20 Personal Development Goals For Your Career

By Chris Kolmar - Dec. 14, 2020
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People are often curious about what sets a person who is professionally successful apart from someone who is not. Usually, it’s the simple answer of setting personal development goals. Creating plans and goals for self-improvement in your personal life positively impacts your career trajectory and overall professional success.

What Are Personal Development Goals?

Your career doesn’t just blossom into a success story overnight. It takes reaching milestones you set for yourself inside and outside of work.

The purpose of personal development goals is to improve a particular aspect of your character or abilities. Either short or long-term, personal development goals need to be realistic roadmaps for how you plan to achieve specific objectives that launch your career into where you’ll be five years from now. They enhance the person that you are and make your candidate profile more impressive to employers.

What Are SMART Goals?

While setting a goal may sound like a straightforward task, many people find it difficult. Look at all the people who set over-ambitious New Years’ resolutions and then give up by January 3rd. In an effort to aid with the tough task of setting achievable goals that further your career, the SMART goals framework was born.

SMART goals incorporate the following guidelines into setting a personal goal.

  1. Specific. Vague goals don’t make for a high probability of accomplishing them. Specificity makes your target clearer and outlines a more detailed path of how to achieve the goal.

  2. Measurable. Measurability within your long or short-term goal is crucial because it shows you if you’re going in the right direction. There needs to be a clear endpoint for when the goal has been completed and milestones along the way to track progress with long-term goals.

  3. Achievable. The goals that you set need to be realistically achievable in terms of your experience, ability, and the timeframe you’re working with. Setting goals that are overzealous will likely leave you disappointed when it’s impossible to complete.

    Do some introspection about the objective you’re planning on undertaking and decide if it’s achievable before beginning.

  4. Relevant. There’s no point in putting forth the effort to complete a goal that isn’t going to benefit your life or career in any way. Make sure that the project you’re embarking on is relevant to your long-term goals and career objects.

  5. Time-Based. Every project needs a timeline to be completed. Even long-term goals that may span across many years need to have a timeframe in mind, or it runs the risk of never being completed.

    Job type you want
    Full Time
    Part Time

    It’s okay if you don’t meet your goal in its entirety in the timeframe you’ve assigned, but assess why that’s happened and continue with an updated finishing date.

20 Examples of SMART Goals

  1. Find And Complete A Challenge. Completing a professional challenge is a great short term goal because it hits every requirement of the SMART framework. Challenges are specific goals that can be measured by completion and are achievable and relevant to your career. Professional challenges also are presented with a time-frame for completion and demonstrate initiative to your employer.

    To find a challenge at work, speak with your supervisor about where your help could be used and if any tasks would be well-suited to your abilities. This can help you find a challenge that’ll expand your career or job responsibilities. Alternatively, you can find challenges to overcome outside of work to encourage personal development.

  2. Improve Your Networking Skills. Networking is an essential aspect of advancing your career. You need to build and maintain positive relationships with co-workers, supervisors, and other professionals in your field. Choosing to work on your networking abilities can be an excellent personal development goal that can impact your career success.

    If you decide to lean towards this goal, make sure not to neglect the SMART framework. Be specific about what aspects of your networking skills you’re improving, give a timeframe, and establish a system for measuring your success with this goal.

  3. Commit To Exercising Five Days A Week. Even though exercise doesn’t seem directly related to career growth, it can improve your performance and energy levels. You can’t complete your job responsibilities unless you’re healthy, and exercising can help maintain your health. Developing an exercise routine can be one of the more enjoyable personal development goals because there are many activities to choose from.

    Exercising is an excellent personal development goal because it provides a clear structure for how to complete it. Work out five times a week: simple, specific, and doable.

  4. Learn A Foreign Language. Adding fluency in a foreign language to your resume repertoire can be very attractive to potential employers because you provide a skill that they may not have in their company right now. Being able to communicate in a second language opens up a free flow of ideas that can expand and improve a business.

    Learning a foreign language is a strong personal development goal because it will definitely challenge you, make you a more well-rounded person, and give you a new skill. It’s also a viable option for many professionals because there are plenty of resources available online to help you complete the goal.

  5. Learn A Programming Language. Similar to how learning a second spoken language can help boost your career, becoming fluent in a programming language can also strengthen your professional profile.

    Programming is a very in-demand skill. Even if your job isn’t centered around computer science, having background knowledge of it can be useful in handling your position’s responsibilities.

    Examples of programming languages include:

    • Java

    • Python

    • Ruby

    • JavaScript

  6. Write In A Journal Every Day. Keeping up with a journal helps you with introspection and self-awareness. This is beneficial for your mental health and personal growth and can contribute positively to your career.

    Writing in a journal every day shows you what aspects of your life you’re happy with, where you can improve, and how you’re progressing. You can take this inner knowledge and growth back to your job performance to promote your career advancement.

    Writing in a journal every day manages to hit on every point of the SMART goal-setting structure without taking up too much time in your day or being too intense.

  7. Take An Online Class To Improve Your Soft-Skills. Soft skills can be just as important to succeeding in your career as your position’s technical abilities. They set you apart from other candidates and improve the quality of your work.

    This makes them a good alternative for professionals looking to take on a personal development goal to improve their work performance. There are a bunch of courses online that can help you improve in a variety of soft skills.

    The great thing about choosing this outlet for a goal is that the class has a defined schedule and specific measurements for success, like passing tests.

    Examples of courses for improving soft skills Include:

  8. Improve Your Typing Speed. Typing speed has always been crucial for people in administrative positions. With the current increase in remote workers, it’s more important than ever for all professionals to be experienced in typing quickly and accurately. Improving your typing speed can help your productivity and make it easier to be successful in working remotely.

    When choosing to focus on typing speed as a personal development goal, be clear in what you want to achieve. “Improvement” alone isn’t measurable. Take an online test to see how fast your words per minute (WPM) typing speed is now, and pick a realistic improvement from that number to reach in the next six months.

  9. Earn A Raise By Next Year. Earning a raise at work is a popular goal among professionals because it rewards them for their hard work throughout a given timeframe with monetary compensation. A pay raise can benefit your personal life and enhance your career at the same time.

    Deciding that you want to earn a pay raise by next year is a goal that follows a SMART framework because it has specific, measurable guidelines and has a time expiration of a year. It’s a realistic endeavor to receive a raise after putting in the effort over this timeframe.

    Start by asking your manager to give you some feedback about your current work performance and how you could improve. Use this information to launch yourself into becoming a better employee.

  10. Put $50 In Your Savings Every Week. Saving money builds skills like diligence and restraint, in addition to bulking up your bank account. Putting aside $50 a week will bring in over $2,500 by the end of the year. That money can be used to invest in learning a new skill, investing in a stock with a steady return, or taking a deserved vacation after a year’s worth of hard work.

    While putting a heap of money into your savings account may not be realistic for some employees, you can edit this goal to accommodate your income. Even if you’re only putting away $5 per week, that’s $260 by the end of the year that you can use towards something important or just to treat yourself.

  11. Volunteer With A Local Charity Eight Hours Per Month. Volunteering can enrich your personal life and develop your interpersonal skills to improve your work experience. It allows you to help your community, which positively impacts the people around you and feels good.

    Choose an organization that represents a charity or group that you’re passionate about helping, and dedicate an exact number of hours per month to extending your services. You may be surprised to find how rewarding volunteering in your free time can feel.

  12. Wake Up An Hour Earlier Every Morning. Time is the most valuable commodity we have, and every extra minute we can scrounge up is precious. Waking up an hour earlier everyday can give you time to accomplish a variety of beneficial tasks, such as going for a run, making a healthy breakfast, or going in early for work.

    If you’re already on an early schedule, it can seem unfeasible to wake up at 5 AM, but give it a try for a couple of days. You might notice a positive impact on your daily productivity.

    Using this extra hour in your morning for self and career improvement produces positive outcomes in your professional and personal life.

  13. Pay Off Your Credit Card Debt In The Next Year. Credit card debt can be a looming cloud over many people’s financial success. It’s easy to get into credit card debt, and for most, difficult to get out. However, if you decide to hone in on resolving your credit card as a personal development goal, it can make the process faster and more effective.

    Paying off your credit card debt within a year is a good goal for assisting in your career growth because it will release you of a significant financial burden. This can open up possibilities and reduce financial stress, allowing you to focus on your job and improve your work.

  14. Receive More Leadership Responsibilities At Work Within The Next Six Months. Deciding to work on getting more managerial responsibilities in your job can be an excellent professional development goal.

    This is a goal that you should discuss with your supervisor to see where you need improvement to be offered more leadership roles and put yourself on their radar when opportunities arise to showcase your skills. Usually, your supervisor will be able to give you a clear roadmap for how to achieve this goal.

    If they don’t have any input, consider taking some online courses in leadership skills to improve your abilities ahead of time.

    Examples of leadership skills courses include:

  15. Take Up A New Hobby. Spending your free time doing a worthwhile hobby that adds value to your life can help manage your work-life balance. No matter how much you love your career, work can get stressful.

    Having an activity outside of work that you enjoy and takes your mind off stressful experiences can improve your well-being and performance.

  16. Read A Book Relevant To Your Field. Setting a goal to finish a book relevant to your field fits into the SMART structure because it has a definitive end-point and outlines a specific goal.

    Reading allows you to take in a great deal of information from the comfort of your home in your spare time. Reading a book can provide you with perspective-shifting information that makes you a more knowledgeable employee in your industry.

  17. Work On Stress Management. Allowing yourself to get overwhelmed by stress at work can negatively impact your performance in a way that your supervisor will likely notice. People in high-stress positions rely on stress management techniques to get through their workday.

    If you decide to work on stress management as a personal development goal, identify your specific difficulties with handling stress. Once you know what you need to focus on, try a few stress management methods until you find the right option for you.

    Learning to deal with professional and personal stress effectively will make you a more reliable employee.

  18. Upgrade Your LinkedIn Profile In The Next Month. A good short-term goal that can have a powerful impact on your career growth is committing time to upgrade your LinkedIn profile. It may be a drag, but it’s a necessary evil if you want to improve your professional network.

  19. Build A Website In The Next Six Months. When potential employers or clients in the future go looking for you, the first thing they’ll do is type your name into Google. Give them what they’re looking for in the form of your website. Creating a professional website is a great way to strengthen your digital presence.

    Building a website to represent your professional brand is a fantastic personal and career development goal. It’s achievable in the timeframe of a few months, and doing so can have a lasting effect on your professional success.

  20. Successfully Change Your Career By 2023. If you’re unhappy in your career and looking to make a change, this should be the long-term personal development goal that you focus on. It could take years to accomplish, but it will improve your professional satisfaction and set you up for a career in an industry you’re truly passionate about.

    Turn down job offers until you get a position that aligns with your passion and new career direction. Set a timeframe and specific milestones for moving towards the ultimate goal of a career shift.

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Chris Kolmar


Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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