American business writer Tony Robbins once said that setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible. This statement couldn’t be more true. There’s some impressive science to back up the power of setting goals. Goal setting is linked to higher motivation and can even rewire our brains to change or create new behaviors. Whether you want to feel more productive, ascend within your organization, or learn a new skill, setting attainable professional goals is the best way to get started.
In this blog, we’ll explore professional goals, show you how setting them can help you achieve great success, and give you 20+ examples of professional goals you can set today.
- What are professional goals?
- The importance of professional goals
- Ways to set professional goals
- 20+ examples of professional goals
What are professional goals?
Professional goals are the guideposts for what you want to achieve in your career. These can be short-term goals for you to work towards today or long-term objectives that require a detailed plan of action to achieve. The professional goals you set can lead to achievements like new skills, milestones, career changes, or a salary increase. Short-term goals break work up into immediate action items while long-term goals show you the bigger picture.
The importance of professional goals
Professional goals are important because they can help you align your focus and track progress as you work. When you set attainable objectives with manageable deadlines, you can effectively track your progress and celebrate small wins every day. In other words, goal setting is one of the best ways to motivate yourself to get any job done!
Having clear and intentional goals is also the first step in preparing for many scenarios including prepping for a job interview and planning to make a career move. Establishing goals can lead to quicker professional development as it forces you to develop a detailed plan of action that holds you accountable. For example, if you’re on the hunt for a new position, a long-term goal of ascending to the next level within your team by a specified date will have you making day-to-day decisions that align with the outcome you desire.
Track objectives as part of your meeting workflow
Stay on top of your team’s goals by clearly recording, defining, and tracking the progress of your OKRs in Fellow’s Objectives tool. The best part? You can quickly review those objectives during your team meetings!
Ways to set professional goals
- Identify your strengths and weaknesses
- Recognize your end objective
- Decide which goals you want to work on
- Write your goals down
1Identify your strengths and weaknesses
When creating professional goals, set objectives that will leverage your skills and improve your weaknesses. Determine which goals will allow you to use and develop your strengths frequently so you can specialize your skill set. Take opportunities to improve your weaknesses through mentorship, courses, and other professional development opportunities to become a well-rounded employee or manager.
2Recognize your end objective
Short- and long-term professional goals go hand in hand. Select short-term goals that align with your long-term career aspirations and long-term professional objectives that you can make strides toward each day. Ask yourself where you see yourself in five or ten years and create objectives that are in line with who you want to be in the future.
3Decide which goals you want to work on
All great professional goals are SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound. Use SMART criteria to decide what goals you want to work towards and to develop a plan of action. Your goals can be based on process, performance, or outcome.
4Write your goals down
Writing your professional goals down will help you clarify your future. It will also give you short-term motivation and excitement, as well as a destination to work toward. With Fellow’s Objectives feature, you can set and track professional goals for your team over a specified period.
20+ examples of professional goals
- Expand your skill set
- Advance your career
- Learn from other thought leaders in your industry
- Become a thought leader in your industry
- Improve your time management skills
- Establish your personal brand
- Foster team collaboration
- Expand your network
- Discover new challenges within your role
- Track your progress
- Ask for more feedback
- Improve your work-life balance
- Obtain a leadership position
- Earn a higher salary
- Create new work habits
- Become a mentor
- Learn how to use new technology
- Start your own business
- Win an industry award
- Polish your public speaking skills
- Write a great resume
1Expand your skill set
If there’s a skill you’ve always wanted to improve upon, set a goal to make it happen. Consider what core hard and soft skills you use every day at work and create a plan to improve through classes, self-guided study, or mentorship. A short-term goal could be to read a marketing book to enhance your understanding of specific concepts, and a long-term goal could be to refine your marketing and networking skills by completing an MBA program.
2Advance your career
In the broadest sense, career advancement goals revolve around progressing to the next level of your career. A short-term example might be that you want to expand your current job description during your weekly one-on-one with your manager. An example of a long-term career advancement goal might be to ascend from the manager level to the director level within your team in one to three years.
3Learn from other thought leaders in your industry
A thought leader is someone who offers guidance, influences others, and uses their industry knowledge to inspire innovation. A short-term goal could be to listen to podcasts every day; a great place to start is with Fellow’s Supermanagers podcast where thought leaders from all walks of life tease out the habits, thought patterns, learnings, and experiences that help them be extraordinary. A long-term goal might be to save enough money to attend a week-long conference in two years that will give you face time with industry experts who can teach you the tricks of the trade.
4Become a thought leader in your industry
If you want to be a go-to person in your industry, set a goal to become a thought leader. A short-term goal could be to attend a networking event in your area of expertise. A long-term professional goal might involve seeking out opportunities to establish yourself as a thought leader by getting published, building a distinct personal brand, and boosting your industry presence.
5Improve your time management skills
Great time management skills will help you prioritize tasks, increase your productivity, and ensure you work smarter, not harder. Set specific objectives to manage your time effectively. A short-term time management goal might be to eliminate time-wasting activities or minimize unnecessary screen time. A long-term time management goal could involve prioritizing one specific, big-picture task over another to help you get a promotion at work.
6Establish your personal brand
A personal brand communicates your unique value proposition to your target audience. Set an objective to create a personal brand that highlights your strengths and values and sets you apart from others in your industry. One short-term goal could be to define a personal mission statement that guides your professional decisions moving forward. A long-term goal could be to build an audience that communicates your brand through social media, podcasts, or email newsletters.
7Foster team collaboration
Set a goal to improve teamwork within your team or department. Team collaboration can improve the way you and your colleagues work to solve problems, develop processes, and reach group objectives. A short-term goal might be to complete a five-minute team-building activity during your weekly meetings. A long-term goal could be to develop a shared vision, effective communication practices, and a clear division of tasks within your team.
8Expand your network
Your network is your net worth. Set a short-term goal of expanding your network using platforms like LinkedIn or by attending a networking event in your area. Long-term networking goals may include joining professional associations, sitting on boards, or cultivating a reputation as a helpful and reliable leader in your community.
9Discover new challenges within your role
If you no longer find your day-to-day work challenging, seek out opportunities to expand your role. Set a short-term goal to ask your manager for new responsibilities that will refine your skills. A long-term professional goal might include working with your HR department to expand your job description to incorporate new and exciting duties.
10Track your progress
Strive for continuous improvement by regularly tracking your progress at work. Set a goal to incorporate a new digital project management tool into your workflow. A long-term goal might be to plot the data from your progress over one year to see how much you’ve improved. Better yet, use Fellow’s Objectives tool to record, define, track, and review the progress of your objectives!
11Ask for more feedback
Giving and receiving regular positive and constructive feedback will help you build confidence and learn from past mistakes. Use Fellow to share real-time feedback on meetings, projects, and performance. A short-term goal could be to incorporate opportunities to give and receive feedback into your daily routine. A long-term goal might be to develop a yearly plan to work to improve on problem areas based on constructive feedback you recently received.
12Improve your work-life balance
Everything in life is a balancing act, including your work. Work-life balance can be defined as the amount of time you spend doing your job versus the time you spend with loved ones or pursuing personal interests. Set a short-term goal to clock out each weekday by 5:00 p.m. to leave room for other activities or a long-term objective to optimize your time at work so you can dedicate more time to other personal priorities.
13Obtain a leadership position
A leadership position is one that involves directing, guiding, and mentoring others. A long-term objective could be to develop soft skills that leaders you admire possess like empathy, active listening, and stellar communication. A short-term goal could be to spend time once a week mentoring a colleague who has asked you for support.
14Earn a higher salary
If you want to ascend to the next level in your company, align your skill set with the position you’re striving to obtain. Set a short-term goal to discuss your salary with your manager during your next check-in meeting. In the long term, develop benchmarks for where you would like your salary to be and work towards obtaining raises or new positions that align with your desired rate of pay.
15Create new work habits
Good work habits bring about positive change and ensure that these changes become a part of your everyday life. Set a short-term goal to be physically active during your lunch breaks to improve your focus in the afternoon or a long-term goal to use a habit tracker app to visualize your progress over months or years and to boost your mood.
16Become a mentor
Mentorship is one of the most fulfilling ways to give back and can be an excellent learning experience. Set a short-term goal of finding a mentee at work who could learn from your professional experiences. Then, set a longer-term objective of helping your mentee build the leadership skills necessary for them to become a mentor.
Use our Mentor Meeting Template as a guide to fuel learning and growth for your next mentorship meeting.
17Learn how to use new technology
Technology is constantly changing. With each innovation comes another chance to learn something not everyone knows that can help your career and your organization. Programming languages and data tools are great examples of software engineer goals, as is any popular new tech in your field.
Taking some time to learn a new tool can give you an edge over others in your world. Online courses, videos, books, seminars (or “webinars”), and training programs are all great ways to get yourself up to speed.
18Start your own business
Sure, this goal might sound ambitious, but you likely already know plenty of what you need to get started. Starting and running your organization can give you more control over your time and goals. Only you determine your schedule and salary, and only you have a big impact on your personal brand.
Of course, starting a business requires lots of work and dedication, but it can be super rewarding. The earliest steps include refining your business idea and creating a plan that lays out your entire approach. Think of both short-term goals and long-term goals to get off on the right foot.
19Win an industry award
Being recognized for your hard work is like getting a pat on the back. Winning an industry award brings attention to your success and can open the door to more opportunities. It also makes people look up to you—and when people admire you, working with them to achieve your goals becomes way easier.
Do some research on awards in your industry or organization and figure out how to qualify. From there, you can determine specific goals such as making a certain number of sales in a month. Or maybe you could create a better project management system for the team. Initiative and innovation go hand in hand here.
20Polish your public speaking skills
At some point, you’ll need to stand in front of your whole team and lead the charge at a meeting. When that time comes, you’ll be glad you took the time to work on your public speaking skills. Being a good public speaker means being confident while engaging your audience.
Watching videos, attending conferences, and reading books are great ways to figure out what makes a great public speaker. You can take what you’ve learned and get in a little practice at work, too. If you typically sit back and listen during meetings without saying much, make it a point to chime in next time. Over time, you’ll get more comfortable speaking in front of groups.
21Write a great resume
In many cases, your resume is your introduction. It’s the first thing someone sees about you before you actually chat with them. It can help you stand out from the pack whether you’re looking for new work or applying for an award. It needs to be one-of-a-kind to help you reach your goals.
Your resume should show your professional track record in a nutshell rather than your life story. It should highlight your experience, accomplishments, and skills in one organized, concise page. When you’re done, check (and triple-check) your resume for typos. The goal here is for everyone to see you as a truly outstanding teammate.
Setting professional goals is a fool-proof way to improve your skills, gain confidence, and get to the next step of your career. Try setting one of the 20+ professional goals outlined in this article to create a clear path to career success and become the best version of yourself today!