Today marks the beginning of our series on career growth and development. Over the next several weeks, we’ll explore topics related to growing within and toward your chosen path and offer resources to help ease some common growing pains.
Choosing your career path can bring a clarity of purpose to your work and life, while also opening up exciting new professional landscapes for you to explore. After all, who doesn’t love that feeling of setting out on a journey, tackling unfamiliar challenges, and honing their skill set along the way?
But, sometimes, our paths can become clouded by a fog of uncertainty. Whether you’re brand new to a field or are an experienced professional, there are times when we just don’t know the steps we need to take to further progress our careers.
That’s where your professional development goals come in.
Setting your professional development goals
Professional development goals are the objectives you set for yourself to further your career. In other words, they’re your professional targets that define where you’re going and why. They can be big—like becoming the CEO of your very own company—or smaller—like earning your first leadership role. Most importantly, your professional development goals are unique to your interests, aspirations, and life.
To set your own professional development goals, here’s what you’ll need to do:
1. Know what you’re actually working toward.
Too often, we rush from one milestone to another without asking ourselves where it is we’re actually trying to go. So, to set your professional development goals, take some time to consider what it is that you want to work toward. Start by simply considering where you want to be in a week, month, year, or longer.
As you think about what you want, here are a few courses that may help guide your self-reflection:
A Life of Happiness and Fulfillment from Indian School of Business
Finding Purpose and Meaning In Life: Living for What Matters Most from University of Michigan
Mindshift: Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential from McMaster University (This course is free for all learners!)
2. Make goals manageable with milestones.
Most long-term, big-picture goals are made up of smaller, incremental goals. Take a look at where you want to end up and consider the smaller goals you need to accomplish to get there. Then, set some short-term goals based on those smaller goals.
One way to frame your goals is to make them SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. In other words, they should be concrete goals that are relevant to your desired outcome, which you commit to achieving within a certain time frame, and you’ll know—or can measure—when you’ve achieved them.
For example, let’s say you want to gain new data analytics skills to apply to your current role. Your SMART goal may be to learn the basics of data analysis by completing Google’s Data Analytics Professional Certificate within six months. If that’s too much for you, start with one course in one month, or one module in one week. Framing your goals in this way can make your long-term goals feel more manageable.
Where to begin
The best place to begin your professional development is exactly where you are. That’s going to be slightly different for everyone, but here are the broad starting points we can recommend:
For a crash course in defining your goals, try The Career Design Lab: Change your Job, Change your Life from University of California, Santa Cruz.
For a deeper dive into achieving success, try Wharton’s Achieving Personal and Professional Success Specialization.
To start working toward your professional development goals, search for your specific area of interest on Coursera. There are thousands of courses available at the beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. If you’d like help finding a course for your area of interest, let us know in the comments and we will see what we can find.
That’s all for this week! Next week, we’ll talk about how you can turn your goals into an actionable career development plan. In the meantime, want some ideas for how you can approach your goals? Drop them in the comment section below and we’ll choose some examples to break down in our next issue. See you then!