How to Set Realistic and Attainable Professional Development Goals
Imagine what a game of football would be like if there were no goals: a bunch of guys running around chasing a ball for no particular reason and after 90 minutes they walk away. That is what your life is like without goals.You go through the motions of life every day but you are going nowhere. Goals help us to have a purpose and they make our lives better. Professional development goals, in particular, are what most successful people have.
You may be saying to yourself right now, that you have set goals and yet you do not see any success coming your way. That is something many people suffer from.
We set goals at the beginning of the year but by midyear, we have failed to attain them. The problem with so many people’s professional goals is that they treat them just like New Year’s resolutions.
Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals
When it comes to professional development goals, it is best to make them SMART. This has nothing to do with wearing a suit and tie when you make your goals. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Time-bound. Let us take a closer look at each one of these.
This is the most important part of goal setting. The reason many people fail is that they do not clearly define their goal. It is not enough to say “I want to be rich.” Being specific will help you to work towards your goal because it gives exact things to strive for.
“I want to be rich” is not clear, so you won’t know whether you have successfully achieved it or not. Instead, set a goal like “I would like to land more clients.” As you can see, landing more clients will mean you will earn more money and that will eventually set you on to the path of being rich.
Once you have specified your goal, you should be able to measure it. So the goal is not complete until you add the aspect of measurability. It isn’t enough to simply want to get more customers, you should also specify how many more. In this case, you need to consider how much more money you will be able to make when you take on a particular number of clients.
It would be useless to say you are going to take on three more clients and then expect to become rich if you are in the restaurant business, so as you add a measure to your goal, keep in mind the impact it will have on your income. You might decide that you want to take on 30 more clients, for example.
Here is where many people fail. They set goals but fail to follow up the goal-setting with action aimed at achieving the goals. When you say you want to get thirty more clients, you should ask yourself what you need to do to achieve this. You will probably need to sit down and write out the steps you will take to reach this target.
Landing thirty new clients means that you will need to have a way of attracting them. It could be through advertising, networking, or improving your service delivery. Indeed, it will probably require a combination of actions to meet this goal. This means the goals you set need to be within your control, which brings us to the next part of goal setting.
Unrealistic goals can be the reason you fail to achieve them. For example, you cannot set a goal to climb all the mountains in Asia even though you are sick. It will never happen. On a professional level, when you say you want to land 30 new clients, you also have to consider whether it is really possible to do that.
While you think of the actions you need to take to achieve your goal, you probably will be able to figure out if it is possible to achieve that goal. Sometimes your circumstances may not allow you to take the actions needed to attain your goal.
For example, you may not have sufficient funds to advertise nor do you have the capacity to handle 30 new clients, in which case, you are probably not being realistic with your goals and you need to revise them.
Time is a crucial aspect of goal setting. As you set your goals you should give yourself a defined period in which to attain them. Just like a football game has 90 minutes of play, you should set a time in which to accomplish your goals. Setting a time frame will avoid procrastination and can help you measure your progress.
When setting the time frame, you need to be realistic. You cannot land 30 new clients in one day, but you may not need the whole year to accomplish that so could give yourself 6 months, for example. Setting unrealistic goals will make you lose focus.
Now that you have set your SMART goal to land 30 clients in 6 months, what’s next? In most cases, you may find that the goal seems like a huge task. 30 clients may be a very large number, so what you need to do is go back to the drawing board and set up a strategy to achieve this. This is a bit different from the what you did when you were thinking of actionable goals.
You need to sit and assign yourself tasks that you will perform every day to ensure your success. If you have 6 months to land 30 clients, that means you need to land 5 clients every month – a less daunting proposition. You can divide that again and figure that you will need to land at least 1 client every week.
Look at the actions you need to take and see what you will need to do each day to ensure that at the end of the week you have landed a client.
Next Steps to Setting Professional Development Goals
What are the next steps?
Sometimes you may realize that you need a particular skill in order to attain a goal. Do not give up just because you do not have that skill. For example, you may not be good enough at networking although that’s what you need in order to land more clients.
That doesn’t mean that you are setting an unrealistic goal because it is actually possible to learn this skill. You will need to add to the action you need to take, learning how to network. People who set goals to run a marathon usually start practicing months before they actually run that marathon.
You, too, can train yourself in whatever skill is needed to attain your professional development goals. If you want to get a promotion at work but you need to take a particular course to qualify for that position then it makes sense to take the course.
Remind yourself of your goal
It is a common thing for people to lose sight of their goals. To prevent this, you should constantly remind yourself of your goal. My advice is to write this goal down and put it where you can read it every morning. It could be on the fridge, above your bed, the bathroom mirror, or in your car or in all of those places.The idea is to create some kind of obsession with your goal so that you are motivated to constantly work towards achieving it. Each day when you wake up, you remember that you need to do something towards achieving your professional development goal.
Share your goal
If you have a close friend, brother, sister or someone who can hold you to account, it is good to share your goal with them. This will ensure that you work even harder towards achieving your goal because once you have told someone what you intend to achieve, you will have an inner drive to succeed and they will be there to ask you how far you have gone towards achieving your goal.
Each day, you will have a set of tasks to do. Look at them before you start your day and then go out there and make it happen. At the end of the day, probably in the last hour of the day, sit down and mark off what you have done and evaluate how well you have performed the tasks.
You can even have a grading system. If for example you were supposed to meet a potential client, on a scale of 1 to 10, how well did that meeting go and how best can you improve so that you can hit your target.
You will also need to evaluate yourself at the end of the week as well as the end of the month. This will let you know how close you are to attaining your goal and if you are running according to schedule.
Adjust your goal
During your evaluation, you may find some actions that may need to be adjusted, or you may need to adjust the time frame. Do this only if it is necessary. Do not adjust the time frame just to create space for a bit of procrastination. Make adjustments that will help you hit that target or when you realize that you may not have been as realistic as you thought.
Associate with like-minded people
You may have heard the saying that “You are the sum of the 5 people you spend most of your time with.” This is very important when it comes to setting and attaining realistic professional development goals. If you associate with laidback underachievers, you are likely to become just like them.
If on the other hand, you are around ambitious people, you are likely to be ambitious as well. When setting goals, you will be influenced by the goals the people around you make. This may mean that you have to scale back certain friendships you have cultivated in the past if you are to achieve your goals.
Have a mentorThis is related to the association, but it is more in terms of guidance. Sometimes you are going to find it hard to perform certain tasks, or you may even not know what goals to set. A mentor can help you, you can seek them out for advice, and you can watch them and get inspired.
Your mentor should be someone within your professional field but with more experience than you. It may not be easy to find one but try hard and you will. Many people are flattered when they find out you look up to them. Alternatively, you could seek the services of a life coach.
Get rid of fear
One of the hindrances to setting goals is fear of failure. You may think that if you set certain goals you might fail to attain them. Failure is not a bad thing, however. It teaches you to do things differently. You may need to address the fears you have and see why you are afraid.
Sometimes you will realize that your fears are unrealistic. Share your fears with someone you trust or with your mentor and they will give you guidance on how to get rid of whatever fear is stopping you from setting goals.
At the end of it all, you need to take time to think about what would really make you happy professionally. Setting realistic and attainable professional development goals requires time to understand yourself and to figure out where you want to be in the future and whether that will actually make you happy.
You cannot set goals based on what other people are trying to attain because if your heart isn’t really in it you will give up once it gets tough. Sit down and give it a lot of thought, write down as many goals as you can think of and then eliminate the least important ones and the ones that don’t seem realistic.
Though you may find yourself writing that you would like to be the first accountant to go to the moon, how realistic and attainable is that?
“Tackle,” courtesy of Geoff Scott, StockSnap.io, CC0 License; “Vintage clock,” courtesy of Jiyeon Park, StockSnap.io, CC0 License; “Soccer,” courtesy of Markus Spike, StockSnap.io, CC0 License; “Mentor,” courtesy of JD Mason, StockSnap.io, CC0 License