What is the first thing you do when you are going to jump into a new project? The short answer is that you set out different goals and the path and actions needed to get there. Professional development is not the exception.
In order to advance in your career and reach the level of expertise and role you are expecting to have, you need to set your own goals. These professional goals usually go around improving your skills, your career, your competencies, and capabilities in the workplace.
A key aspect here is that they are exclusively yours. You can’t copy or replicate your coworkers or leader goals. You need to identify those areas you need to work on, those skills, degrees, or certifications you want/need to earn, so you can get more experience in a certain area, move up in your workplace, and advance in your career.
Having your professional development goals with milestones and timeframes is the best way to fully understand how you are progressing towards them. They will also help you identify your long-term aspirations, make a great impression on your employer (they highly value workers who go the extra mile, and are dedicated to their job and career), and they will boost your motivation and productivity.
That said, here are the different steps you need to take to set your professional development goals:
1- Define Your End Goal
To set your professional development goals, the first thing that you need to do is answer a few questions that will help you understand how you envision your future.
- Where do you want to be in 5, 10, 20 years from now?
- What title do you want to have?
- What type of organization do you want to work for? Private or public? Large corporation or small business?
- In what industry do you want to work in?
- What accomplishments do you want to achieve?
Once you have answered these questions, you can even add some more, try working things backward. Think of the skills, experience, and knowledge you will need to get there.
Checking your last performance evaluation is a great starting point to identify those areas where you need to start working. If you don’t get regular evaluations in your workplace, then try asking your boss or someone in a higher-level role who you interact with on a regular basis, what is the one thing you could improve that would help you the most.
Stick to the SMART methodology for setting goals. They should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. This will help you set goals that not only are clear and realistic, but that also have a deadline to be accomplished by, so they are not left behind in your weekly/monthly to-do list.
Each goal should be accompanied by a strategy to achieve it and a set of milestones that will help you understand how you are progressing. For example, if your goal is to become a Cybersecurity Analyst, then your milestones would be to study the different certifications needed to get hired in the field, work on getting hands-on experience, and study everything needed beyond the certifications’ content.
We know that your schedule might be coped with tasks and meetings from your current job, but if you want to make progress and improve your profile, you need to set time on a weekly, or even daily basis, to complete all the tasks and goals you have set out for yourself.
Don’t kid yourself about getting everything done in just a few weeks, give yourself enough time so you can avoid feeling burnout, but not that long so it’s something that you will forget.
The last step in this process is setting the time on a monthly basis to track your progress. What have you been able to complete? What have you left behind? When will you complete it? How do you feel?
Now it’s time for you to start working on your goals and begin the road to improving your skills, both in a personal and professional way. Make sure to write everything down, make them visible, make them nice. You want to feel inspired, not scared away.