How to set professional goals + 10 examples

Whether you love or loathe your nine-to-five, one thing’s for sure — professional goals will allow you to make more money and get more enjoyment out of your job. Busy schedules may get in the way of setting personal goals at work, but taking the time to prioritise goal setting may be the key to more productive output. 

It’s time to take professional goals off the backburner and turn them up to high heat. Here are some tips for setting professional goals and examples to help you reach your full potential at work.

What are professional goals?

What is a professional goal and how does it differ from a personal goal? Well, unless you’re a budding developer or wedding celebrant, buying a house and having a wedding will probably fall under personal goals, not professional. Put simply, professional goals are objectives you set at work to grow and advance your career.

They can be short-term, focusing on tactical solutions for right now, or long-term, to help you achieve ambitious career goals.

How to set SMART goals for professional development

We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again — the best goals are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. But what does that mean in the context of professional development?

  • Specific — Professional goals should be clear-cut, outlining precisely what you want to achieve in your career. 
  • Measurable — The benefits of setting measurable development goals are two-fold — they allow you to track your progress and also keep you motivated.
  • Achievable — Only you know your capacity, so keep achievability in mind when setting professional goals for yourself.
  • Relevant — Relevancy is key when it comes to professional development — why set goals that won’t benefit you in the long (or short) run?
  • Time-bound — It’s easy to lose track of personal development goals when work is demanding, so setting deadlines can make it easier for you to stick to your commitments.

Examples of goals for professional development

Professional development is highly subjective — growth looks different in each field, role and rung on the ladder. Rather than getting into the specifics, we’ve compiled top-level examples you can tailor to your job. Bring your self-improvement stew to a rolling boil with these 10 examples of professional growth goals to advance your career.

1. Learn a new skill

Whether learning a new program or mastering teamwork, new skills will push you forward in your career. As the old saying goes, you’re never too old to learn!

  • SMART example — Learn the basics of coding by completing two modules of an online course by April 1.

2. Practice professional communication

For those at the start of their careers, professional communication may seem like a foreign concept. It’s vital to practice written communication, interpersonal skills and conflict resolution to succeed at work.

  • SMART example — Practice conflict resolution skills by answering 20 customer service emails by the end of the month.

3. Provide more effective feedback

Feedback is the key to progress, so it’s essential to get it right as a manager. Give examples, stay positive and paint a clear picture of what went right and what went wrong.

  • SMART example — Provide effective feedback to the whole team within two weeks of the new product launch on May 5,

4. Develop inclusive teams

The benefits of inclusive teams speak for themselves. Create an atmosphere of inclusivity and belonging and encourage leaders to think more critically about the importance of diverse teams.

  • SMART example — Complete an online module on inclusivity and share it with team leads to teach the importance of inclusivity in teams. Request it be completed by the end of the week.

5. Sharpen problem-solving skills

Healthy leaders and employees know the importance of problem-solving and being honest about mistakes. Adding these core skills to your toolkit will allow you to find faster, better solutions and learn valuable lessons.

  • SMART example — Ask for feedback after troubleshooting three technical issues in the office this week.

6. Improve work-life balance

Burnout is real. Work-life balance isn’t just about knocking off at 5 pm — it’s about maintaining a good attitude that you can bring in to work. 

7. Perfect presentation skills

If you weren’t a confident public speaker in school, work presentations probably won’t be easy for you. The good news is that you can work on perfecting your presentation skills through practice.

  • SMART example — Volunteer to run two meetings a month for the next three months.

8. Expand your professional network

Cast a wide net and build a strong professional network to support your career growth. It will give you access to more opportunities for new work and mentorship.

  • SMART example — Attend three Women in STEM networking events by EOFY and share details with at least 10 people.

9. Continue your education

In almost every field, there’s an opportunity to expand your knowledge and broaden your skill set. Pursuing a new certification, degree, masters or PhD will allow you to differentiate yourself in your current workplace and when applying for new opportunities.

  • SMART example — Complete a Master of Architecture and register as an architect through the Architects Registration Board by December 2024.

10. Work on time management and organisation

With effective time management and organisation, focus and productivity are in the spotlight. These skills will help you better manage your workload and effectively prioritise tasks.

  • SMART example — Sign your team up for Tability and set three objectives they can work towards by September 15.

Achieve professional development goals with OKRs

Writing goals is a step in the right direction, but it’s the follow-through that really counts. So, how do you actually achieve your professional development goals? With OKRs, that’s how!

OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) is a goal-setting framework that puts business objectives at the forefront, with measurable outcomes that evaluate progress and success. Good OKRs keep the focus on team priorities while acknowledging how individual learning plays into business goals.

Read more about how this methodology works in our guide to creating your first OKRs. Prefer learning by doing? Give Tability — our simple yet effective OKRs software — a free trial today.

Looking for a simple OKRs process?

Monika Gudova

Content Writer and Editor

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