How to set actually achievable professional goals
28 Sep 2023 • People & Culture
Everyone knows that having goals is important, right? Goals are the compass that guides us through our personal and professional journeys. Whether we’re consciously aware of it or not, our lives are driven by goals, both big and small. Each dream, every hope, and even the actions we take are essentially goals in different forms. But how many of us truly understand the art of crafting goals that are not just mere aspirations but are also practical and meaningful?
Whether you’re striving for career advancement, looking to start a new venture, or simply trying to improve your skills, setting professional goals is essential. However, not all goals are created equal. To make significant progress in your career, it’s crucial to set goals that are not only ambitious but also achievable and relevant. In this blog post, we’ll explore how to build professional goals that you can realistically accomplish.
Understand the SMART framework
The SMART framework is a tried-and-true method for setting goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Let’s break down each element:
- Specific: Clearly define what you want to achieve. Vague goals like “improve my career” won’t cut it. Instead, make it specific, such as “earn a promotion to senior manager within the next two years.”
- Measurable: Establish metrics to track your progress. You should be able to quantify your success. For example, “Increase monthly sales by 20%.”
- Achievable: Your goals should be realistic. Consider your current skills, resources, and constraints. Don’t set yourself up for failure with overly ambitious objectives.
- Relevant: Ensure your goals align with your career aspirations and the company objectives. They should make sense within the context of your professional journey.
- Time-bound: Set a deadline for achieving your goals. Having a timeline creates a sense of urgency and helps you stay on track. For instance, “Complete three online courses in digital marketing within six months.”
Prioritize your goals
While setting professional goals, it’s essential to prioritize them. Trying to tackle too many objectives simultaneously can lead to burnout and decreased effectiveness. Consider the 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle. It suggests that 80% of your results will come from 20% of your efforts. Identify the most critical goals and focus your energy on them.
I’ve witnessed countless times how people attempt to pursue multiple ambitious goals concurrently. More often than not, this approach yields none of the goals being successfully achieved. Instead, I encourage you to select a single goal and remain dedicated to it.
Break goals into smaller steps
Large, complex goals can be daunting and overwhelming. To make them more manageable, break them down into smaller, actionable steps. These smaller milestones will give you a sense of progress and keep you motivated. For example, if your goal is to become a certified project manager, your smaller steps might include researching certification requirements, enrolling in a prep course, and passing the certification exam.
Track your progress
Regularly monitoring your progress is vital to achieving your professional goals. Create a tracking system that allows you to review your milestones and adjust your strategy if necessary. Tools like spreadsheets or goal-tracking apps can help you stay organized and accountable.
At Sofokus we use personal Growth Plans to set and track professional development once a month. We have also started to host a monthly Lunch & Learning session, where we discuss our progress and professional growth. Tracking goals together with someone may help you feel accountable and thus, stay focused on your target.
Seek feedback and support
Don’t be afraid to share your professional goals with mentors, colleagues, or friends. They can provide valuable insights, guidance, and encouragement. Constructive feedback can help you refine your goals and approach.
Personally, I feel that whenever I publicly share my goal, I’m more confident to achieve it. Also, getting feedback from the people I trust gives me validation and proves to me that I’m moving in the right direction.
Adaptability is key
Life is unpredictable, and circumstances change. While it’s essential to set firm goals, it’s equally important to remain adaptable. If you encounter unexpected challenges or opportunities, be willing to adjust your goals accordingly. Flexibility can be the difference between success and frustration.
For example, let’s presume you have set a goal to become an AWS architect. You have already created a plan for yourself and maybe even kicked off your learning path, but then suddenly your clients start asking about your proficiency in Google Cloud. Will you stubbornly stick with your original plan, or will you change direction and choose Google Cloud over AWS? The choice is yours.
Finally, don’t forget to celebrate your achievements along the way. Recognize your hard work and the progress you’ve made toward your goals. Celebrating even small victories can boost your motivation and keep you focused on your professional development.
However, it’s worth noting that we often become fixated on our achievements and neglect to reflect on the underlying “why.” Why are we pursuing this goal? What significance does it hold for us? Regrettably, it’s not uncommon to experience a sense of emptiness upon reaching a goal when we haven’t answered these questions. Therefore, it’s imperative to learn how to derive enjoyment from the journey itself and the process of the pursuit. Embrace the journey, savor the experience, and take time to celebrate your achievements along the way, allowing them to fuel your continued progress.
Transforming your career with goals
Setting professional goals that are achievable and relevant is a skill that can transform your career. By following the SMART framework, prioritizing, breaking goals into smaller steps, tracking progress, seeking support, remaining adaptable, and celebrating achievements, you can build a roadmap to success. Remember that setting goals is not a one-time event but an ongoing process that evolves as you grow and change in your career. So, start today, and watch your professional aspirations become reality.