Setting professional development goals for the year is always a smart idea. Instead of a vague idea of where you want to be, setting goals will create a clear direction right from the start.
There are two types of goals to focus on:
1) Big career goals: destination goals like your dream position (CEO, Team Lead, VP, Product Manager, etc.)
2) Smaller progressive goals: incremental yearly goals that move you towards the big goals.
In this article, you will get ideas and examples of the progressive goals because these are the ones you track every year to get to the ultimate destination.
Below are 9 professional development goals you can work on this year.
1. Improve your presentation skills
The biggest invisible ceiling that holds professionals back in their careers is their communication skills. You can be the best of the best at what you do and yet find yourself stuck in your career one day. You will ask management for reasons and they will say generic stuff like “communication skills,” “Executive Presence,” “Visibility,” etc.
They mean that your communication skills are not sufficient for a leadership position or the next level. Working on your communication skills and, more specifically, your presentation skills will take you a long way towards demolishing that invisible glass ceiling hanging over you.
2. Improve your confidence
Your ability to communicate with executives, negotiate with management, and sell your ideas to others depends on your level of confidence.
Fortunately, confidence is a muscle that you can cultivate. I remember the first time I spoke at Toastmasters l and was so nervous that I barely said two sentences. Two years later, after a lot of public speaking exposure through classes and coaching, I built the confidence to become a national speaker.
Confidence should be one of your greatest assets and professional development goals. As an asset, you need to cultivate it, grow it, and protect it from erosion yearly.
3. Learn a new skill
The skills that got you here might not be the ones that get you over to the next position. You might have technical skills in your field or for your specific job. However, you might need other skills beyond those. Look at the next position or your ultimate position and identify the gaps. That will let you know what skills to develop.
4. Broaden your knowledge of a topic
As you move up in your role, you will need to communicate to a broader set of professionals. For example, when you are an entry-level engineer, you most likely speak to other technical people. However, when you are an engineering manager, you communicate with product teams, QA, Marketing, etc. The higher you go, the broader your knowledge needs to be to communicate effectively with a broader set of stakeholders.
One way to widen your communication style is to collaborate, network, and rotate in with different company teams.
5. Deepen your understanding of a topic
Breadth is not the only measure of your expertise; depth is also necessary. How deep do you know your topic? One of the significant differentiators of someone like Elon Musk is that he has both breadth and depth in the subjects he communicates. He knows about multiple industries like Electric cars, Space shuttles, and Brain implants (that’s breadth). He is known to drill down and talk about layers in an artificial neural network (that’s depth).
That gives him the title of a smart person. Wouldn’t that be a good brand to have as a professional? You do that by digging deep and learning things on a first principle basis.
6. Facilitate meetings better
As you move up in your career, you turn from doing the actual work to having others do the work. To leverage others well to get the job done, you need to have excellent facilitation skills during meetings. If you don’t, then team meetings will be inefficient and lack accountability. A good skill to work on that will pay many career dividends is facilitation.
7. Better time management
Like everyone else, you can always get better at time management to accomplish more and be more efficient. A few years back, I noticed that the top executives I work with respond fast to my emails. When I tried that strategy, I found that I got things done quicker, and had fewer lingering issues at the end of the day. I call that strategy the “hot potato” strategy because I quickly try to get things off my plate and respond to things as fast as possible.
You can always get better at time management, and most of the time, it’s the little strategies you implement that serve you well.
8. Life/work balance
There are many important things in life. Sure your career is important, and so is your family, friends, and hobbies. Life/work balancing is a dynamic process that needs constant adjustments; You can’t just set and forget. We list it under career goals because usually when your life is balanced and operating well, your work will reap the rewards. If you are burned out from your life, work will suffer. It might be worth at least checking in on your life/work balance yearly.
9. Network more
Sometimes people say, “it’s not what you know. It’s who you know.” I say both are equally important.
Networking becomes even more important with the shift to online work. Because you don’t have the luxury to mingle with others inside and outside your circles, and you miss out on knowing people and them getting to know you.
However, even in a Zoom dominated work environment, you can still network. In some cases, you get better networking opportunities than before. How?
Instead of networking with people in your city or company, now you can network with people in the whole state or country. Attending online networking events can open many doors for you to expand your network.
This is probably a once in a lifetime opportunity to expand your network so wide and form long term relationships like never before. All you have to do is set the goal.
The beginning of the year is the best time to set your professional development goals. I hope this article stimulated your thinking and inspired you to put some progressive goals for the year at work to serve your long term dreams.