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Setting personal and professional goals for yourself keeps you motivated. They help you fulfill your responsibilities and daily to-dos.
Goals also help you keep moving forward when life is full of day-to-day tasks. Setting goals helps you not get stuck. Goals provide an important reminder of the big picture: with persistence and hard work, you can reach your full potential.
We’ve created a guide that walks you through setting career goals. See exactly why they’re important, and explore a list of common work goal examples to inspire you as you create your own list.
What are work goals?
Work goals are related to your current job and organization or to your career and future. Professional goals are mental targets or milestones that keep you focused and on track to succeed in your career. Work goals cover a wide range, from hitting a performance target or having a specific role on a project team to learning a valuable skill or earning a promotion.
Goals can be short-term and long-term, depending on what you wish to accomplish. Short-term goals typically can be accomplished within a few months. Long-term goals take longer to achieve, requiring at least six months, or up to several years from now.
Typically, professional development goals are more strategic than personal development goals. Your ambitions will aid you in your career development, whether you’re aiming to receive a raise or a promotion, or starting a brand new job.
Why are goals so important?
From a young age, we learn about the importance of setting goals for ourselves. The following is a list of reasons why doing this is vital for professional development.
1. They’re measurable
Setting goals can quantify or evaluate your growth. The SMART goal method, discussed in detail below, is one of many ways to track how you’re doing and where you might need to improve. Without measuring, you won’t know if you’re meeting goals or falling short. Measurable goals allow you to see when you need to reduce them into steps to make them more attainable.
2. They provide vision
What do you wish to learn? To achieve? Where do you want to be next month, next year? Goals are a wonderful way to help build your personal and professional mindsets, your physical skills, and more.
3. They provide clarity
Most people have a list of daily, weekly, monthly goals. But life is messy, and your goals can be easily forgotten or pushed aside. To stay focused on what you want to achieve, try using a whiteboard or online platform to outline your goals.
4. They help you stand out
If you set goals, you’ll achieve dreams. That’s bigger than completing the bare minimum responsibilities, and people will notice. Plus, when you hit your goals, you’ll be more confident.
How to set up goals
First things first: there’s no right or wrong way to set and achieve your goals. It all depends on your preferences and what works best for you. Regardless, clearly outlining what you’re striving toward is a great start.
One method worth considering is the SMART goals method. SMART is an acronym, with each letter representing an aspect that helps set your professional goals.
You want to make your goals, individual or group, as specific as possible.
Determine how to assess your goals and keep track of your progress. Will you keep a journal? Check items off of a to-do list? Have team meetings to discuss your accomplishments?
Although pushing yourself to do better isn't bad, your goals should be achievable. Developing plans too far out of reach isn't healthy and can stir up negative feelings and attitudes. Setting goals should keep you inspired and working hard for yourself or your team, not discourage you.
Your ambitions should be purposeful and suitable to your career and professional environment. If what you want to achieve isn’t in line with what you can achieve, maybe you need a career change.
Establishing a time frame to achieve your goals will help you work harder and smarter, and see results quicker. This also gives you a marker on the calendar so you can access whether or not you’ve achieved a goal. This gives you an opportunity to recalibrate as needed.
Looking back at what you’ve already accomplished can serve as a good source of motivation as you consider your SMART goals. Ask yourself why you set goals in the past, and if achieving them led to positive changes in your life. Asking these questions will boost your well-being and give you the necessary push to start.
Carving out some time to reflect about what you desire in life currently and later on will give you the room to explore and decide what path and what types of goals are best for you.
In need of inspiration? Here are 10 work goal examples
Everyone requires a bit of inspiration now and then! Take a look at some career targets examples to help you find that spark and set your own work goals.
1. Communicate with impact
Improving your communication skills is a critical aspect of success, regardless of your goals. Don’t keep your aspirations and needs a secret. Talking about them helps others understand who you are and what you’re trying to accomplish. Your coworkers can’t support you if they don’t know what you need.
2. Grow your skills through continuing education
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with self-improvement. Refreshing or adding to your knowledge base increases both individual group competency. This can involve going back to school, taking a single class, or attending a seminar online or in person.
3. Improve your public speaking
A large majority of professions require employees to come to meetings and present their ideas. Try these tips to improve your public speaking skills. Mastering the art of telling a story, giving a sales pitch, or simply explaining yourself with confidence and an informed opinion will help you stand out.
4. Work on team collaboration
Whether you’re working from home or going into the office, you’ll always be interacting and talking with team members. Good cooperation between coworkers leads to healthy relationships built on respect — collaboration also improves your own productivity and the bottom-line for your company.
5. Build your network
These days, networking is essential to any career. It can help you find work and extend your professional services to other industries and customers. And it doesn’t have to be complicated — some simple strategies to have more connections and grow your network include:
- Attending conferences
- Going out to lunch with people in other departments or industries
- Scheduling regular check-ins with people you admire
6. Research your competition
Having insight into how your competition operates, including their strengths and weaknesses, can help you learn more about your field and effective decision-making skills.
7. Master time management
You can’t hope to achieve many goals if you aren’t keeping yourself on track. Productivity and efficiency are two skills many employers look for when hiring or promoting workers.
8. Sign up for leadership training
Leadership can be a learned skill. Through mentorship programs, apprenticeships, project management, on-the-job experience, and other leadership training, you can improve your ability to encourage others, keep projects organized, and cultivate a productive environment.
9. Practice creativity
Creativity lends itself well to just about any workplace. Having the knowledge to address unexpected and expected issues will help you make positive, meaningful strides towards your goals. Creative problem-solving is a tool that will never go out of style.
10. Work on your conflict resolution
Conflicts will always arise at work, whether it’s with another employee, your boss, or a customer. It's essential to know how to handle them without escalating the situation and hurting feelings.
Some tips for completing work goals
Here are some actionable steps to successfully complete your career goals.
Tip #1: Set aside time to reevaluate your goals
Life is dynamic, and so is the workforce. What is a priority one day might not be a priority tomorrow. Schedule time annually (or even monthly or once a quarter) to reassess your goals.
Tip #2: Ask for help
Everyone needs help. Reach out to others for their insights — you may find that your coworker or boss will suggest a solution or approach you hadn’t considered
Tip #3: Connect with experts, like a career coach
Coaches and advisers can help you identify what you’re looking to gain out of your career and devise a strategy to accomplish that. They can provide you with various tactics to help you achieve your short and long-term goals. A BetterUp® coach, for instance, will help you develop awareness about the various roles you play and dimensions in your life through the Whole Person™ model.
Tip #4: Put yourself first
Don’t overlook self-care. While work and other responsibilities are important, that doesn’t mean it’s OK to put yourself on the back burner. If you’re not taking care of yourself properly you won’t reach your full potential.
Putting it all together
Having work goals in place will help you identify what will make you happy and fulfilled at work — and then achieve it. By setting work goals, you’ll be able to dream bigger, and accomplish more, than checking tasks off a daily to-do list. To get the most out of the goal-setting process, try the SMART technique.
And don’t shy away from seeking help throughout the process. If you’re looking to achieve short- and long-term work goals, a relationship with a BetterUp coach can help you set or assess your goals, and will foster the perspective and accountability necessary to achieve them.
Sr. Insights Manager