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2024 is swiftly approaching. Ahh! Don’t you just love that impending feeling of a brand new year, arriving just in time for you to begin focusing on personal goals and new career opportunities? It’s a clean slate and the perfect opportunity to grow.
Brainstorming different professional work goals to propel your career forward is a sign of a growth mindset. You’re not one to settle in your current job position… not when promotion, increased income, and other vocational perks are up for the taking.
Lucky for you, you’ve come to the right place. We have a wealth of information to share on the benefits of setting professional or career goals and creating a framework to identify and track those goals. SMART goals also feature in the content as a tip for maximizing goal achievement.
Note, though, that goals remain things you wish to accomplish until you take steps to manifest them. If you’re new to goal-setting, you’ll be thrilled to know that each goal example is accompanied by a suggested action plan for achieving it.
Even seasoned goal-setters can walk away with valuable insights on how to set and achieve career goals in 2024.
What are Professional Work Goals?
Professional work goals are objectives you’re planning to achieve in order to develop or advance in your career. You can also think of them as missions to conquer.
They can be skills you wish to learn, mapping a pathway to a new career, increasing your salary, or creating a new healthy habit for improving efficiency and productivity.
Work-related goals can be grouped as long-term (e.g., achievable in more than six months) and short-term goals (achievable in the near future/less than six months). Some short-term goals function as stepping stones for accomplishing long-term goals.
Why Setting Professional Work Goals Is Important
Imagine going about your work life without a sense of direction. At some point, you’ll start feeling lost or confused about where to go and what to do next.
Things can come to a standstill and you may begin to feel agitated, not knowing which direction to take. Here’s how work goals can help:
Setting clear professional goals equips you with a roadmap of the direction in which your career can go. Progressing with your objectives becomes easier since you have something to guide you. You’ll have something tangible to re-inspire you if ever you’re confronted by a roadblock or begin losing your zeal.
New career goals also spark a new passion. Work can start feeling boring, mundane, and burdensome after being in the same job position or company for years. Viewing employment this way can be the catalyst for a loss of motivation, a drop in performance, and poor work habits.
In other words, you don’t really care so much for your job and that can lead to complacency. Outlining new job goals helps re-stimulate your interest and offers fresh perspectives for a new or more advanced career.
Goals provide clarity of future undertakings. There’s also a strong sense of purpose which, in itself, is a natural motivating factor. You’ll want to challenge yourself to fulfill that purpose and with that comes satisfaction.
How to Establish Work Goals
Below are some effective ways to approach goal-setting and maximize the results:
Reflect on your career achievements
What are they? Write them down. Ask yourself questions, such as, “Were they as satisfying as I expected? and “Did they align with my core values? Many people tend to find themselves in careers by default. Maybe your parents insisted on a career choice you weren’t happy about.
Perhaps it was just a job to keep you gainfully occupied until the ‘right’ opportunity came along. As you continue to reflect, question whether your values and beliefs shifted. If so, you may need to set goals that align with your new mindset. Write down your new core values.
Ask important ‘WHY' questions
“Why do I want to achieve these goals?” “Is it because I’m feeling stagnated and unhappy in my career?” Also consider the steps you’ll need to take to achieve your revised work goals and how you’ll benefit.
The details and the answers to your why’s should clarify whether you’re on the right path at this juncture of your career or need to redirect.
Picture yourself in the ideal career and work environment
Employees tend to perform better and have more job satisfaction when their work aligns with their values and purpose. Think of important things you want to manifest.
Those ideas can help you narrow down your career goals for 2024. What are your skills, abilities, and superpowers? Can you leverage them to accomplish your career missions and function more efficiently in the workplace? Use the answers as a guide.
Write down your goals
Now that you have more clarity, it’s time to write down your goals. A standard list is fine. Personal mission statements can be used to supplement your list. According to Indeed.com, “A personal mission statement can help you identify your values and goals, defining what matters most to you professionally.”
It’s typically a two to three-sentence summary of what you want to do and why (core value), the skills you will use, and the benefits.
A vision board is another tool for documenting goals in a more detailed and extensive way. Vision boards allow you to visualize those plans and keep them at the forefront of your mind.
Make your goals S.M.A.R.T.
As you set each goal, cross-check to ensure they reflect your core values and passion and align with your skills, talents, and abilities. You can always change or adjust them until they accurately reflect your desires and you’re clear that they are achievable.
Setting goals the SMART way gives you peace of mind that your goals are accomplishable. By SMART, I mean Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. The SMART approach will help eliminate time-wasting and increase success and satisfaction. Remember to use a goals tracker to keep up with your progress.
23 Work Goals for 2024
The goals you want to manifest can pertain to a job position within your current organization or a whole new career path. They can encompass life adjustments to be made in order to improve job satisfaction.
Others can reflect aspects such as workplace strategies to minimize work stress, improve productivity, and strengthen professional relationships.
#1. Take on New Challenges in Your Current Role
If you’ve outgrown your role at work but don’t necessarily want to resign or change your career, then look within your organization/office sphere for opportunities for growth. It could be asking to work on a new project by yourself or with team members.
The project may involve overseeing or managing a project on how to improve employee retention. Remember, new goals may require new knowledge or skillset if they are outside the scope of your current job duties.
Take action: In this case, you can identify taking a project management course as a short-term goal to aid in achieving the larger objective. In the meantime, you can work along with teammates for hands-on learning and gain project management experience.
Adding the skillset to your resume gives you a chance to compete for more and bigger project management opportunities. An increase in earning capacity is another benefit.
#2. Get Certified in Your Field
If you’re performing data analyst functions at work and want to advance in that area, why not get certified as a data analyst? Right away, you become more marketable, enhance your credibility, have the opportunity to earn more, and perform your role with greater confidence.
Take action: Look for an online course in data analysis. Not so long ago, Google, in collaboration with Coursera, was offering a professional data analyst certificate. I took the course and learned how to effectively analyze data to help companies make more informed decisions based on facts and trends.
#3. Get More Organized
Creating a system to keep you organized can help advance your career as it enables you to get more done in less time. In fact, the benefits are even more expansive.
As Career Coach and Founder of MRM Career Coaching, Meredith Mitnick, MBA, puts it, you become more “efficient and effective, which creates higher productivity, which creates bigger professional impact which creates increased job satisfaction and more professional success.”
Take action: Work smarter and more efficiently by making lists of tasks, appointments, and ideas. Arrange them to feature in order of priority. Use a planning calendar or similar productivity tool, such as ClickUp, Trello, or Asana to track them. Capitalize on alerts and reminders, such as Google calendar, and other organizing tools to keep abreast of to-dos.
#4. Improve Your Time Management Skills
Time management impacts all areas of life and is especially important in your profession because it impacts performance. Productivity and the company’s financial targets are adversely affected when tasks start and finish behind schedule. If you struggle in this area, there are ways to improve.
Take action: Prioritize your work by focusing on completing one task at a time. Avoid multitasking. There’s a belief that multi-tasking is a more efficient method, but that’s not entirely accurate, according to research.
Some tasks are subject to changes in priority, so ensure you keep track of those. Minimizing procrastination using time-management tools is another way to accomplish this goal. It doesn’t hurt to take a time-management course if you determine it’s critical to your job.
#5. Develop a New Work Habit
Researchers have proven time and time again that replacing old unhelpful habits with new positive ones can improve your professional and personal life. You can set “Taking initiative” as a goal and take steps to make it a habit.
The habit is useful to employees in just about any industry. Company bosses love it when you get on additional tasks without them needing to tell you what to do.
Take action: You can rely on a reminder tool to develop this new habit until it becomes second nature. For example, write ‘Take initiative on task‘ and ‘help co-workers‘ on sticky notes. Post them where you can see them and rely on them as visual cues to take action. Being proactive can transform you into a reliable and trustworthy employee and an asset to your company.
#6. Boost Communication Skills
Effective communication among staff and management, and externally with customers, is critical for the efficient running of an organization. The skill is also an asset that is transferrable to any profession.
Unfortunately, poor communication is a problem in many industries. You can set yourself apart as someone with impressive speaking, listening, and writing abilities by making it a goal to accomplish.
Take action: Practice actively listening to instructions from your boss and peers and customers’ needs. Effective listening and expressive communication skills can reduce mistakes caused by a misunderstanding of instructions regarding duties or customer orders.
Read up on email etiquette in the workplace. If you perform telephone duties, you’re the first point of contact with the business entity and need to make a good first impression. Consider taking coaching sessions on telephone etiquette to improve courtesy and overall customer experience.
#7. Improve Punctuality
Frequently arriving at work late without any real or valid reason suggests a habit of lateness. Your employment can be impacted for breaching the company’s punctuality policies. Tardiness is a sign of poor time management and a lack of professionalism. Fortunately, it’s a problem that can be fixed with a punctuality goal.
Take action: Make a conscious decision to be early. Go to bed and wake up earlier to give yourself enough time to prepare for and commute to the office. Use the timer or stop feature on your phone or another device to signal it’s time to leave home. These steps help you habitually arrive and begin working on time, raise your productivity level, and positively impact your performance score.
#8. Strengthen Your Computer Skills
Employees in professional career jobs are required (or at least expected) to be computer literate, according to Indeed.com. At a minimum, they should be proficient in Microsoft Office. Efficient use of Word and Excel gets work done faster and more accurately.
Efficiency in Powerpoint helps with the creation of visual documents (infographics) and delivering presentations, e.g, on ideas and sales strategies to increase profits.
Take action: Reach out to your human resources department and inquire about signing up for in-house training or workshops on computer literacy. If none is available, look for external sources, such as free online Microsoft Office courses and other computer literacy programs.
#9. Limit Distractions
Unnecessary distraction at work is a recipe for procrastination, loss of time, and reduced productivity. Limiting distractions can help you stay ahead of your schedule and meet deadlines on time.
Take action: Set up a workspace for minimizing distractions and keeping you task-oriented. For example, do not sign onto social media. Turn off your phone if practical when actively working. Avoid the vibrating feature as it’s distracting.
Alternatively, set your phone to “do not disturb” with a bypass for only necessary or emergency calls. Establishing a system for checking your emails at intervals is also helpful in keeping you task-focused.
#10. Use Time-Saving Tools
Every person’s work goals should include productivity tools that help get tasks completed efficiently and in less time. Time-saving tools minimize stress and frustration. You’re more likely to avoid procrastinating knowing that you have strategies and effective ways to tackle tasks.
Time saved can be used to get ahead of your work schedule and allow you to finally take full lunch breaks.
Take action: Explore digital tools designed for boosting productivity levels in less time, such as the Pomodoro timer. Designed with procrastinators in mind, Pomodoro is a method for breaking work up into blocks of time. For example, dedicating 25 minutes to focusing only on work, taking a 5-minute break, then repeating.
Other helpful tools include Task Automation Apps for meeting deadlines, Calendly for schedule reminders, Evernote for organizing your to-dos, and Toggl for tracking and managing time spent on tasks.
#11. Improve a Marketable Skill
We can never be too good at what we do, right? There’s always room for improvement even in a skill we’ve plied for years. Pick your core or hard skill and hone it to make yourself more marketable or in preparation for a better job position you’re eyeing.
Take action: Taking an advanced course or working as an intern in the field are some ways to achieve the goal. Reading books and articles related to your industry, e.g., law, will help widen your knowledge and enable you to use your legal skills more competently.
#12. Boost Your Chance of Getting Hired
Have you hit rock bottom in your current career and are in search of a new and more exciting one? Advancing to a new career that you’re passionate about, pays well, and allows you to have a work-life balance is one way to improve your lifestyle.
But, first, you have to get hired and that means taking steps to increase hireability in the job market.
Take action: Update your resume with a new professional look. Add skills and experience relevant to the job you’re applying for. Next, update your online job-search profile on Indeed or LinkedIn and upload the revised resume. Set your filter to feed only roles you’re interested in and companies searching for those specific candidates. You’ll be able to effectively identify relevant jobs and help employers find you.
With a profile and readily available resume, you can quickly and easily apply for open positions. Set a daily goal to apply to at least one job opening a day. Also, create a job-search tracking system to ensure you respond quickly to prospective employers.
#13. Land a Leadership Role
Upgrading to a leadership position gives you decision-making power in the day-to-day running of the company as well as autonomy.
If you already have the skillset and experience, this can be a great time to pursue the role and establish yourself more firmly within your organization. If you don’t, here are steps you can take to accomplish the objective.
Take action: Find out what types of skills and certifications are needed for the role, e.g., a professional project management certificate. In the meantime, volunteer to oversee small projects to grow your leadership skills. Once you feel confident about your abilities, apply for a leadership position.
#14. Obtain a Professional Certificate or Degree
Obtaining higher credentials may be something required in your quest to develop your career and will distinguish you as a credible prospective employee.
While you may have the skillset and work experience, an industry-specific certificate or degree can give you a competitive edge over other job applicants.
Take action: Look for certification programs offered online via Coursera or a university. Apply and get accepted. There are ways to boost your credentials without going back to school, e.g., earning accreditation and finding opportunities to diversify your skillset.
#15. Change Career
People outgrow their professional roles or career all the time and want to move on to something new and exciting. Whether the new career path you envision is entirely different or along the lines of your current one, the idea is getting greater job satisfaction.
Take action: Determine what the new career is and ask your WHY. What’s driving this change? Check if it aligns with your core values and skills. Start checking out job postings for the qualifications and requirements. You may need to get additional education, skills, and certifications. If so, align yourself to achieve those smaller goals in order to successfully switch careers.
#16. Read Content About Your Career
Consuming content from experts and leaders in your industry will expand your knowledge base.
You’ll discover what’s new in your field in terms of policies, rules, best practices, and tools of the trade. You can apply the knowledge to perform your role more effectively.
Take action: Arm yourself with a library card for borrowing books and other materials. Subscribe to Amazon eBooks and audiobooks for online access to an expansive line of informative content. Set a goal to read at least 1-2 books a month. A daily goal could be to read a business magazine like Forbes or another related publication.
#17. Build Stronger Working Relationships
Sometimes it’s not a change of career or industry that’s needed, but taking steps to enhance your experience within your current work environment. Set a goal to deepen your communication and social interaction with work peers.
Take action: Read the room and determine who might be open to being work friends. Introduce yourself and strike up a conversation. Offer to buy coffee or eat lunch with your colleagues.
Friendships at work can provide a sense of community and make going to the office a more enjoyable experience. Be consistent but not overbearing. Establishing friendships can take time, so take baby steps.
#18. Ask for Feedback
Research reported by Strategy + Business revealed that an estimated 87% of employees want to “be developed” in their performance, but only a third are actually getting the feedback they need from managers to improve.
Requesting feedback from your supervisors and teammates can bridge this gap. It’s a humble request and demonstrates that you’re willing to improve your work strategies and ethics.
Take action: Mention that you’re interested in honest feedback to improve performance. Ask simple questions such as “How well did I perform the task?” or “What can I do to make my presentations more engaging?” Getting feedback helps you identify procedural errors, fix them, and become more efficient at what you do.
#19. Connect With a Professional Mentor
Aligning yourself with a professional mentor can be especially valuable to your career development plans.
Choose someone with expertise in your career field and who is willing to provide guidance and link you to the right resources, e.g, academic programs, organizations, and leaders. Those additional connections you make can also form part of your growing professional network.
Take action: List the traits of your ideal mentor. Search for and connect with a mentor on a professional platform such as LinkedIn. Introduce yourself and express your interest in receiving mentorship. Follow up until you’ve established the connection and allow the relationship to evolve from there.
#20. Use Your Skills to Start a Business
Have you always wanted to have a side gig to earn more and have more financial freedom? Starting a business is one of the work goals featured on many people’s lists.
If you have a passion for writing and excellent writing abilities, you can start a business as a freelance content writer and monetize your publications.
Take action: Earn by signing up with affiliate programs, such as Amazon affiliates. Affiliates earn passive income when products featured in their content are sold. There are programs that allow you to connect consumers with professionals, such as doctors, life coaches, and therapists.
#21. Expand Your Professional Network
According to FlexJobs, “networking is an essential element of career success.” Growing your professional network helps connect you with people who can provide useful ideas and recommendations for advancing your career.
Take action: Join professional organizations or associations within your field and attend their events. Sign up with professional networking platforms like LinkedIn. Attend at least one social networking event wherever possible. Print and distribute your business card to leaders and industry professionals.
#22. Create Morning Routines
It may not seem like it on the surface, but morning routines can increase workplace productivity. A morning routine helps prepare you physically and mentally to perform at your best. You’ll feel more energized and motivated to confront your work day.
Take action: Wake early. Do NOT hit ‘snooze.’ Do stretch exercises or meditate for a few minutes. Shower, eat a healthy breakfast, and have your coffee. Write down your goals for the day. Browse your daily schedule and check for important emails. By now, you should be mentally stimulated to kick off your day.
#23. Track Your Goals
Achieving your goals takes time and decisive steps in the right direction. Goal tracking is equally important to keep up to date with how goals are progressing. You’re also able to determine what other action needs to be taken to stay on course.
Take action: Regularly review your progress to see if you’re meeting your milestones. For example, if you’re taking a two-year academic program for a new career, you’ve achieved a milestone after completing each course within a semester. Keep yourself motivated by using goal-tracking apps such as ClickUp, Weekdone, Coach.me, Toodledo, and Repeat Habit Tracker.
Final Thoughts on Work Goals
Setting goals provides career stability, job satisfaction, and financial stability… in addition to expanding your professional relationships. Along the way, you’ll harness many useful tools and strategies to boost productivity, efficiency, and performance.
Becoming efficient and advancing to a higher role or a better career can give you more control over your life outside of work. With that comes a healthier work-life balance and increased personal satisfaction.
Don’t forget that accomplishing goals is a step-by-step process and requires dedication from beginning to end. Ultimately, you may reap these additional 7 Benefits of Setting and Achieving SMART Goals.