How to Set Professional Goals and 5 Steps to Ensure You Achieve Them

How to Set Professional Goals and 5 Steps to Ensure You Achieve Them

Setting professional goals is one of the most important things you can do for your career. You can't achieve something without an end goal to work towards and reaching it brings a sense of achievement unique to other parts of life.  The sense of pride and satisfaction you get from achieving something is the perfect way to motivate yourself to do better.

How you achieve your goals matters as well. The steps that are taken to achieve them can determine how successful you are likely to be. By taking the simple steps below into account, you can set professional goals that will give you a real chance at success.

5 Steps for Successful Goal-Planning

There are several steps in setting goals so that you can achieve them. They follow logically in this order:

  1. Identification
  2. Iteration
  3. Planning
  4. Progress
  5. Evaluation / Celebration

When setting either professional or personal goals, it's worthwhile to ask yourself several questions: Who, What, Why, When, Where, and How.

Answers to each of these will give you clarity that can help you actualize your desires. We’ll address each of these queries as they relate to the steps of your goal achievement.


To identify your goals, hone in on the who. Who are you achieving this goal for? Yourself? Or, perhaps your boss or mentor? Or, is it really for your parents’ gratification? Also, does your goal rely on other people’s input or assistance, or can you achieve it independently? 


This is the stage where you lay out, word for word, what your goal consists of. Ponder the what question to make your goal tangible and pane-glass clear. Think SMARTT goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, targeted, and time-framed). 

Being clear on why you want to set a goal can help you visualize your goal and outcomes, giving you the essential motivation you need to complete your goal. Is your goal to gain advancement in your current job? To ask for a raise? Drill down on your why’s using the 5 Why’s Method for critical thinking to find the root reason why you want to reach this goal.


Now’s when the sleuthing of where and how factors come into play. A SWOT analysis is a time-honored method of sniffing out potential obstacles to business planning and can be applied to your goal setting. Hubspot offers a good list of business planning approaches that can help with shared professional goals. Use these approaches along with collaboration tools like Asana and Trello for team goals.


Your professional goals can be easier to accomplish than personal goals as you are likely to be already using time and project management tools in your workday. Use your work calendar to block off time to address your goals. If need be, use 15-minute breaks or your lunch hour to ensure you carve out time to work towards the steps you’ve identified in the planning phase. You can also use a handy app like aTracker or Way of Life.

Evaluation / Celebration

Who doesn’t get motivated by the proverbial carrot at the end of the stick? Planning for a reward to celebrate the achievement of your goal can make it that much easier to accomplish. You can make your reward private and personal, perhaps a spa day indulgence or vacation getaway with someone special, or choose to celebrate publicly, especially if it’s a team-related goal. An office Happy Hour, a corporate-sponsored lunch or dinner, or office Foosball table all might work as rewards for a successful group effort.

The Takeaway?

Keeping track of your professional goals can be a difficult process if it's not done properly. If you are serious about achieving a specific goal, you must plan ahead and create an actionable list of steps you need to take. Once you have a blueprint for success, it is much easier to accomplish your goals. Oh, don't forget to celebrate each step along the way!

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