Professional Development Goals to work towards in 2021


August 01, 2021 - Dom Barnard

If you are pursuing professional development to advance your career, it's important to set attainable goals along the way. Whether your ambitions are big or small, the only way is to set progressive goals that you can work towards every day.

Motivation and focus are important, so your goals must be structured in such a way as to facilitate this.

In this article, we will explore just what we mean by professional development goals and give you some suggestions for goals to set yourself for the rest of 2021. We will also explore some of the methodologies for setting goals that you will be able to stick to overtime.

What are professional development goals?

They are goals you set to give structure to the advancement of your career by increasing your professional competencies. There are various development goals you could set for yourself, and the ones you choose should be based on your own strengths and hopes for the future of your career.

Your goals can revolve around learning new skills, securing new certifications, gaining experience in a certain area, progressing in the workplace or anything else that relates to advancing your career.

They can be as simple as doing some extra studying yourself or getting feedback from colleagues and managers, or they can involve more formal things like education and training.

Why is it important to have goals?

Personal development is upheld as the key to advancing and progressing your career. But it is not something that can be done without structure - every choice you make needs to be focused on building towards your ambitions.

Breaking those ambitions down into actionable goals can give you a solid foundation on which to build. There are several reasons why these goals are required:

  • Enhance existing skills: there is always room for improvement - you wouldn't see a top athlete quit trying to improve simply because they broke a world record. Honing your existing skills can lead to growth in many ways, making you a better employee and inviting success.
  • Clarify your vision of the future: how far ahead do you look when you set your aspirations? By establishing goals, you could map out your hopes for the next 5 or even 10 years, guiding your actions in order to achieve those goals.
  • Improve productivity: working towards a goal can motivate you to be more productive. This effect becomes even more powerful when you break your goals down into individual tasks that you can work on.
  • Encourage yourself to be better: employers appreciate employees who show a hunger for development and advancement. Taking the time to grow and improve will make a very positive impression and could open doors to new opportunities.
Professional development goals

How to set goals for professional development

Now we have talked about what professional development goals are and why you need them, it's time to think about how you choose your goals. There are some established ideas about what makes an achievable goal, and you need to take your own aims and needs into account.

The following steps could help you choose the right goals for you:

Step 1

Focus on your end goal: where do you want to be in 5 or 10 years? Do you know the job title you want or the company you want to be with? Once your end goal is set, you can work backwards to create smaller goals that lead to it.

Step 2

Check your latest performance review: recommendations and areas for improvement in your latest performance evaluation are a good guide. They can give you an outside view of your performance in the workplace so that you can make the improvements your management wants to see.

Step 3

Use the SMART principle: the acronym SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timed. This principle helps ensure your goals are realistic, measurable and achievable.

Step 4

Break down large goals: the more you separate your goals into smaller tasks, the more you will stay motivated to progress towards your goal. Check off tasks as you complete them for a visual map of your progress.

Step 5

Review your progress regularly: one can easily lose sight of their goals over time, so you need to take stock regularly to ensure you are still progressing. Seeing your progress will provide new motivation to keep going, and you'll make sure you are still on the right track.

Examples of professional development goals

Bear in mind that your professional development goals should always be framed around your personal aspirations and needs.

The following are some examples of goals you could set for yourself. They are designed to give you an idea of some SMART goals that could drive success and help a person achieve their career aspirations.

1. Learn about the new office communication tool before it is implemented next quarter

Becoming familiar with new technology before it is implemented into the workplace has several benefits. It will give you more confidence in applying it, and it may even inspire your colleagues and team members to engage with it more.

You will be able to use the new tool effortlessly, and people will come to you as the expert.

2. Complete leadership training before the next quarter

Professional development often involves obtaining new skills and knowledge, no matter what stage of your career you are at. Enrolling in training courses can be a powerful way to do this, empowering you to develop your role and enhance specific skills.

Bear in mind that learning new things doesn't have to come from a formal training course. You could take the initiative to learn about things independently, as in the previous example.

3. Improve your presentation skills to engage the team more effectively

Presentation skills are important in many jobs, so developing this skill can be invaluable. The benefits can be felt in so many areas of work, from coming across better in weekly meetings to doing a better job of giving larger company-wide or public presentations.

With strong presentation skills, you can engage, motivate and inspire, so it is a great capability to have.

4. Gain upward feedback to find areas for improvement

You shouldn't always look to top-down feedback to find what can be improved. Sometimes, gathering constructive criticism from colleagues and team members is valuable for understanding how your actions and behaviours impact those around you.

Don't overlook the importance of checking in with your team - set yourself a regular goal of getting their opinion to help maintain a positive office atmosphere.

5. Improve your ability to manage the team remotely

Remote working is becoming increasingly common, so it's good to have processes in place to ensure that it runs efficiently and everyone has the ability to touch base when necessary. Set the goal of establishing clear channels of communication and nurture a culture of open feedback to facilitate a successful remote working system.

6. Develop your understanding of how departments within your organisation are run

By committing a couple of days to shadow each department over the next 6 months or so, you can develop your understanding of how each department works day-to-day.

With this knowledge, you can better comprehend the obstacles and challenges of other teams, enabling you to suggest or implement changes to create a more frictionless environment.

7. Train to improve your ability to give and receive feedback with team members

Being part of, or managing, a team involves providing constructive insights into how everyone is performing. This helps you and your colleagues improve, and can elevate your standing as a team member or manager.

People respect a person who provides honest, constructive feedback, and is not afraid to receive it. Whether this becomes a regular part of the way you work or goes into more structured performance reviews, it can be a valuable asset.

Moving forward

Now you have an understanding of these considerations, you are ready to start thinking about the types of professional development goals you want to work towards. Be sure to write those goals down - this enables you to hold yourself to account.

Keep them visible so that they are a tangible presence in your life - it might feel intimidating, but it can help improve your chances of succeeding.

If you are in a managerial position, you could use a goal-setting tool with your team members to collaboratively establish focus and boost engagement. Working together on achieving goals can make the process less stressful and more enjoyable.

The tools available are often designed to integrate into your daily interactions, making them even more effective at motivating and driving engagement.

No matter what goals you set, remember that feedback and reviews are crucial for continuing your development over time. This is why it can be so valuable to have a culture where feedback is openly encouraged between team members.