Setting professional goals should be one of the foremost steps you take to build a stable and successful career. Whether you’re writing a list of goals as part of interview prep, or you voluntarily want to plan out the next steps in your life, setting your professional goals can help lead you to a more prosperous future.
Like personal goals you set for other activities in life, professional goals can also assist you in mapping out your direction and defining your path towards the future.
What are Professional Goals?
Professional goals can be defined as specific and long-term goals that help you achieve your career aspirations. It can also be a series of objectives used to evaluate the success of your work. The timeline for setting these goals varies per individual. They can be short-term, long-term and can stretch from a few months to even a decade.
Why are Professional Goals Important?
Before exploring easy ways we can set professional goals, let’s first understand why setting such goals are essential. A successful career isn’t only measured by the amount of money you earn or the number of years you’ve worked. Other factors, like personal fulfillment and contribution to your specific industry, also come into play.
Having an unfulfilling career leads to pent-up frustration, which over time bleeds into your personal life and, finally, your daily productivity at work. You may end up losing track of deadlines, which in turn leads to even more frustration.
Well thought out and written goals eliminate the blurred lines and ease the panic you feel when you think about what’s next. When your goals are spelled out, it becomes only a matter of completing one step and moving to the next.
How to Set Professional Goals
In setting professional goals, there is no master formula for guaranteed success. You should back up your goals with an action plan that includes tentative deadlines for achieving certain levels. Best practices formulated by experts like S-M-A-R-T can be the framework for your plan.
This way, one can identify the areas needing more improvement and then set targets that will stir you towards the end goal. The following points are easy ways to set professional goals.
1. Create a Mission Statement, Make Your Goals Clear
When you come up with a career goal, it should be specific and realistic. You need to decide what level of success you aim for and what should be prioritized. Your professional goal should be all about making your mark on the world. If you’re not sure what you want to achieve or where that mark should lie, then it’s hard to know what to pursue in the long run.
A common denominator should be what you love and enjoy doing. Your life-defining career goal should be a merger between activities you enjoy and the industry that helps you achieve it professionally.
Think of the best part of your job, what you look forward to every day, and where you excel the most. When the what’s and why’s are clear then it’s time for you to figure out ways to narrow it down for even more clarity.
2. Write Down Your Goals, Apply the SMART Methodology
SMART is a conceptual framework you can build your goals around. The acronym stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timed. Setting SMART goals and writing them down helps you focus on the small details that eventually lead to the main goals.
For example, instead of saying “By the end of every week, I’ll go over the accounting records of my current project,” you can narrow it down to – “On Friday morning, I’ll create paystubs and calculate profits and losses for the weeks’ project.”
The latter is more spelled out and precise than the former, which means there is a greater possibility of you seeing it through to the end. Note that this process is iterative, so you can always make readjustments with time, as long as you don’t deviate from your main goal.
3. Be Consistent, Use Relevant Tools
Consistency on the right part eventually breads results, and to be consistent, you need to figure out easier ways to get work done. Working smart and hard simultaneously can help simplify your work process. With the advent of technology, there is available software for almost every tasking activity, and you can leverage this to your advantage.
For instance, to generate an invoice for an employee, you can use available digital tools to get the job done in minutes rather than hours. Repetitive small goals eventually set a precedent for even higher ones.
Success takes time, and while fulfilling our routine, it is easy to fall into redundant patterns that soak the excitement out of activities we used to love. When this happens, it is easy to feel bored and lose focus on what is important. Professional goals serve as a reminder that helps you focus on the bigger picture and channel your energy towards things that matter.