Are you happy in your career? Working hard and achieving great things may not always give you satisfaction.
Sometimes, attaining success can leave you wondering where you should go from here. But the same stress that you’ve always had can follow you through your highs and lows.
Setting goals can help you avoid the treadmill of worry, pressure, and burnout. It allows you to create a path that’s paved with stepping stones so that no task is too large for you to handle. It also gives you an opportunity to celebrate when you triumph.
Plus, goal setting is a tool for staying motivated even after you’ve landed the promotion, gotten the raise or finished the project. In this article, we’ll explain why it’s important to set job goals and give you some examples of objectives that you can aim for no matter what career you’re in.
Can Job Goals Help You Find Happiness?
There is a certain amount of prestige that comes with attaining success at work. Whether you’ve secured a particular position, earned tenure or closed a deal, you feel accomplished.
At least, you assume that you will feel that way.
However, a 1998 study says otherwise. In this study, professors that had either received or been denied tenure within the previous five years were interviewed. Both rated their happiness at similar levels on a survey.
However, assistant professors who hadn’t been considered for tenure were asked to forecast how happy they thought they’d be if they were granted tenure. It turned out that they overestimated their satisfaction.
In general, people tend to overrate how excited they’ll feel after receiving an accomplishment. They think that they’ll experience an intense level of joy that will last for a while. Then, they feel a letdown when success comes and goes.
When we set goals, we believe that they’ll bring us some level of gratification. We can assume that most people set goals that are going to make them feel good. Otherwise, what’s the point?
As humans, we aim to live with purpose and meaning. When we feel aimless, we tend to be more dissatisfied with our lives.
In other words, setting goals can make you happy. Just don’t put all of your “happiness” eggs in one basket and assume that your life will be perfect once you achieve your objectives.
Setting ongoing goals concurrently can keep you reaching for the stars and feeling fulfilled as you move along your journey. That way, when you complete one undertaking, you still have other targets to aim at.
When you’re setting job goals, you shouldn’t assume that you’ll finally be happy in your career when you cross a particular item off of your checklist. The more you worry about being satisfied, the less fulfilled you’re likely to end up.
If you simply set goals that allow you to enjoy the journey, you’ll have a better chance at achieving the success that you want and accomplishing your goals.
When Should You Set Job Goals?
You might be wondering when the perfect time is to set job goals. Should you establish them before you enter the workforce? Will they change if you stay in the same job? Will you have to refresh your goals periodically?
In general, it’s ideal to set goals throughout your life. Although you might see the practice as having a distinct beginning and end point, it’s really more about the journey than it is about doing everything that you set out to accomplish.
If you think of goal setting as a way to create a guide that will help you navigate to your destination, you can use them wisely. Before you head out on a trip, you probably want to know where you’re going to end up. Even if the destination isn’t set in stone, you would drive aimlessly without having some idea of the final location.
The same goes for goal setting. It’s a good idea to ask yourself what you want to achieve before embarking on anything new.
Here are some of the ideal times to set job goals:
- While approaching college graduation – If you don’t know what you want out of your career, searching for a job after you graduate can be overwhelming. There are hundreds of thousands of positions available. Setting a goal can help you narrow down your options so that you work in a field that suits you.
- When you’ve been hired at a new job – Setting long and short-term goals when you begin a job can help you get the most out of your training and position you for success.
- When you start a new project – Goal setting can help you manage a team, delegate tasks and accomplish everything by your deadline.
- When you’re not happy in your job – If you’ve just been showing up to work and running on autopilot, you might be dealing with dissatisfaction because you aren’t working purposefully. Setting goals when you’re feeling disgruntled can help you get back on track.
- When you’re eligible for a promotion or raise – If you have your eye on a prize, setting goals can help you get what you want.
Ultimately, though, any time is perfect for setting goals. As we mentioned before, goal setting is part of your journey. If you cross everything off of your bucket list, what more is there? Making goal setting a practice can help you do it consistently without even thinking about it.
Professional Development Job Goals
Although you might have some specific goals that have to do with your particular position, you should see your career as a way for you to improve your knowledge and professional skills. For that reason, setting professional development job goals is important.
As you gain wisdom, you’ll also become more proficient in your position. You may also increase the opportunities that are available to you.
No matter where you work, you should be open to lifelong learning. Professional development job goals can ensure that you’re moving ahead with momentum and consistency.
Straightforward Professional Development Goals
Sometimes, professional development goals are clear and straightforward. Some examples of clear-cut professional development goals include:
- Take a course in a category that relates to your industry
- Undergo leadership training
- Read a book about your field
- Attend four networking events this quarter
- Learn a new organizational strategy
- Read a book or take a course on productive communication
To make the above examples more specific, make sure that you research what class you’re going to take or book you’re going to read. Write down the exact title, and give yourself a deadline for registering or completing it.
Some professional development goals aren’t so specific. They may be more general, and it’s up to you to make those objectives realistic, measurable and time-bound.
General Professional Development Goals
A few examples of broad professional development goals include:
- Get more organized
- Work on your weaknesses
- Challenge yourself
- Participate in more events related to your job
- Improve job performance
- Take on more responsibility
- Stay up to date on industry information and news
Each of these goals is somewhat vague. They’re great aspirations, but you need to make them more precise so that you can set up a plan for achieving them.
Let’s say that you have a professional development goal to work on your weaknesses. How can you split that up into identifiable steps?
With most goals, the first step is often defining the terms and concepts involved. In this case, you would need to identify at least one weakness.
Perhaps you decide that your lack of punctuality is a weakness. That gives you a foundation on which to establish your goal.
Start by phrasing your goal in the positive and committing to it. Don’t overthink it. Your goal may be to be more punctual at work.
Then, think about what has to happen for you to show up to work on time. This might include:
- Go to bed earlier
- Shower in the evenings
- Make your lunch at night
- Set your alarm 15 minutes earlier
- Place your clock across the room so that you don’t hit snooze
- Get your clothes ready so that you can put them on as soon as you turn off the alarm
- Get a coffee maker with automatic brewing
Whatever the steps are, write them down. Remember, though; you don’t have to achieve your goal at once. You’re essentially trying to break a bad habit and establish a new one.
Try choosing one of these items and setting a deadline for it. Perhaps you’ll vow to go to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual this week. Make yourself a calendar, and check off the days that you achieve your goal. Once you see that you can easily tackle step 1 every day during the week, you can add another step next week.
Soon, showing up to work on time will become second nature. You will have grown, and you can set your sights on the next goal.
Activities That Support Your Professional Development Job Goals
When you set professional development goals, consider looking at areas of your job that need improvement. Think of these goals as personal goals for your career. These objectives will help you stay competitive in the workforce and remain a valuable asset to any company.
Some activities that contribute to your job growth might be:
- Continuing education – Take a class that will help you improve in some area. It doesn’t have to be directly related to your industry. It may be a course that helps you be more efficient or productive.
- Participate in professional organizations – If possible, join a professional organization or mastermind that includes people in your industry or position. Go to conferences and workshops. Consider presenting or applying to be a keynote speaker at an event such as this. You may even set a goal to coordinate an event to gather your colleagues together.
- Conduct and publish research – One of the best ways to delve deeper into your job is to do research. You might want to conduct a training or presentation with your findings. You may even publish the results in an academic journal.
- Take on new assignments – Many people learn by doing. If you don’t put yourself in a situation that fosters growth, however, you can feel stagnant in your job. Ask your supervisor if you can take on additional responsibilities and tasks. Show that you can handle them by sharing your goals for them with your supervisor.
How to Set Effective Professional Development Goals
A professional growth plan needs three critical components in order to be effective.
- Set standards for assessment
How will you know when you have reached your goals? You’ll need to define a certain standard. This may be the accomplishment of a particular task by a specific deadline. For example, you may know when you’ve reached your goal when you finish a course on management and leadership.
If your goals are more general, though, you may need to decide ahead of time how you’ll gauge your success. Then, when you believed that you have achieved your objective, assess the situation.
How well do you believe that you performed while achieving your goal? Did you accomplish it on time? What were the challenges? What was easy?
Being able to answer these questions will help you celebrate and determine how you’ll set goals and take action in the future.
- Set challenging goals
In addition to setting measurable goals, you should make sure that you challenge yourself. Challenging goals allow you to reach your full potential.
This can be tricky. If your goals are unrealistic, you can get discouraged while trying to accomplish them. However, if they’re too easy, they may not be motivating or rewarding.
To hit the sweet spot, make sure that you work backward when creating an action plan for reaching your objectives. Have you set an especially challenging goal? Don’t let that overwhelm you.
Think about the steps that you need to take to work up to the goal. If you feel like you’re aiming high with those steps, ask yourself what you need to do to hit each of those mile markers.
Some questions you can ask yourself to break your goals down into manageable chunks include:
- What skills do I need to accomplish this goal?
- Do I need any data or information to achieve this goal?
- What needs to be in place before this objective can be realized?
- Will I need assistance?
- What is the first step that I can take toward this target?
- Get support
You won’t be a hero for getting everything done on your own. Almost every job position involves some semblance of teamwork.
Even if you don’t work with other people, you may need tools or resources to help you get the job done. Outlining these is part of making a large goal seem manageable. List the means by which you can accomplish your goal. Doing this will help you realize when and who you can ask for help.
You should also get feedback along the way. Sharing your objectives with your boss can give you accountability and show that you’re inspired to take on challenges on your own.
Performance goals are the key outcomes that you need to strive for. These are often short-term goals.
You should set your own performance goals throughout the year. Your boss or supervisor may also set performance goals that you have to meet. These are usually tied to an organization’s key performance indicators.
Performance goals are associated with your job responsibilities. They involve specific tasks that are within the realm of your job description.
When someone else sets these goals for you, you gain an understanding of what’s expected of you in the workplace. When you set these goals for yourself, you show initiative and familiarity with the company’s greater objectives.
Setting performance goals for yourself demonstrates that you’re on board with your company’s mission and that you’re self-motivated. It shows that you’re organized and willing to discipline yourself to help the organization profit and succeed.
Some examples of performance goals in the workplace are:
- Close 15 percent more sales this year
- Reduce expenses by 10 percent by the end of the quarter
- Arrive at work early every day
- Assist a colleague with a project this quarter
- Lead a meeting this month
- Respond to all customer service emails by the end of the day
How Are Performance Goals Different than Professional Development Goals?
Performance goals are job and results-oriented. They’re often a little clearer than professional development goals, although you can set up either one to be straightforward.
Performance goals are also focused on tasks. These goals may serve as action steps to achieve your professional development goals. They’re related to specific responsibilities that are probably included in your job description.
Corporate strategic goals often dictate your performance goals. Although you can set your own performance goals, you probably have to work closely with your supervisor to make sure that they will help the company get ahead.
Professional development goals are also beneficial for the company. However, the link is more subtle.
Any time that you’re improving yourself, you’re going to contribute more effectively to the organization’s mission. But the route is less direct.
Professional development goals are skill and learning-oriented. It may be easier to see the association between these types of goals and your personal goals than the link between professional development goals and the company’s objectives.
Everything that you gain while moving toward your professional development goals can be applied to any job, whereas your performance goals can usually be applied mainly to your current job.
Why Are Relationship Goals Important at Your Job?
Dr. Jamie Gruman, a Canadian professor and research fellow, says that the primary predictor of happiness is high-quality, connected relationships. Yet so many of us sacrifice our relationships in the name of establishing a successful career.
You can balance your relationships with your work life. You can also focus on improving relationships at your job so that you transform the 9-to-5 into a place that you’re excited to go to every day.
Employees who have a best friend at the office are more engaged in their jobs. They’re also more likely to be satisfied.
Great work relationships are crucial. Don’t overlook them in an effort to get to the top. Setting some goals that relate to interactions with other people can help you create solid relationships.
Humans are naturally social. We need positive connections with other people. We tend to overlook that need while we’re working, thinking that we just need to get our jobs done. We may even be reprimanded for spending too much time at the water cooler instead of our desks.
Good work relationships can motivate you to head to the office every morning. Plus, you expend less energy when you’re dealing with people that you have good relationships with than you do when putting out fires and managing conflicts.
Moreover, good work relationships can increase your professional opportunities. Most people hate networking. But networking simply involves being a person and communicating with others. If you can do that well, you can make your potential soar.
Some examples of goals that you can set to build your personal relationships at work include:
- Identifying your own needs within work relationships
- Taking a class on communication or people skills
- Scheduling time to meet with a colleague or take a new employee to lunch
- Work on your emotional intelligence
- Change your mindset with positive thinking
- Practice active listening
What’s Wrong With Doing as Much as Possible?
One of the biggest mistakes associated with goal setting is to try to do your best. Of course, you hear this all the time. Businesses want to sell as much as possible. You probably want to make as much money as you can.
However, working hard for an undefined result will often leave you disappointed. There is a quote floating around the internet. It’s attributed to W.E. Deming, and it says, “Doing your best isn’t good enough, you have to know what to do and then do your best.”
But doing your best leaves too much gray area. It excuses you for letting your performance waver when you’re not feeling particularly motivated. If you focus on trying your best, you’re likely to get lax.
The same goes for making as much money as possible. How do you know what’s possible if you haven’t defined it?
Goal setting may seem tedious. You have to set definitions and deadlines. You have to dig deep instead of just telling yourself that you’ll work hard.
The practice of establishing goals can even take time out of your workday. When you’re new at the practice, you might feel like you’re spending precious time on planning instead of doing.
However, you’re setting yourself up for success. You’re creating a clear map that will guide you so you’ll never have to worry that you’re not performing up to par. This plan will also motivate you on the days that you don’t really want to try your best.
In most cases, you don’t have to try your best to achieve your goals. You simply have to do enough to check a particular task off of your list.
If you’ve broken down your goals effectively, you’ll give yourself plenty of leeway so that you don’t overwork yourself. Therefore, you don’t have to give 110 percent to every task that you complete. You simply have to take action when you said you would to get your work done by the deadline.
Don’t Go it Alone
One of the biggest mistakes that you can make when working toward success is trying to do everything by yourself. When you’re part of a larger organization, you have to work within its structure. You have to have contact with your peers and supervisors to achieve what’s best for you and the business.
If you get tempted to ignore everyone else and plow forward by yourself, consider these steps for making sure that your goals encompass the needs and mission of the company:
- Understand the roles and functions of the other people on your team.
- Find out what would make your boss’ job easier.
- Look at the bigger picture instead of focusing on your immediate responsibilities.
- Schedule check-ins with your team, employees and supervisors.
- Ask for support
Things at work don’t always go as planned. Problems come up, and you might have to deal with issues that take you off of your path.
Make sure that you schedule time to come back to your goals. You should set long and short-term job goals. The long-term goals often get ignored when your short-term goals veer off track, though. They might drop out of your wheelhouse altogether if you don’t pay attention to them regularly.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to compare your big vision with your to-do list regularly. On Fridays, look at what you’ve accomplished during the week. Ask yourself whether you’ve completed any of your goals.
On Mondays, look at your weekly goals. Consider how they align with your monthly and yearly goals.
Tracking your objectives in this manner can be the key to your job success.