Another email from HR.
Set your professional goals.
Okay, great. But what should they be?
And should you take setting goals for personal growth seriously this time?
Too often development goals can seem like extra paperwork rather than tangible, achievable objectives related to your career path.
NOTE: Check out Goals in ClickUp!
And what’s worse is when the end of the quarter or year comes and you haven’t worked on anything (yikes!) or learned anything new. This becomes an even bigger problem when you’re involved in remote project management as there’s nobody there to help you with those goals in-person.
Before we tackle some professional development goals and examples, take a minute and think about why professional work goals and life goals are important.
Why set goals for work?
1. Goals provide vision
What do you hope to learn?
What do you hope to achieve?
Do you want to be in the same place this time next year or three years from now?
And that doesn’t only mean a job change or promotion. It also means skills and capabilities. You can get better at your skills without moving up. In fact, it may take you a few years to get a promotion or to hone your skills. And that’s okay.
If your manager is asking you to read a book, attend a conference or take a class, it shouldn’t only be an excuse to do something different. It should be a way to help you in your work and professional goals.
This is especially important for remote workers as many virtual team challenges center around struggling to find purpose since you’re usually isolated from everyone else.
2. Goals provide clarity.
It’s too easy to get caught in the rat race of daily, urgent activities and lose sight of the big picture of what you’re working towards.
Surely you have a daily or weekly to-do list in a sprint or project. Maybe it’s all listed out for you on a Scrum board.
Irrespective of where your tasks are, your professional development goals can help you focus on where you need to improve and what steps will take you there.
Goals will help you think about where you need improvement. This, in turn, makes for better resource allocation as you know where to devote most of your time and energy.
3. Goals are measurable.
Or at least good goals are. When you’re creating professional development goals, have a way to quantify them. You could do SMART Goals or OKRs or KPIs or some other form of alphabet soup. Your choice. But you’ve got to show progress and have achievable goals.
To boil down those points, answer these three questions before setting professional goals:
- What do you hope to achieve?
- What areas need improvement?
- How you will measure achieving the goal?
With those in mind, you can create a specific goal.
Now let’s get back to that email from HR. What will your professional goals be for the year?
Here are some professional goal examples that may help you in your career:
1. Take a course to sharpen your skills.
I have a bad habit where I buy courses, but then don’t follow through and complete the material.
Don’t do the same thing! Industry titans (no matter your niche!) are starting and offering courses that will definitely help you improve.
You could consider a simple Udemy course on branding and marketing from Gary Vaynerchuk, or maybe you need to develop skills with a different programming language on Codeacademy. Also, you could learn coding from scratch with this interactive coding course for absolute beginners.
Before enrolling or jumping on a deal, investigate and see if it’s the right fit for you and if the instructors/organizers have something valuable to share. They don’t have to be the “best” or most accomplished in their field for it to be worth your time.
Taking one of these courses from an accomplished expert will help you on your career path.
2. Learn a new tool (or 5)
If you’re trying to organize your projects, create a new dev environment or make beautiful videos, you’ll need to experiment a bit first.
You may know how to do some of those things with old tools, but it’s always important to see what else is out there.
A lot of us early adopter types may do this already, but why not formalize it a bit? That way you could make it a goal and then communicate with the rest of your teammates about what’s happening.
Adding knowledge of different kinds of project management software to your skill set will help you further along in your career, especially at other jobs that may use a wide variety of tools. For example, if you use Agile project management, why not consider familiarizing yourself with a tool like ClickUp? It’s like having multiple tools built into one 😉
3. Improve your public speaking and presentations
The modern workforce is dominated by meetings and those meetings are often dominated by PowerPoints and speaking.
Might as well get better at them, huh? Storytelling at work is at a premium, so “slide” right into that.
As part of this goal, research different presentation techniques (like TED talks) and also think about the layout and design of your PowerPoint presentation, not just what you’re trying to say.
4. Research other departments
If you want to work up for a promotion (or maybe jump over to the competition!) make it a goal to spend time with another department.
How do you this?
- Get coffee.
- Ask for a tour of another department (like visiting your software department’s Scrum team)
- Attend a different division’s meeting just to see how it goes.
Unfortunately, most companies don’t officially make these department dates, so it’ll be up to you to make it happen. But once you do, you’ll create new relationships (for when that next opening comes along!) or make a new friend for the cafeteria. You’d be surprised at how many responsibilities a Scrum role comes with!
5. Improve your team collaboration
As our number of communication tools has increased, our actual communication seems to have gotten worse. Bummer. Improving team collaboration and communication could be one of your professional development goals.
In your search, you may find that your team needs a whole new tool (ClickUp anyone?) or better team communication habits in general.
This may mean creating new guidelines for your team to follow (put everything in ClickUp!) or avoid (no more all-company emails).
6. Build Your Network
This is on my goals list every year, even though I rarely feel like I’ve succeeded. Sure, I’ve made some great contacts at in-person events and online, but have I been intentional? Not really. This is where the “measurable” part falls short for me.
If you’re in sales, networking probably comes easily to you as it’s part of your job anyway. Your daily activity is benchmarked by how many contacts you have and the amount of outreach you’ve made.
For the rest of us, it’s not always like that. But maybe it should be? We don’t have to score sales-level goals, but you could try these ideas once a week or month and even track it:
- Attend a conference
- Go to a local meetup
- Schedule a call with someone in your field
7. Research a competitor
Again, this could be something that you’re already doing (especially in product marketing), but it may not be a normal part of your job.
Creating a comprehensive overview of how your competitors have set things up could be immensely valuable to you and your team.
Example: If you’re a designer in charge of social media graphics, you can take an inventory of the number and type of posts that include images, and compare the number of quotes versus infographics versus photos and illustrations.
If you’re a front-end developer, maybe you need to purchase or subscribe to your competitor’s tools for a month or two to see how they arrange and set up their features.
In both circumstances, you can record and benchmark their work against yours and look for ways to improve.
8. Get Better at Time Management
If you don’t make time to accomplish your goals, then…get this…you won’t accomplish them. But it’s not only about making time for more goals; it’s about the ability to be more productive at your work.
You’ll need to free up a few hours for strategic work or finishing more projects than you did the year before.
To do that, new processes and habits are needed. With the ClickUp platform, you can use lots of tools to improve your time management, like…
These features help you plan time from a micro to macro level. Other strategies, like the Pomodoro Technique, may help too.
Listing time management as one of your professional development goals may seem meta, but it actually will help you get more of your *real* work finished.
9. Find new challenges in your role
HR people love a professional development goal like this. It shows your ambition, smarts and savvy. It’s especially great if your company has always wanted to do something, but the know-how and follow-through have been lacking. So what can you do?
- Propose and mock-up a new product feature
- Run tests in a new channel
- Make inroads to a new market segment
- Revise old documentation (No one will fight you for this one).
- Take an additional shift
- Create a company-wide volunteer day
Obviously, this isn’t a comprehensive list of how your professional goals should be organized. It’s a start. Review them again and see if you come up with new possibilities. This is your career and it’s important to set goals to help you reach success.
Your professional development goals and goal setting will be contingent on your specific situation and the state of your company. But hopefully, this list will let you explore, research and develop your own career, and then maybe help you realize your ultimate goal.
Now get back to that email from HR and add your goals in ClickUp!