Recruitment firm director Lorraine Twist says…
A professional goal can be one of several things. It could be an ultimate career goal you have set yourself to aspire to throughout the course of your professional life, or a specific goal related to your career during a period of time, like this year. Provided it’s realistic, a clear career goal allows you to set yourself an action plan, or personal development plan, to work towards to achieve your professional ambitions. Having a career plan, or career goals can help you push through challenging and tougher times by focusing on achievement. Unless you take action to create some professional goals, where you end up can often be a matter of luck.
Using the SMART technique will ensure goals remain realistic and objective. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-scaled – and all of these can be applied to most if not all goals you set yourself. If the professional goal you have set yourself is your overall goal for your career, then I’d recommend having a timeframe in mind but not being too strict by setting yourself a specific deadline. If the goal is short term, setting a deadline can help you stay focused towards achieving it in the time you’ve allowed.
If a goal is taking longer to reach than anticipated, break it down into smaller objectives. There’s always the opportunity to reframe a goal if you don’t reach it by a certain time. For example, if your goal is to achieve a promotion by the end of the year – there’s lots of factors that would be outside of your control in making this happen such as company performance, aspects in your personal life or even the pandemic.
Check in from time to time to make sure your goals are still achievable. If they aren’t, tweak your plan accordingly to keep you on track. As part of this review, make sure you measure your progress. Congratulate yourself for achievements you are particularly proud of and the steps you’ve made along the way. One of the most common mistakes people make is to set some professional goals, and either forget about them or avoid checking in on their goals if they aren’t making progress.
If you don’t know where to start, be honest with yourself. Think about any areas of your job you struggle with and how you can develop. For example, what’s your typical working day like? Are there any particular tasks that take you longer with because you find them difficult? How could you improve within this area? Honest self-reflection and improvement should be part of your everyday work routine, no matter how far up the career ladder you are, and it will help in allowing you to set your professional goals.
LinkedIn career expert Charlotte Davies says…
Having goals keeps us motivated throughout our career. It’s what helps us strive for progression and get through those more mundane, everyday tasks we must all do daily. As we hit those goals that we set ourselves, we feel that strong sense of achievement, which in turn helps us to keep pushing for that next step – whatever that might be for us as individuals. It’s widely thought that setting goals helps you to clarify your ambitions and help you to use your time and resources effectively.
Goals can be different for every one of us. It totally depends on what you’re passionate about. When thinking about your goals, think about what you want to achieve in your career, but also what elements of your job you enjoy and excel at. For instance, if you have a passion for writing, why not put your hand up to revamp the copy on your company website? Or if you’re a whizz behind the camera, offer to shoot some exciting content for the company's social channels. Your experience and skills make you unique, and not only can putting yourself forward benefit your own career, it can also help inspire others.
Some goals are relevant to everyone. For example, we should all strive to grow our professional networks. Forming important relationships and connections with those in your industry is incredibly useful for advancing your career and getting your name out there, while also giving you people you can go to for trusted advice.
Try to avoid comparing yourself to your friends or colleagues. You’re on your own path and taking things at your own pace, so don’t feel you need to set goals so you’re at a similar point in your career as others in your peer group. Set goals which are important to you, achievable within your commitments outside of work, and you know will make you feel that sense of accomplishment that we all strive for. Remember, setting and ticking off small goals is much better than setting none at all.
Practically speaking, write down the goals you want to chat to your boss about – along with some suggestions on how you think you might be able to achieve them. Also look at how these goals match against your current objectives – if you think it’s time to update them, have a think about what these new objectives could be. Once you’ve thought about this, grab your boss to chat them through. Updating objectives is a great way of making sure you’re given the space to achieve your goals and means it will be front of mind for your boss too. There’s no better time to have this conversation than now, so you can start 2022 afresh.
Business owner Alex Silver says…
Professional goals are the stepping stones you need to take to achieve a certain level of success. Having one long term goal – say, becoming a company director – is helpful to guide you in the right direction. However, it’s also vital to set mini milestone goals for yourself, as is celebrating success along the way. Working backwards from your top professional goal, you can put in a series of ‘stepping stones’ which will guide you on the path of achieving. These steps could be anything from taking a course to upskill for the next stage in your career, asking for more responsibility at work, collaborating with a new team or having regular feedback reviews from your line manager to check you’re going in the right direction.
Setting goals will ensure you’re always growing and have a purpose. Without direction it’s easy to become unmotivated or stagnant in your role. Your career should be a journey and the goals will help you head in the right direction. There’s so much you can do to try and ensure success. If you’re just launching why not try using a mentor, get them to look over your business plan and see if there are areas for improvement. Getting guidance and feedback from someone more experienced can be a huge help at any point in your business journey. I also recommend putting regular time in throughout the year to access your strategy and KPIs, this will flag up anything that isn’t working before it goes on too long.
Try to look at why you didn’t reach a certain goal. Did you set an unrealistic time frame for yourself or perhaps there was something you can do different next time? It’s all about reflection and learning from mistakes. Growth takes time and there’s going to be setbacks along the way. Think about how to make the goals tangible – how are you going to achieve this? It’s not enough to just say you want a promotion. It’s vital to consider the steps will you take to get there and how will you measure success along the way.
Be brave and take risks. When I left my job as a junior sister in the casualty ward to set up my own PR agency, my family and friends advised against it. I was leaving a job that I’d worked long and hard to achieve. Setting up from my kitchen table was risky but I knew I had the determination and skills to build a successful business. Over the last quarter of a century there have been many ‘pinch me’ moments and I’m so glad I took that risk. Job satisfaction plays a major part in your overall happiness and wellbeing. You spend so much of your life working so it needs to be something for filling for you. If you have a career dream you’ve not explored yet, then explore this.