Top 15 examples of professional goals
To get you started, here are some professional goals that surface frequently with my clients.
(Note that these are not SMART goals yet. You will make them SMART by customizing them for you, adding in specificity, actions, measures of your success, and timeframes).
You’ll notice that they include learning new skills, developing technical or soft skills you already have, and more tactile goals. Try to mix up your goals so that you cover a few different areas of your career development.
1. Communicate with influence and impact
This often functions as both a short-term and long-term goal. As you progress in your career, it becomes increasingly more important to develop strong communication skills to influence and inspire others. It will be a given that you do good work. Now you need to show up as a leader through your spoken and written communication — both in meetings and large presentations or venues.
2. Develop executive presence
Spend some time on this popular professional goal, as it can be hard to define. It means something different to each of us. The culture of the organization can influence what “it” is and who has it.
Whether you are thinking about moving into a leadership role or just enhancing your professional skills overall, this executive presence is helpful to build
Try thinking of a person with an executive presence that you admire and write down what it is about them that you admire. This can be your starting point for some clues to how you want to build an executive presence for yourself, but make sure you craft your goal to be authentically you as well.
3. Effectively manage through conflict
No matter how large or small your team, there are bound to be conflicts. High-functioning teams have good habits of being able to work through conflict. Developing these skills will support you today, in the medium-term, and set you up for leadership in the future.
4. Provide effective feedback to others
We all know good feedback when we receive it. It is timely, specific, includes examples, and paints a clear picture of what went right and what to do differently in the future. For many, giving such feedback may feel daunting, uncomfortable, or unfamiliar — or it might just be overlooked in the face of busy workdays and urgent escalations. Yet doing it right is the gift you give to others.
5. Effectively navigate uncertainty
In times of great uncertainty, it is natural for humans to seek out something stable to hold on to. Instead of trying to stop or manage change, or searching for someone to provide clarity and guidance, try looking inward. Developing your own resilience and leveraging your strengths leads to your ability to build your confidence to navigate no matter what change, transformation or uncertainty lies ahead.
It can also be helpful to consider what you have control of what you can influence, and what is outside your sphere of influence. Focus your energies on those things that fall into the latter two categories.
6. Adopt better time management skills
If there were ever a common goal among professionals, it is this one. Gaining control of one’s calendar involves some easy steps you can take, like blocking your calendar for think time or assessing if you need to be in every meeting you are invited to. All of this leads to prioritization, delegation, and ultimately your ability to graciously communicate and collaborate with others as part of this career goal.
7. Develop inclusive leadership and teams
Consider what you want to focus on personally with this goal including how you want to impact your organization. This could involve fostering inclusivity and belonging across your organization through policy and process, developing yourself or your leaders’ skills in building more diverse teams, or influencing the broader organization to make DEI a strategic business priority.
8. Complete a professional certificate or degree
Continuing your education via in-person or online courses allows you to improve your skills, broaden your perspective, and differentiate yourself. Depending on what you are looking for, this could be both a short-term and a long-term goal.
9. Expand your professional network and explore different departments
Having a wide and strong network of professional colleagues is a great way to support your career growth. Not only will it increase your visibility to opportunities, but it is a fertile ground for mentorship.
To widen your network, you can use LinkedIn to look both within and outside of your organization. Try writing down other departments you are interested in, doing some research to find out what they do, and accessing your current network for an introduction to someone who works in that department.
Additionally, try joining networking events, conferences, workshops, and professional social media channels to meet and learn from others in your industry.
10. Volunteer to learn new technology
It is important to stay on the leading edge of technology and applications. This is an excellent goal if you are looking to dabble in a new career path or dig deeper into your current expertise. Leaning in to learn new things may open opportunities to work with key customers. It could provide a way for you to support your team as new applications roll out, increasing productivity overall and further differentiating your value.
11. Build stronger working relationships
Having a friend at work increases a sense of belonging and overall happiness at work. This could be a goal in itself. If you already have strong relationships with the people you work with regularly, branch out. Strike up a conversation or schedule a virtual coffee chat with someone in another department.
12. Develop your peers
Peer coaching and mentorship boost confidence, build trust, and increase technical aptitude for everyone involved. Working to establish a strong coaching culture helps the larger organization to thrive and boosts intellectual capital. Try coaching a peer or others on your team on an aspect of your role or some tricks you’ve learned to streamline your work. If you excel at public speaking, offering guidance for developing presentation skills and deck creation is also helpful.
13. Improve your storytelling abilities
Whether you are attempting to get buy-in for a new initiative or sharing your reporting deck for the quarter, good storytelling skills are essential. Work on the preparation for your presentations, memos, and conversations.
Establish a clear beginning, middle, and end to your story, and focus on keeping your audience engaged. What do they want to know about your proposition? Understanding where they are coming from is a great jumping-off point.
14. Be intentional with self-care
In today’s climate, it is important to take care of your mental, emotional, and physical health. With burnout and stress running high, focusing on self-care is a helpful goal to increase productivity and retention. This could be more of a long-term goal to adjust for life and work fluctuations over months and seasons.
15. Develop your project management skills
Remaining organized is a highly sought-after skill in almost any role. It is always helpful to have people and the team who have technical expertise and the ability to track timelines, prioritize workloads, delegate tasks where appropriate, and manage communications. Leveling up here will help your team flourish overall, within your current role and as you progress.