Keep your eyes on the prize by setting these professional goals!

Has your workday become a humdrum bore? When you started this job, the position was challenging - exciting, even - but now it's become a tad mundane. If you're starting to stagnate, setting professional goals at work could be the key to getting things moving again. 

Setting personal targets will motivate you and keep you learning and developing. If you're ready to get started, you've come to the right place. In this guide, we'll take a look at 19 examples of professional goals and some of the steps you need to take to reach them.

1. Become an effective leader 

Effective leadership is one of the most common professional goals. Should you want to climb the career ladder, you need to have what it takes to manage and motivate a team. 

Action steps: 

  • Speak up. Talk to your manager about gaining more responsibilities. Taking on additional tasks will help you to learn leadership skills while you work. 
  • Watch and learn. Find an impressive leader in your workplace. Watch how they handle situations and try to emulate their behaviour. 
  • Communicate. Improve your communication skills so you can work well with those around you. Good leaders have the ability to collaborate too. 
  • Read. Check out our guide on how to develop team leadership skills for more info.

2.  Improve your productivity 

Need to get more done each day? Productivity is one of the best examples of the work goals you should be setting. Luckily, there are plenty of approaches to get it right. 

Action steps:

  • Make small changes. Lifestyle changes can help you to become more productive in your everyday work life. For example, you may start going to bed earlier, eating better, or simply getting more rest and relaxation in your downtime.
  • Track your tasks. Start tracking your productivity levels with the Toggl app. That way, you can easily see which tasks consume most of your time in the workday. 
  • Cut out distractions. Facebook, WhatsApp, TikTok… These apps distract you when you should be working. Remove them and get more work done. 

3. Start learning new things 

Are you a lifelong learner? When you're looking for ways to progress, it's a smart move to add more feathers to your cap. Setting a professional goal of learning new things is smart.

Action steps: 

  • Look at free options. Start by looking into free e-learning resources and seeing whether any suit your long-term goals. There are plenty of options online. 
  • Consider extra training. Consider workplace training schemes and opportunities. You may find that your company runs training days or even courses.  
  • Use educational apps. Want to improve your French? Start using DuoLingo. Fancy taking a full course? Download Udemy and start one of your choice.  
  • Ask for help. Speak to your manager about furthering your education. For example, there may be the chance to go back to university one day a week.   

 4. Boost your listening skills

“Sorry, can you repeat that again?” When you're working with other people, your listening skills need to be top notch. If you lack this talent, now is the time to give it a boost.

Action steps: 

  • Slow things down. Wait for others to finish before you start speaking. If you tend to cut into other people's sentences, be aware of it, take a breath, and slow down. 
  • Listen up. Learn how to be a reflective listener. That means listening to what the other person has to say, digesting the information, and reflecting it back to them. 
  • Ask for clarification. You might think you understand what a person is saying, but it's always smart to make sure. If anything is unclear, ask for more details. You can start by saying “I'm hearing [insert comment], is that what you mean here?”

5. Build a good reputation

Your reputation is everything in the workplace. If you're looking for simple ways to get ahead, building a good reputation should be one of your main professional goals. 

Action steps: 

  • Commit to the job. To build a good reputation, you have to be a good worker. Make sure that you're doing everything in your power to get things done. 
  • Get feedback. Ask your manager for constructive feedback about your work and progress. Listen to what they say and use the information to improve. 

  • Be proud. Speak up and own your achievements. If you find that other staff members are trying to take credit for your work, set the record straight.  

  • Read. Take a look at our full guide on building a good reputation at work.

6. Create better work relationships 

Getting along with your coworkers not only makes your professional life easier, but could also open doors. If you're having trouble creating those relationships, try these steps. 

Action steps: 

  • Stay out of drama. Always stay out of office gossip or drama. If there's a problem in your workplace, you don't want to get caught up in the middle of it. 
  • Make connections. Look for common ground with your coworkers. You might have more interests in common with them than you might expect. 
  • Work on team projects. If the opportunity to work with others comes up, make sure that you grab it. Collaborating with others will help you to bond with them.
  • Read. Read our guide on creating strong relationships and take some notes. 

7. Get a pay rise 

Money, money, money. If you want more of it, you need to go for that all-important pay rise. However, mustering the courage to speak to your manager about it can be tough.

Action steps: 

  • Start with Google. Find out how much similar professionals in your field earn. Take a look at the average salary for people with your job title.  

  • Look for signs. Watch out for the telltale signs that you deserve a pay rise. If you start to see these cropping up, you need to schedule a meeting with your manager. 

  • Ask for advice. Speak to your manager and ask what you need to do to get a pay rise. Find out what changes you should make and how you can improve. 

  • Do the work! Follow through on these changes and improvements. That way, you can show your manager your value and let them know that you're serious. 

8. Improve your time management 

Do you feel as though there aren't enough hours in the working day? If the answer is yes, you need to add better time management to your list of professional goals, pronto.

Action steps: 

  • Track your time. Figure out where your time goes using a tracking app. You may be surprised by the seemingly small tasks that eat up all of your time.  
  • Schedule better. Create a tight schedule that includes regular breaks. When you know how long each task takes, you can make time for it in your daily plan. 
  • Take breaks. Trying to cram too much into the workday? You're likely to burn out. Make sure you're taking regular breaks and getting up from your desk. 
  • Read. Take a look at our guide on time management and find out more.

9. Expand your professional network

Making the right connections in the workplace could make all the difference to your career. The majority of vacancies are now filled through networking. Don't miss out.

Action steps: 

  • Use LinkedIn. Build a professional network using LinkedIn. Make sure your profile is up to scratch and start reaching out to experts on the platform. 

  • Attend sessions. Sign up to local networking events (and actually go!). While it may be intimidating to walk into a room of professionals, it's a savvy move. 

  • Read. Learn more expert-backed tips on how to network in our guide. 

10. Develop your work ethics 

Work is more than a means to an end. If you want to carve out a career that you love, you're going to need to develop your work ethics. Make it a short-term professional goal. 

Action steps: 

  • Find your drive. Pinpoint what it is that drives and motivates you. It may be a sense of accomplishment, awards, admiration, or even money. Whatever it is, you need to be clear about it to push things forward.  

  • Learn from leaders. Watch and learn from leaders who inspire you. These professionals don't have to be in your workplace - you may find the inspiration you need by reading an autobiography, for example.

  • Read. Check out our guide on how to develop work ethics to get more info. 

11. Create a work-life balance

All work and no play leads to - you guessed it - burnout. To stay happy and healthy, you need to establish a work-life balance that works for you. 

Action steps: 

  • Give yourself a break. Skipping lunch? Start out by taking your lunch breaks every day. You should also make sure that you're having regular short breaks. 
  • Switch off. When you finish work, switch off from it. Don't answer emails, calls, or Slack messages when you're not working. Give yourself some headspace. 
  • Say “no”. Speak up when you're at capacity. If your manager asks you to do something but there's too much on your plate, don't be afraid to say so. 
  • Get new hobbies. If work is always on your mind, find ways to detach from it. For instance, it's helpful to start some new hobbies or sports. 
  • Sleep well! Sleep should always be your number one priority. Getting quality sleep can improve your mental health and boost your workplace productivity

12. Become an industry expert

Fancy yourself as an expert in your subject matter? If you want to reach the peak of your career, there are some steps you can take to help you reach this professional goal. 

Action steps: 

  • Stay on the ball. Subscribe to industry-specific publications and magazines. 

  • Keep learning. If your field is always changing, you need to keep up with the latest trends. Look out for additional learning opportunities to keep up to speed. 

  • Find a mentor. Get a mentor and work closely with them. You'll be able to learn more about the industry you're in and gain insights you might never have had otherwise.   

13. Learn how to be a team player

Some people are natural team players. However, the rest of us need to work hard to work with others. This is one of the professional goals examples that many people need to set.

Action steps: 

  • Communicate well. When you're working with others, it pays to know how to communicate. Work on your speaking and listening style. 
  • Be curious. Rather than competing with coworkers, consider the ways that you can learn from them. Reach out and ask other professionals for advice.
  • Pull in the same direction. Work towards a common target when you're collaborating with others. Stay focused on the end goal that you have in common. 

14. Change your career 

Is it time for a change? If you've worked in the same field for a matter of years, you may want to switch things up. Fortunately, there are ways that you can make the leap. 

Action steps: 

  • Start planning your dream career. First up, go back to basics. Consider looking into the golden circle approach when you're starting your career planning.

  • Envision the job you want. What's your dream job? You can start by creating a career vision board that illustrates the career path you want to take. 

  • Upskill and learn new things. Once you know what job you want, you can start to upskill and gain the talents you'll need to succeed in the sector. 

  • Prepare your application pack. Next up, revamp your CV, perfect your cover letter, and start applying for new jobs. Always tailor your application to the role.  

  • Read. Looking for more advice? Read our guide for more career transition tips

15. Get more organised  

If your desk is as messy as your schedule, something's got to give. Getting on top of your everyday organisation is the way to go. Add this to your list of professional goals. 

Action steps: 

  • Hone your organisation skills. The first step in this process is to develop your organisational skills so you can use them to your best advantage. 

  • Schedule your work week. Use an online calendar app to plan your time. Set aside 10 minutes each morning to perfect your workday schedule.  

  • Learn to prioritise. Does everything need to be done at once? Split work into “urgent,” “not so urgent,” and “not urgent” categories. Start with the “urgent” category first and then work your way down the list when you have time. 

16. Track your accomplishments 

You've come so far that you may forget to look back. Tracking your accomplishments is a quick way to get a confidence boost. There are some simple ways to get this right.

Action steps: 

  • Keep your positive feedback. Save all of the positive comments you get in a folder on your computer. When you're feeling down, take a look at it. 

  • Make a portfolio. Creating an online portfolio is a simple way to keep track of your accomplishments. If you work in a creative field, you should get moving on this. 

  • Keep notes! Use an online note app, such as Evernote, on a daily basis. Jot down what you've done during the day and any achievements you want to remember. 

  • Read. Learn more by reading our guide on tracking your accomplishments

17. Deal with negative feedback 

It's never easy to hear that you've messed up. However, if you want to continually improve, you need to become a pro at listening to negative feedback. 

Action steps: 

  • Ask questions. When you get some negative feedback, your gut reaction may be to try to argue with it. Don't do that. This is an opportunity to learn and improve. Ask the important questions about how you can combat the problem. 

  • Don't take it personally. None of us is perfect. When you get negative feedback, remember it is a criticism of a process you use, not of you or your personality. 

  • Read. Learn more about how to handle criticism in our full guide here. 

18. Lower your stress levels 

You don't need us to tell you how harmful stress is to your physical and mental health. It's a well-documented fact. So, what are the steps you can take to lower your stress levels?

Action steps: 

  • Start meditating. Meditation has been proven to lower stress levels. When you're feeling overwhelmed, one of the best things you can do is add this to your schedule. Try an app, such as Calm or Headspace, to get started.  
  • Talk to a friend. Are you keeping everything bottled up? One of the simplest ways that you can de-stress is by speaking to a friend or someone you trust. 
  • Exercise. One of the most effective ways to deal with stress is to exercise. Make time in your routine to work out. You might go for a run or take a dance class.

19. Get a promotion

Ready to take the next step in your career? If you're itching to take on a new challenge, you may have your sights set on getting a promotion as your next professional goal. 

Action steps: 

  • Boost your confidence. Your lack of self confidence could be preventing you from getting a promotion. Look into ways to boost your self-esteem. 
  • Ask some questions. Speak to your manager about what you need to do to get a promotion. Be honest about your goal and talk about how to reach it.
  • Put yourself forward. When a new role arises, don't be scared to say that you're interested in it. Your manager may not realise that you want to take this step. 
  • Don't lose hope! You may not get a promotion overnight. However, taking the steps to improve your efficiency and working hard is the way to go. 

The takeaway 

What professional goals will you be setting now? While we've listed some key examples of professional goals here, there are plenty more you may choose to set. Consider the ways you want to develop in your career and establish goals that align with your long-term plan.

Looking for a way to take your career to the next level? Check that your CV hits the mark with our free review now. The comprehensive report gives you the pointers you need to make your CV stand out from the crowd. Get a competitive edge now! 

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