Best Practices

12 Examples of Professional Goals For Work

Jonathan Friedman
March 10, 2021
12 Examples of Professional Goals For Work

When was the last time you sat down and wrote out some professionals goals for work? Has it been a while? Are you struggling to remember at all? Do you need some examples of professional goals for work? Then you've come to the right place.

If you're not actively setting short- and long-term professional goals, you're increasing your chances of joining the 53 percent of workers in the U.S. who are not engaged in their jobs. Don't forget, a lack of engagement can also turn into a lack of productivity, as well as a reduction in job satisfaction and an increased risk of losing your job altogether. 

Need more motivation to become a goal-getter? Read on to learn more about the importance of goal-setting for work. We're also sharing 12 examples of professional goals for work that you can set today.

Below is everything we will cover. Feel free to skip ahead.

What are professional development goals?

Before we dive into specific examples of goals for work, let's touch on what a professional development goal is.

Professional development goals are the actionable steps you need to achieve your career.

Then, professional goals help you answer the question, "where do you see yourself in two, five, or ten years?"

To achieve your professional goals, you need an action plan. In your action plan, you should set both short-term and long-term professional goals to help you achieve your aspirations.

So what are short-term and long-term goals?

Why set goals for work?

Perhaps you feel that your performance is up to par and that you don't have any room for improvement. If this is the case, you might be wondering why you need to bother setting goals for work.

First of all, just about everyone has room to improve somewhere. Second, you might change your mind when you realize all the benefits professional goal-setting has to offer.

Stay focused and engaged

Remember, most of the workforce is not actively engaged in their jobs daily. They're merely going through the motions.

Do you struggle to maintain your focus and stay engaged during the workday? Maybe you start with the best intentions, but do you still find yourself scrolling through social media or online shopping by the time 5 pm rolls around?

If engagement and focus are challenges for you, pushing yourself and setting goals can help.

Having a clear professional goal that you're working toward will give you a prize to keep your eye on. You'll also be more productive and less inclined to slack off during the day.

Improved performance and increased job satisfaction

When you start being more engaged at work, you'll likely find that your performance improves. You'll be able to complete projects with more ease and efficiency, and the quality of your work will take a turn for the better.

Increased engagement and improved performance can help you feel more satisfied at work. No matter what kind of company you work for or the type of job you do, we all want to feel happy at the place we spend 8-plus hours per day, don't we?

Setting and achieving your professional goals will give you a renewed sense of confidence and move you a little closer to joining the 49 percent of Americans who are "very satisfied" with their current job. Isn't it worth it set professional goals if it means they can help you to find more enjoyment at work?

Set yourself up for promotions and pay raises

Let's be honest. Most of us would love promotion and a chance to earn more money.

When you set professional goals for work, you're more likely to stand out and distinguish yourself from your coworkers. This, in turn, can give you an advantage when the time comes to apply for a promotion or ask for a pay raise.

Let's say you're sitting down with your boss to talk about taking on more responsibility or earning more money for doing your current job. During this meeting, it's practically guaranteed that your boss will ask you to demonstrate your value and explain why you think you deserve what you're asking for.

Your argument will be much stronger and more persuasive if you have evidence to back it up. In this case, the evidence is the specific workplace goals you've set for yourself, as well as the proof that you've accomplished those goals. 

Gain clarity and inspiration for the future

Let's go back to the concept of workplace engagement for a moment.

If you're feeling disengaged or struggling to perform to the best of your current job abilities, it might be because you don't have a clear idea of what you want for the future. Perhaps you know that you want to be doing something different, but you don't know what precisely that is.

If this resonates with you, goal-setting can help. Sit down to think about how you can push yourself to do more.

As you work toward accomplishing the goal you set, you'll learn a lot about your priorities and values. This, in turn, can provide you with valuable information and inspiration for the future.

Maybe you'll realize that you want to run your own company someday. Perhaps you'll find that you want to work in a different department.

There are tons of options out there, but if you remain stagnant and don't get out of your comfort zone, you'll never know which options (if any) you want to pursue.

12 Examples of professional goals for work in 2021

At this point, you're probably convinced that setting professionals goals is essential. However, you might also be wondering what kind of goals you should be setting. 

If you're unsure of what you want to start working toward, here are 12 professional goals examples to inspire you.

1. Continue your education

The first of our examples of professional goals for work is continuing education. What kinds of doors would open for you if you invested in some additional training? Would you be eligible for promotions of positions in other departments? Could you potentially qualify for a new job with better pay and benefits?

Continuing your education can help you go further and experience more satisfaction in your career. It will also improve your standing with your current employer (who doesn't want to keep someone on their staff who's willing to do more than what's expected of them?) and make you more marketable if you choose to find a different job in the future.

Talk to your supervisor to see if there are any continuing education opportunities available to you through the company. If there are such courses available, find out what you need to do to sign up and take part.

If there aren't any courses available through the company, look into relevant courses available through third-party companies like Udemy or Coursera. Perhaps you could take a class in coding or SEO, for example, to expand your skillset and provide more value to your team. 

True, you will need to dedicate extra time outside of work to complete these training sessions or courses. Now that so many of us are staying home (or even working from home in some cases) though, there may be more free time to make continuing education a priority. 

2. Learn and introduce a new tool

It doesn't matter if you and your team design software or handle the company's finances. Regardless of your specific job title, you'd probably love to know about tools that could help you do your job more effectively and efficiently.

If this applies to you, you might want to set a goal to learn how to use an innovative new tool. Once you're confident in your capabilities, you can share that tool with your team and use it to increase efficiency and productivity.

What kind of tools are we talking about? The options are endless.

Perhaps you could get familiar with a new project management software. These tools make it easy for you and your team to stay organized, monitor progress, and make sure you're hitting deadlines. You could also learn to use new bookkeeping software or a graphic design tool that helps you create more engaging social media content.

Start by doing some research to see what kinds of tools are available to workers like you. Then, shop around to find one that seems like a good fit. Learn the basics, then introduce it to your manager or supervisor and offer to teach the rest of the team how it works.

This is a great way to demonstrate your value to higher-ups in the company. It also gives you a chance to show that you're willing to go the extra mile. 

3. Transition to a new department

Are you satisfied with your current position? If you're not (and you don't think that your attitude will change with time), it might be time to try and transition to a different department.

Consider setting a professional goal to learn about other departments within your company and find one that's a better fit for you. Once you know about a few different positions that you find interesting, ask your supervisor or a manager if you can shadow someone who does that job now.

While you're shadowing, talk to them about what they like and don't like about their job, as well as what steps they had to take to qualify for it. If, afterward, you find that you're interested in taking the plunge and trying out a different career path, make a list of what you'll need to get there.

Do you need to take additional classes or attend a specific training program? Do you need a letter of recommendation from your boss?

A big goal like "get a job in a new department" can feel daunting. If you break your goal down into manageable steps like those mentioned above, though, it'll feel a lot more manageable. 

4. Become a better presenter

Another one of our examples of professional goals for work is becoming a better presenter. How confident are you in your public speaking skills? Do you tremble with fear every time you have to give a presentation?

If you don't consider yourself to be a great presenter or are worried about public speaking (75 percent of people are), that would be an excellent professional goal to set for yourself. 

The better you get at public speaking and delivering presentations, the easier it'll be for you to make a strong case for yourself when meeting with your boss to talk about a promotion or pay raise. 

There are lots of ways that you can work toward being a better presenter.

Start by learning about effective ways to share your thoughts. For example, you can research frameworks like the Rhetorical Triangle or the 7 Cs of Communication

Next, look for opportunities to practice. Rehearse your presentation in front of your mirror first. Then, ask if you can practice in front of your family or a few trusted colleagues. 

It helps to watch other great presenters, too. Watch TED Talks to find approaches that may work during your next presentation, for example. Take notes and find ways to incorporate the speakers' techniques. 

5. Become a better collaborator

Do you love to collaborate with your colleagues, or are you more of a lone wolf in the workplace? If the latter is true, it might be time to work on your ability to work as part of a team.

There are times when it pays to be able to work independently. However, if you're not good at giving directions, sharing ideas in a group, or following instructions laid out by someone else, you might struggle to rise through the ranks at your current job. Good collaboration (at least to a certain extent) skills are essential in most positions, and the inability to collaborate will indeed hold you back. 

Start by thinking about the skills that make someone a good collaborator. This includes listening, receiving feedback and positively giving feedback.

Do you struggle with any of these? If so, pick the one that's the hardest for you and make that skill a priority to work on first.  

6. Improve your performance metrics

Another one of our examples of professional goals for work is improving your performance metrics. Setting professional goals will help you to get better at your job. This is especially true if you make it a goal to improve specific performance metrics.

The following are some examples of markers you can use to measure progress and level up your performance:

You can also work on improving metrics related to your specific department. For example, if you work in the sales department, you can set a goal to contact a certain number of people per day.

Remember, no metric is too small to matter. Any improvement can snowball into more significant changes and set you up for more recognition and success.

7. Expand your professional network

If you're hoping to qualify for a promotion or a job at a different company in the future, you need to interact with other professionals, both professionally and socially.

Expanding your network creates new job opportunities and exposes you to unique perspectives and different ideas. As a bonus, it also gives you a chance to make new friends.  

Traditional networking practices (attending conferences, happy hours, etc.) aren't as standard right now since most of us are staying home and working remotely more often than not. However, there are still lots of ways that you can network virtually.

For example, you can join LinkedIn groups to connect with professionals in your industry from all over the world. You can also join professional Slack channels or search online to learn about virtual networking events.

Before you start networking, either in-person or virtually, be sure to do your homework. Learn about the people who will also be attending or participating and think of some ice-breaker questions to ask them. Be sure to prepare your elevator pitch, too, so you can succinctly answer when someone asks you what you do. 

8. Become an expert in your competition 

Researching the competition is an essential part of helping a company stay competitive. Do you think your employer could do a better job keeping up with its competitors?

If so, maybe you can set a goal to become an expert in these companies. You can then share what you've learned with your manager or supervisor. This, in turn, will help them to make productive changes to the company and gain an advantage moving forward.

Remember, you don't have to do anything questionable to research your competitors. You can learn a lot by following them on social media or checking out their website.

Start by making a list of your employer's competitors and then checking out their online presence to see what they are and aren't doing. Please take a look at their online reviews, too. This helps you know what people like about your competitors and what they want to change. 

9. Improve your time management skills

Another one of our examples of professional goals for work is improving your time management skills. Do you struggle with time management? Do you often catch yourself procrastinating on projects or failing to prioritize the tasks on your to-do list?

Lots of people could benefit from improving their time management skills. If you're one of them, why not make this one of your personal and professional goals for work?

When you become better at managing your time, you'll likely find it easier for you to stay organized. You'll also be less stressed and won't have to worry about important deadlines seemingly popping up out of nowhere.

Everyone has a different approach to time management, so you might have to do some experimentation to find what works for you. Here are some options that might help: 

Make sure you schedule some time to decompress, too. Try using the Pomodoro Technique to stay on task and remember to rest.

If you cram your days with too many to-dos, you'll get overwhelmed. This may make you more prone to slacking off and procrastinating. 

10. Launch your own brand

If you're not satisfied with your work right now, it might be because you're ready to stretch yourself and branch out on your own.

Does this resonate with you? If so, an excellent long-term professional goal for you could be to launch your brand. Perhaps it's time to take the skills you've developed over the years and use them to start your own business.  

Creating your brand and running a small business is a big undertaking. It might take a while before you're ready to take the leap and leave your current job. However, that doesn't mean you can't start working toward this goal now.

Start by thinking about the type of business you want to run. Then, begin working on your business plan to figure out the specific steps you'll need to take to get your company ready to launch one day.

You can also start making a plan to raise funds for your business, too, or create a list of the training or qualifications you might need to secure. 

11. Become a mentor

Another one of our examples of professional goals for work is becoming a mentor. Maybe you're not engaged at work or aren't feeling satisfied in your career because you need a greater sense of purpose. For some people, this purpose comes from being a mentor to a new-hire or someone new to your department.

Have you been doing the same job (and doing it well) for a while now? Are you well-versed in the company's values and mission? If so, you might make a great mentor.

Talk to your manager or supervisor about the steps you'll need to take to start mentoring someone else at the company. Is there a mentorship program that you can sign up for? Do you need to complete any kind of training program first?

If there's not a mentorship program in place, maybe you can work with others at the company to create one. Either way, there are many ways to share your knowledge and experience.

12. Win an industry award

The last of our examples of professional goals for work is winning an industry award, which can really set you apart from your peers.

Are there any awards for workers in your industry that you'd like to win? An award for outstanding journalism or recognition for inventing something new? Or maybe, it's a 30 under 30, or a 40 under 40 awards.

If you're not aware of any awards, do some research to see what's available in your industry. There's a good chance there's at least one type of award you can qualify for.

Once you have an award in mind, break down the steps you'll need to take to be eligible to win. Is there a specific date by which you need to submit an application or proposal?

Take note of who the previous winners have been, too. Then, start thinking about what you can do to make yourself (or your team) stand out from them. 

Winning an award is excellent PR for your employer, so there's no reason why they shouldn't support you in this endeavor. It also gives you a competitive edge for the future, whether you're applying for a promotion within your current company or applying for a new job at a different one.

Tips to help you achieve your professional goals

It doesn't matter if you're setting personal or professional development goals (or both). Either way, there are specific strategies you can use that will help you to overcome obstacles and achieve them.

The following are some effective techniques for setting and keeping goals that you can start using today.

Tips to help you achieve your professional goals

1. Break them down

For many people, goal-setting is overwhelming. This can be the case even if they've only chosen one goal to work toward at a time. To avoid overwhelm, make sure you're breaking your goal down into smaller chunks.

If you want to earn a promotion at your company, for example, figure out what smaller steps you'll need to take to make that happen. Is there a specific training course that you need to complete? Do you need to arrange a meeting with your supervisor and let them know that you're interested in a new position?

When you break your goal down into several smaller pieces, it'll become much more manageable and will feel less challenging.

2. Share them

Many people have an easier time making changes in their lives if they hold them accountable. This is especially true of people who fall into the Obliger category.

Knowing that someone else is aware of your goal and monitoring your progress will help you stay on track and continue making progress. Let a colleague or a supervisor know what you're working toward and ask them to check in with you every once in a while to help keep you motivated.

3. Put them on display

According to a Harvard Business study, only 3 percent of people who have goals have also written them down.

When you take the time to write down a goal, you make it real. Once you have an idea of what you want to accomplish, write out exactly your goal.

It can help to display your professional goals, too. Writing them down is an excellent first step, but if they're stashed in a notebook somewhere or tucked in the back of a drawer, they're probably not doing you much good.

Display your goal somewhere where you can see it often. For example, maybe you can hang it on the wall in your office or write it on a sticky note that you place on the corner of your computer screen. This will help you keep it at the forefront of your mind.

4. Make them SMART

You're much more likely to accomplish your goals if you make them SMART. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.

Goals need to be specific to know what you're working toward. You also need to have a way to measure your progress, and they need to be attainable so that you don't become overwhelmed and give up early.

Your goals, especially your professional goals, must be relevant to your life and other aspirations, too. They need to have a clear end-date, also.

What do SMART goals look like in action? Here are some excellent examples of SMART goals for employees to consider setting:

If your goal is more professional development-focused, you can still follow this basic framework. For example, you might say, "In the next quarter, I want to take a course to improve my knowledge of X.

5. Try the OKR framework

Another way to approach your goals is with the OKR framework. OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results. 

With this framework, you set a goal or objective for yourself. This goal can either be committed or aspirational.

Committed goals are more specific. They require a "passing grade" (i.e., you need to check off individual boxes) for you to consider them accomplished.

On the other hand, aspirational goals are also known as stretch goals. They're significant accomplishments that no one else has achieved. When you set them, you do so with the understanding that you might not reach them, either. However, you're going to give it your best effort, and even if you don't make it all the way, you'll still get pretty far.

After you establish an objective, you then break it down and figure out which key results. Try to create three or so objectives that you'll use to measure your progress and determine whether or not you accomplished the goal. Alternatively, if you set a more aspirational goal, you'll be able to determine how close you got to achieve it.


Now that you've got some ideas and examples of professional goals for work, are you ready to set one (or more) for yourself? Keep this list of ideas in mind, as well as the tips for making sure you achieve your goals, but personal and professional.