HR just reached out, and they want you to set professional goals. You’re rolling your eyes at the cliché email. But pause for a minute before you trash the email.
Professional development can help you learn new skills, grow, and succeed in your career. Professional goals can have a significant impact on your career path, whether they help lead to a promotion or change in job, or simply to doing better in a current position. Defining professional goals and achieving them one at a time can make a big difference in your career.
What are professional goals?
Professional goals are a set of outcomes that collectively represent your version of “success.”
If you’re an accountant, your professional goal might be to pass the CPA exam, get your license, and buy an office to start your practice.
Professional and personal goals often converge. But they’re two different things. While professional goals move you up the career ladder, personal goals improve your happiness and lifestyle.
For example, if you’re stressed about your financial health, your personal goal could be to pay your debts. You might also consider expanding your skill set to get a promotion, which can make paying off those debts easier.
Paying off debt is a personal goal.
Upskilling to get a promotion is a professional goal.
Why are professional development goals important?
Professional development goals drive you in a specific direction. You gain momentum over time as you continue working on your goals and know how to get there. Other reasons why professional goals are important include:
Showing that you’re driven: Interviewers often ask candidates about their professional goals during job interviews. Having clear career goals can differentiate you from other candidates. Goals also give recruiters an idea about how your goals will align with the company’s goals.
Focus: Goal setting is an effective behavior change technique. When you’re focused on a clearly defined goal, you’re more likely to work towards achieving it proactively. You’ll channel your efforts to achieve desired outcomes faster.
Establish credibility: For example, If you have your own business and need capital, you’ll need to convince investors about your ability to plan and execute. A clear idea of where you want to be professionally and how you plan to get there ensures investors that you’re a person who plans. That might just nudge the investors into getting on board.
Measure progress: Setting measurable goals helps you track your progress. Say your goal is to free up the team’s time for more productive tasks. So, you start using Loom to provide feedback instead of recurring weekly meetings to reduce unproductive time. If your goal was to free up 7 hours per week, and Loom saves the team 4 hours a week, you know you’re ~60% there.
Vision, meet action: Say you’re an associate at a law firm. You aspire to become a partner one day. So, what’s your plan? Setting professional goals can help you draw a roadmap to achieving your vision, one step at a time. For example, you could get a relevant certification, improve interpersonal skills, and get some experience working on complex lawsuits as you work your way up.
Positive reinforcement: Remember the feeling of completing your graduation? Or getting your first job? Achieving goals feels exhilarating. It motivates you to do more and boosts your confidence.
Examples of professional goals
Your professional goals may be short-term (less than a year) or long-term.
Improving team morale might be one of your short-term goals if you're a manager. But solving your target audience’s pain point with an innovative solution? That could be one of your long-term goals.
You can seek inspiration for professional goals from various sources — such as your boss, friends, or role model. You set the best goals from first-hand experiences, not a quick brainstorming session.
In the meantime, we share more ideas of short and long-term goals below.
Short term goals
Short-term goals are ones you can achieve in less than a year. Often, they’re smaller goals that help you achieve your long-term goals. Here are some examples:
Get a certification
Certifications can be your ticket to a pay bump. They help you gain valuable skills even when you’re in a leadership position. Experienced professionals benefit even more from certifications than newbies. As an experienced professional, you’ll find the material more insightful — you’ll be able to connect the dots between problems and theoretical solutions in the material.
In addition to textbook knowledge, you’ll also have the opportunity to apply what you learn. You’ll build a skill set that will give you an edge over others.
Research your industry or other departments
Research what industry leaders are doing and see if you can replicate their results. Speak to experts, brainstorm ideas with the team, and test strategies to see what works best for your company. You might even set yourself up for a promotion if you can produce results that give your company a competitive edge.
In addition to the industry, research different departments within your company. Researching other departments can prepare you for a leadership position. Tag along for a meeting with your friend in accounting. Absorb the discussion, look at how the leaders steer the meeting, and get a sense of the department’s most pressing challenges.
If the department uses an asynchronous communication tool like Loom, watch the video recordings to see what the department leaders are working on. Come back to these videos for inspiration when you face similar challenges in your department.
Learn new skills
Research says that 75% of an employee’s success comes from soft skills versus 25% from technical skills. You graduated with the technical skills needed for a job. But many don’t graduate with the soft skills required to fast-track their careers. If you’re already good at your job, invest some time honing your critical thinking, time management, and communication skills.
94% of business leaders expect employees to pick up additional skills on the job. So learning a new skill might earn you extra points when a senior position opens up.
Build your network
Networking is mission-critical, even more so in a digital work environment. Attend industry events, engage with people in forums, and interact with professionals on LinkedIn. Any channel that allows connecting with other professionals is an excellent way to build a professional network.
New opportunities and lead generation are natural outcomes of networking. And there’s even more to networking than just these direct benefits. You’ll develop long-lasting relationships with people who can contribute to your growth. When you’re connected to top professionals, exchanging and validating ideas is easier. The free flow of ideas helps develop intellect and makes other professionals in your industry see you as a thought leader, leading to more career development opportunities.
Long term goals
There are no predefined guidelines for how long a long-term goal takes to complete. But goals that might take longer than one year are commonly said to be long-term. Some goals may take far longer — 10 or even 20 years.
Here are examples of long-term goals:
Developing a professional brand
A professional brand establishes you as an industry expert. As an employee, a professional brand helps build a strong network and seek better employment opportunities. A business owner can use a professional brand to generate inbound leads and give their business a face.
Talking about your skills, value proposition, methods, and professional life in public adds to your credibility. Sure, building a professional brand takes time. But it can be an invaluable professional asset, and with social media platforms like LinkedIn, it’s easier than ever for you to start.
Hone your leadership skills
Developing and enhancing specific skill sets can prepare you for a leadership role in your career path. Good leaders can efficiently steer their teams in a specific direction to achieve their goals. For example, your leadership goal could be to build an inclusive team where all members get an equal opportunity to develop their skill set.
Another critical element in achieving these goals is feedback. The best leaders use constructive feedback to help the team identify problems and recommend solutions. Just one problem: feedback can take time. You need to schedule one-on-one meetings to share feedback individually. But Loom can save you some time.
Record a feedback video for each member outlining where and how they can improve. Doing this allows sharing personalized feedback without investing hours each week. Even better, video feedback allows everyone to view the video on their own time. The team can absorb the feedback more effectively and respond by commenting on the video or recording another one.
The result? All members of the team have an opportunity for professional growth. And you’ll develop the leadership skills required to encourage professional growth among team members.
Manage time well
Ever feel like work-life balance is a fantasy? Chances are, managing your time effectively can declutter your schedule. Prepare a schedule and stick to it. Don’t jam-pack your schedule, though. Make time for strategic work and give yourself some “me” time to avoid burnout.
If you’ve got too much and little time, delegate. Minimize the time you spend in unnecessary meetings by making the meeting a Loom. Prioritize tasks so you never miss an important deadline.
Win an award in your field
An award adds a ton of value to your CV. It’s also one of the greatest assets for a business and its brand because it improves client confidence.
For example, say you’re an SEO expert. Winning the US Search Awards will tell clients you’ve got the SEO chops to drive results for their business. It will make them feel confident even though they haven’t worked with you before. Beating your competitors to win an award isn’t easy, though. It takes patience and consistency. But it can be an excellent, lucrative long-term career goal.
How to set successful professional development goals
People in different professions have different goals. However, frameworks such as the S.M.A.R.T. goals framework can help everyone set better goals.
S.M.A.R.T. is short for:
Specific: Be specific about what you want to achieve. For example, instead of setting a goal to improve profit margins, set a specific goal to improve profit margins by minimizing operational costs.
Measurable: Quantify your goals to make them measurable. For example, don’t just set a goal to improve the profit margin. Set a goal to improve the profit margin by 10%.
Attainable: Is your goal practically achievable? If you set a goal to 3x your profit margin, is that something you can achieve in your chosen time frame?
Relevant: Set goals that are relevant given your career and work. For example, if you work in equity research, a relevant long-term goal could be to become a fund manager. Getting a certification in actuarial science? Not relevant.
Time-Bound: Put yourself on the clock so you always know how fast you need to work on your goals. For example, don’t just say you want to increase the profit margin by 10%. Also, mention that you want to achieve this margin by the end of the next quarter.
Tips for achieving your professional goals
So you’ve set your goals. What’s the best way to achieve them?
It’s essential to have an action plan in place, as most people forget that successfully achieving goals requires a focus on the process rather than the end goal.
Here are a few tips to help you as you work towards developing your stepping stones:
Aim for consistency
You can’t achieve most goals overnight — it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Create a plan of action to achieve your career goals, and work towards them one day at a time. For example, say your goal is to get a certification. Plan your days for the next year so you have an overview of your work and study time.
If the coursework demands 600 study hours, aim to dedicate 2 hours over 300 days. Studying four hours a day and finishing the coursework in half the time might be tempting. But you’ll overwork yourself and risk underperforming at work and in the exam.
Ask for support
Support from friends, family, and colleagues goes a long way. For instance, when you’re studying for a certification, your family might take over some of your household responsibilities. Or your colleagues may help you understand a tricky concept. Collectively, they create a support system that can help you achieve your goals faster.
Most professions are dynamic. As your profession and career evolve, your goals should evolve too. A top priority goal might become less important over time. For instance, say your goal was to innovate a new product. A regulatory change makes developing the product financially unviable given the compliance requirements.
The solution? Re-evaluate the goal. Will it still help your career? Is it worth your while to invest time in working towards the goal? Is it still attainable? If the goal seems irrelevant, discard it or modify it to be more relevant.
Track your progress
Tracking is like a scorecard for your goals. It tells you if what you’re doing is working. If you don’t see desired results, it’s time to reconsider your current strategy and reassess your stepping stones. When you track your progress, you get a sense of how far you’ve come and how far you need to go. If you need more time to complete a goal, factor that into your strategy.
How video can help you progress your professional goals
Achieving goals demands focus and consistency. But it’s tough to be consistent and give your hundred percent when you have a full plate. Tools like Loom can help facilitate your action plan to make achieving your ultimate goal easier.
Here is how Loom videos can help achieve goals:
Reduces time spent in meetings
Have you ever sat through a meeting thinking, “this could’ve been a Slack message?”
Leaders still default to a meeting when the message is too complex to be a Slack message — and they’re probably right. But here’s the kicker: Office workers are wasting an average of one hour and 42 minutes per week simply scheduling and rescheduling calls — costing businesses in the U.S. $1.85 billion dollars weekly.
Workers spend 19 minutes each day rereading or overthinking emails and 18 minutes resolving confusion after a communication misunderstanding.
Using tools like Loom helps earn a lot of that time back, while also improving communication, reducing meetings, and making employees feel more connected to each other. The team can see your face, hear what you say, and view your screen for context in a Loom video. Video is even more effective when you’re a great storyteller.
That’s how Loom videos make explaining complex concepts easier than email or Slack.
Communicate faster and more effectively
You want to send a message to the team, provide enough context, and answer all their questions. But there’s plenty of room for ambiguity and confusion when you write an email or a Slack message. Because you can only tell, not show. The recipient can read the text. But they can’t hear or see you or your screen.
Using Loom instead enables you to show what you’re talking about. You can also show yourself in a screen recording, allowing the team to read your facial expressions.
No ambiguity + lots of context = effective communication.
You frequently communicate with the team as you work on your goals. For example, say you’re working with the cost accountant and the engineer to reduce product X’s manufacturing cost.
Six months in, you’ve decided to reevaluate the strategy. You want to revisit one of your previous chats to get input for your new strategy. You read previous emails, but the emails lack context, and you can’t remember much about that conversation. Then, you revisit the Loom videos. You see the screen recording and the comments on the video.
They quickly refresh your memory, and voilà — you’ve got the information you need.
You can use Loom for almost any type of communication, including meetings, feedback, and weekly check-ins. Record. Send. Done.
Professional development goals can help you identify what you want your career to look like in the short- and long-term, and what steps you need to take to get where you want to be. Ready to communicate and manage your time more efficiently? Try Loom for async communication.