the culprit, you’ll never be able to identify a proper course of action. Try to identify one or two specific factors that are inhibiting your success. Maybe you don’t have the skills you need to advance in your field, or maybe the company you work for doesn’t offer the opportunities you expected. Sometimes the problem may be bigger, and you might have to switch fields or find a job that allows greater flexibility.

2. Develop a vision

Once you know what’s missing in your professional life, it will be easier to come up with a plan for improvement. Before you get too specific, develop a larger vision of what you want your career to look like. This might include higher pay, more free time, greater job satisfaction, or a less stressful work environment. 

3. Break your goal into small tasks

In order to find success, you need to break your long-term goals into smaller, actionable steps. This will allow you to observe your own progress and avoid becoming discouraged when you need to make big changes. When developing these smaller goals, try to choose objectives that you can complete in a few weeks. For example, if you wanted to get a promotion at your current job, you could break the goal down into the following tasks:

  • Week 1. Collect feedback on your performance from your peers and supervisors

  • Week 2. Identify skill and performance gaps and look for solutions

  • Week 3. Find a mentor

  • Weeks 4-7. Complete an online skill-building course and improve your performance at work

  • Week 8: Speak to your supervisor about a promotion

4. Keep it SMART

SMART is an acronym that many people use to develop actionable goals for themselves. The letters stand for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Whenever you set a professional development goal, make sure that it meets these criteria.

5. Create accountability

When overcoming personal challenges, it often helps to create accountability. Find someone you trust and tell them about your plans. Have them check in on you from time to time and ask them to track your progress. Everything is easier with help, and your partner may provide much-needed encouragement as well as accountability.

6. Monitor your progress

If you’re using the SMART system to set your goals, you know that it’s vital to keep them measurable and time-bound. Create a timeline for your goals and give each task a specific window within it. Every time you complete a task, you can check it off on a list or a spreadsheet. Tracking your progress is also an excellent way to identify shortcomings and tweak your approach.

Key takeaways

  1. Professional development goals are specific objectives that employees set to improve their work satisfaction. 

  2. Good professional development goals are relevant, specific, measurable, and small enough to be manageable.

  3. Professional goals include things like earning a promotion, getting a raise, finding a mentor, taking more time off, and earning a certification.

  4. When setting goals, break them down into smaller tasks, and try to create a system of accountability.

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