Accepting less than what you deserve and staying in a dead end job is out, and advocating for yourself and creating your dream career is in.
Take the time to do some self-reflection and really think about what you want in your life and career. Once you know what you have your sights set on, goal-setting becomes the path to achieving those ambitions.
And on the bright side, InHerSight data shows that 82 percent of women were somewhat or very optimistic about achieving their goals in 2022, so let’s carry the motivational momentum forward into 2023.
What is a professional goal and how do you measure it?
Professional goals are future-oriented, actionable steps that allow us to deepen skills and reach career milestones. These objectives are either targeted for the short term, such as reading a quick book to gain more leadership knowledge, or for the long term, such as meeting with a career coach over the course of a year to practice your interviewing and networking skills.
Your professional goals should be specific, measurable, and attainable. A common way to measure the success of your goals is to use the SMART goal framework, a goal-setting method standing for “specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timebound.” Using these criteria can help you clarify your intentions, track your progress, and understand when and if you can call your goals successful.
What are the first steps to take to set a goal for the next year? Start by thinking about what you truly want in your career (and life) and what would make you feel successful and happy before you dive into the logistics. Then, career coach Chelley-Cheyenne says, “Set a realistic timeline for goals and checkpoints to ensure you are staying focused and on track. By each checkpoint, you should be closer to achieving your goal. If not, reassess your timeline and find areas that need adjusting in order to receive your desired results.”
22 examples of professional goals
1. Obtain a certification or degree
Obtaining higher credentials like a degree or certification can create new employment, salary, and promotion opportunities. For example, if you already have a bachelor's degree in economics, you can pursue a master's degree in business administration to establish more industry credibility.
2. Learn a skill in another department
Consider what other areas you’re interested in learning about at your company and cross-train in another position. Your proactive approach will enable you to help fill any gaps in your team and show your drive when it comes time to hand out promotions.
3. Apply for a promotion
If you’ve been in your position for at least six months and you feel confident you’ve proved you’re invaluable to your team, make it a goal to ask for a promotion. Before asking, make sure you know your company’s standard procedure regarding promotions and how long employees tend to remain in one position.
4. Learn a new technology
Technology is constantly evolving, and with each new innovation comes a chance to level up in your career and learn something valuable. Whether it’s learning to code or figuring out how to streamline your business using artificial intelligence (AI), mastering an in-demand tech skill will be useful for your career.
5. Take a bias training course
Recognizing that we have unconscious biases is the first step in cultivating a diverse and inclusive culture. To do your part, take a bias training course and learn how to recognize, address, and prevent bias in your day-to-day life and in the workplace. Try a LinkedIn Learning course or begin by browsing this inclusive language resource to learn how to talk about evolving social, cultural, and identity related issues.
6. Join a professional organization
Joining a professional organization can help you connect and network with more people, find a mentor or sponsor, open you up to more industry-specific skills and topics, give you access to scholarships, and get your voice heard on issues you care about. Plus, it’s an easy way to meet interesting people who you might not have met otherwise.
7. Get a career coach
Harness your professional potential and hire a career coach. Career coaches can help you find a new job, change careers, negotiate your salary, network with industry professionals, and more.
8. Ask for a raise
Asking for a raise will help you earn what you deserve and give you a confidence boost. To prepare beforehand, take on more responsibility, document and communicate your wins, talk about your career goals, do some research on average salaries for your position, and ask for feedback.
9. Become a mentor
Becoming a mentor can help you broaden your professional network, develop interpersonal and managerial skills, reflect on your own career, and obviously, positively influence another person’s career. It can be incredibly fulfilling to see how your advice can have a tangible impact on someone else’s success.
10. Start an employee resource group (ERG)
Being part of an ERG is a great professional goal to help you feel more satisfied at work. Start—or join—an ERG to gain a sense of community and belonging, growth opportunities, leadership experience, and opportunities to work on passion projects.
11. Create a personal website
Personal websites give you the autonomy to control your personal brand, the space to showcase your work, and the chance to network with recruiters and clients. If you consider yourself an expert in your field or have a side-hustle, a personal website is a great asset for pointing people toward your name and work, and luckily, there are tons of sites out there to help you get started designing.
12. Set boundaries
It’s imperative to share boundaries to maintain our job satisfaction and mental health in the workplace. The first step to achieving this goal is getting to know what you need and learning to say “no” professionally. For example, if your job description has clear work hours, an example boundary could be to not answer work emails, texts, or Slack messages outside those hours.
13. Learn how to stand up for yourself
In work-related environments, standing up for ourselves is a great professional goal to strive for in order to protect and maintain our mental health, productivity, and confidence. Use our guide on how to stand up for yourself in any situation to see examples of verbal and body language to use when standing up for yourself, plus six tips for successful confrontation.
14. Improve your managerial skills
Research shows that 84 percent of workers say poorly trained people managers create a lot of unnecessary work and stress, and 57 percent say that managers in their workplace could benefit from training on how to be a better people manager. So, striving to improve your managerial skills is a great goal for the new year. Read about eight effective strategies that make a good manager here.
15. Call out unfair treatment
If you’ve noticed that you’re being treated unfairly at work, it’s time to take action. Make it a goal to remedy the situation by speaking privately with a specific individual who’s mistreating you or take advantage of your legal workplace rights and stand up for yourself.
Read more: How to Report Discrimination at Work
16. Negotiate your job title
Career development consultant and recruiting expert Dana Hundley says, “A job title can be a tool to help negotiate your place within your job function or industry, advocate for the appropriate role, responsibilities, and compensation, and support your ability to move fairly up whatever career ladder you see fit for yourself.” Make it a goal this year to negotiate the title you think accurately reflects your expertise and unique responsibilities.
17. Find a mentor
Having a mentor can give you a huge boost when you’re looking to advance your career. For example, Kinsta Vice President of Marketing Andrea Zoellner says, “The quick pace at which I was able to move up still surprises me, but I couldn’t have done it without the help and encouragement of mentors. Looking back, my biggest opportunities and moments of growth were made possible by some very generous bosses.”
18. Create a flexible schedule
Say you want to negotiate permanent remote work or create a schedule with flexible hours in order to make it to more of your kid’s soccer games. Whatever your reason, creating a flexible schedule is a great professional goal this year, especially since 43 percent of employees say that flexible working hours help them to be more productive.
19. Leave a toxic workplace
A Harvard Business School study found that 80 percent of employees have lost work time worrying about a toxic coworker, 78 percent say their commitment to their job has declined because of toxic behavior, and 66 percent say their performance has declined. If you’ve finally had enough toxicity and bad behavior, take care of your mental and professional health and get out.
20. Make more friends at work
People who have friends at work are more engaged, produce higher-quality work, and have a higher state of wellbeing. If you want to connect with more of your coworkers and there aren’t many employer-led initiatives, try these tips to make new friends at work.
21. Use your paid time off
A staggering 50 percent of U.S. workers don’t use all of their time off due to the pressure to always be “on.” Don’t give in to hustle culture this year, and take a well deserved vacation. Research suggests that you might even sleep better and be more productive afterward.
22. Prepare for tough interview questions
Answering tough interview questions is one aspect of job searching that we all fear. To quell your anxiety, try to practice your answers to common questions in advance. Don’t know where to start? Check out our list of 10 tough interview questions and example answers.