It’s easy to get stuck in the monotony of your career.
You go to work five days a week. You collect your paycheck every other Friday. And you take vacation days when you want a little time to yourself.
But maybe you want to keep moving up the ladder.
To advance your career at some point, you’re going to need professional development goals that you actually plan on reaching. This can help you secure a promotion, a larger salary, or even a completely new career path.
So, follow along as we go over seven easy steps to creating professional development goals and finally achieving them.
1. Look at Where You Are Now
Let’s be honest: You can’t figure out how to get from Point A to Point B if you don’t even know where you’re going or where you’re coming from.
So, it’s time to do a little self-reflection.
The first thing you need to figure out is where you are in your career at the present moment.
Take a sheet of looseleaf paper and jot down the following:
- Skills you possess
- Your current level of education
- Experience you have
- Your strengths and your weaknesses
Now take a look at the list you just made and ask yourself, “How can I use these things to my benefit?”
For example, say you have excellent leadership skills and earned a degree in business. Then you may want to consider pursuing a management position.
2. Think About Your Dream Career
Now that you have Point A and Point B clearly mapped out, you have to figure out the route you’ll take to complete the journey.
So, think about your dream career or job title and do a little bit of research into it.
Find out what you need in terms of:
- College degrees
- Certifications and passed exams
- Years of experience in a particular field
- Completed training courses
- Knowledge in specific programs
This is perhaps the most essential part of reaching your goals.
Without completing this step, you may end up pursuing training or education that doesn’t align with your future in the workforce.
Not only will this cost you money, but it’ll also cost you precious time.
3. Make a Professional Development Plan
You might be proud of the career you strive for every day. You excitedly tell everyone you know (and don’t know), “I’m going to be a nurse someday!”
But what are you doing to actually get there?
To stay on the right track and guarantee success in all your professional dreams, you need to set goals.
And they need to be SMART.
SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Bound. Every one of these characteristics is necessary for making goals that you genuinely want to meet.
Let’s say you want to gain the qualifications to get a leadership position at your job.
Not a SMART goal: I’m going to get a promotion.
SMART goal: I’m going to take a course in business management at the local college (and earn a B or higher) during the upcoming spring semester.
As you can see, the two goals above are very different.
The first goal is exceptionally vague. There’s no information about when you plan to reach the goal or what type of promotion it’ll be.
The second goal is SMART. You know exactly what your goal is, when you plan on reaching it, and how you know you’ve met it.
4. Work on Bettering Yourself
Often in life, you might find yourself doing things to get the approval of other people in your world.
For example, you may take a computer course in your free time because you know it’ll make you look good in front of your boss. And you want a promotion!
External forces can definitely be motivating for some people, but internal forces are perhaps even more valuable.
So, you need to work on bettering yourself for you.
To do that, you’ll want to note your weaknesses and see what you can do to strengthen them.
This could mean anything. From watching YouTube tutorials, taking courses at your local community college, or attending conferences related to your field.
To turn your weaknesses into strengths!
5. Leave Your Comfort Zone
It’ll be tough to improve in a professional sense if you’re afraid of leaving your comfort zone.
But here’s the thing: Change isn’t always comfortable.
If you really want to improve yourself, you need to be willing to do things that you aren’t used to doing in your current position.
Think anything from attending speaking engagements to doing some volunteer work in the community.
Think about the responsibilities you’ll have when you reach your goals.
Now, pretend that you already have your dream job or position and then fulfill those responsibilities on your own. When you finally walk into the office on the first day of your new job, you’ll be more ready than ever!
6. Take Action and Follow Through
Everyone can make a goal.
Think about it: How many of us decided as kids that we wanted to be firefighters, veterinarians, or even the president?
Without follow-through, your goals are just words.
That’s why it’s important to keep your goals in the back of your mind.
When you see new opportunities presented to you, take them. And when you do anything in life, ask yourself this question:
“Will this help me reach my goals, or will it set me back?”
7. Stay Flexible With Your Goals
Nothing in life will go 100% correctly — including your professional development goals.
Things may happen that get in the way of you reaching your goals and dreams.
For example, you may have a new job opportunity presented to you that you simply can’t pass up. Or, you might realize after a few courses or lectures that you’re not really as interested in a field as you thought.
Even the most well-thought-out plans don’t always pan out as anticipated. When that happens, you need to be willing and ready to adjust course.
When it comes to professional development, you want to do much more than the bare minimum. That means you need to set goals based on something you can truly commit to!
Otherwise, you might end up in a career that you hate or unable to accomplish your dreams.
Adam Marshall is a freelance writer who specializes in all things apartment organization, real estate, and college advice. He currently works with Arch at Bloomington to help them with their online marketing.