:Mindset / Success and goal setting

Professional development goals & examples to advance your career

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For entrepreneurs, business owners, and creators, professional development is a key part of one’s success. After all, without professional development, you won’t learn new skills. Nor will you become a more attractive candidate for high-paying jobs, or reach all of your business ownership goals over time.

But it can be tough to know which professional development goals you should pursue or how to achieve those specific goals once you decide on them. Today, let’s take a look at seven professional development goals and some specific examples that you can leverage to advance your career, whatever that may be.

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What are professional development goals?

In a nutshell, professional development goals are objectives or tasks that you set for yourself to help further your career. These can include learning new skills, trying to improve how happy or satisfied you are in your work, improving your ability to manage your time and become more productive, and so on. They differ from personal development goals that are more focused on the personal aspects of life.

Anything new you can achieve that helps you in your professional life and your career technically counts as a professional development goal, whether it’s a short-term goal or a long-term one. Next, let’s talk about how you can set professional development goals for yourself and some examples.

How to set professional development goals

Setting professional development goals starts with thinking about where you believe you can improve yourself and your abilities as it relates to work. You need to adopt a growth mindset and think about what areas of your career you want to see improved. Then think about which specific actions you can take to improve those areas.

Try to set SMART goals for professional development, or goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. This will ensure that you’re setting realistic goals for yourself that can yield good results and can also be easily achievable.

Having a little trouble brainstorming? Here are examples of professional development goals that you can set for yourself:

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Examples of professional development goals

Take a class on leadership

One of the best ways to set yourself up for future professional success is to hone your leadership skills. What better way to do that is there than to take a stellar class on leadership?

Many leaders offer their skills through online courses these days. They provide seminars that you can attend to learn straight from the experts. Leadership skills come naturally to some people, but not so much to others. If you’re in the latter group, don’t worry – you can take a class on leadership and bump up your entrepreneurial management skills in no time.

Leadership skills include skills like what to look for in a new candidate, how to manage team members, and how to conduct a background check on somebody before hiring them. Having these skills will benefit you no matter what your ambitions happen to be. Whether that’s starting your own business or rising in your current company.

Conducting a background check on a new potential hire, for example, is critical to make sure that the person has not committed any past offenses that warrant further review from your company. This crucial step is also overlooked by many novice business managers especially, and yet is also something that would be brought up in a class on business leadership or managerial skills.

Bottom line: Leadership skills are incredibly valuable, so you should pursue them to maximize your professional development and appeal.

Increase your sales or some other metric by a target percentage

What if you own a business, or you are in charge of the sales department, or some other team at a company? In these cases and more, you can assist your own self-improvement by simply setting a sales or some other metric goal and working hard to achieve that objective.

For example, imagine that you run your own business. You had a decent last year, but you want to do much better so you can look forward to expanding your enterprise in the future. To do that, you decide you need to earn $10,000 more this year than you did last year.

With goal setting like this, then taking all the steps necessary to achieve it, will bring more professional development your way. You’ll have to learn new skills to achieve that goal, for example, plus possibly hire new people. Think of goal setting as a way to force evolution in your career development.

Get a promotion (or give yourself one)

Alternatively, you can opt for possibly the most classic professional development goal in existence: A promotion.

If you work at a company and want to rise through the ranks for better perks and pay, simply make getting that promotion your number one objective for the foreseeable future. Stay late, do extra work, show your boss what you are capable of, and more.

Note that if you own your own business, this goal can still be a great way to develop professionally. Give yourself a promotion, even if you have a sole proprietorship. Instead of just calling yourself a business owner, make sure that your business cards say, “Chief Executive Officer” next to your name.

It’s a small touch, but it can have a measurable and positive psychological impact, especially when getting in touch with future clients or customers.

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Build a rapport with at least 3 customers or clients

Speaking of clients and customers, creators and small business owners ought to try to build a rapport with at least three of their most important target consumers.

How is this a professional development goal? Simple: It forces you out of your comfort zone of thinking of customers as targets or money machines. By building a rapport with your customers or target clients, you’ll:

  • Help your brand stand out from the competition.
  • Potentially lay the groundwork for a long-term customer relationship, thereby giving your enterprise more reliable income.
  • Help you master your interpersonal skills in a business or professional context.

This can be highly beneficial for maximizing your professional development, especially as a local entrepreneur or small business owner. In fact, 46% of Google searches are for local information and businesses, so connecting with local clients will be a great way to bolster your customer base.

Improve your time management skills

Many people have entrepreneurial ambitions, but far fewer have mastered time management. Make no mistake, time management skills are highly important for any professional, but especially those who have to juggle a lot of duties, like creators or business owners.

Therefore, you should consider trying to improve your time management skills in measurable, concrete ways. Try to show up to the office or sit down for work at the same time each day, then prevent yourself from working beyond your business day no matter what.

When you’re on the grind and need to get a lot of work done, manage your time wisely by using methods like the Pomodoro technique or by timing yourself to ensure you don’t take breaks that are too long. Creators, such as course creators or teachers, often suffer from time management difficulties since creativity can feel like finicky, unruly energy.

But it’s not. With good time management skills, you’ll eventually be able to harness and leverage your creativity on demand. That’s an invaluable professional skill.

Make a number of new professional connections

No matter what your industry happens to be, networking is likely highly important. Therefore, you can pursue the important professional development goal of making new professional connections as often as possible.

If you’re not exactly a social butterfly, simply set a goal to make a certain number of professional connections over the next few months or year. That can be 5, 10, or 20. You can make professional connections in your workplace, at conferences or seminars for your industry, or through other interactions.

Regardless, making new professional connections will do wonders for your professional options and social skills. As the saying goes, it’s not what you know, but who you know. The more professional connections you have, the more avenues you’ll have for business expansion, advice, customer acquisition, and much more.

Read 10 books from thinkers in your industry

Similarly, your industry probably has lots of books written by thought leaders or successful business owners. If you are new to your own business ownership journey, consider reading books from these thinkers to expand your skill set and to develop professionally.

It doesn’t necessarily take the place of a full-on class, but a good book can help you think about challenges or struggles differently, plus give you the skills and tools you can use to tackle upcoming challenges. Reading is also far better for your professional development compared to serving social media or working on a problem you’re struggling with again and again.

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Wrap up

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide on and pursue professional development goals that will help you achieve your entrepreneurial dreams. Remember to consider your industry and overall ambitions; creators, for example, will likely benefit more from professional development goals like building rapport with customers or clients than pursuing a promotion. Regardless, simply having goals will help you build and evolve your professional career in no time.

Author: Nahla Davies, Nahla Davies is a software developer and tech writer. Before devoting her work full time to technical writing, she managed—among other intriguing things—to serve as a lead programmer at an Inc. 5,000 experiential branding organization whose clients include Samsung, Time Warner, Netflix, and Sony.