Sample Professional Development Goals: Examples & Ideas for Formulating Your Own Personal & Professional Goals

Professional Development Goals – An Overview


So you want to advance in your career, make more money, have a better job, find more clients, etc. – who doesn't? What's the difference between someone who dreams about advancement and someone who actually advances in their career? In a word, goals. It's not enough to want something, you have to do something about it. By setting professional development goals and including them in a written self assessment, you have a greater chance of reaching success. What are some things to know about goals?

  1. Goals are most meaningful when they tie in with your overall vision for how you want life to be. Vision statements are not just for businesses. They are also for anyone who wishes to improve his or her situation.
  2. It's best to keep goals limited. If you have a long list of goals, it's the equivalent of a child writing a long, long letter to Santa Claus. It starts to look like you'll be happy with whatever you get, and it's hard to focus on what actions to take.
  3. Goals need to be SMART. Smart goals are: Specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-specific. By keeping your golas SMART, it will increase the likelihood of you meeting and exceeding those goals.
  4. Goals require a strategic plan of next actions for achievement. Every goal you set for yourself should be accompanied by a specific plan of how you will reach this goal.
  5. Goals should be written in present or past tense. Write your goals as if they are happening or as if they have already happened. This helps you to make them reality.

Now that you know the four most important features of professional development goals, it is time to look at some sample professonal development goals.

GOAL 1 – Meet People

The above goal "meet people" has a lot of problems with it. First, it's definitely not a SMART goal. Second, it's unclear as to how this goal is a professional development goal. Third, it needs to come with a way to define the next actions that should be taken.

Let's start by making the goal SMART. What kind of people need to be met? Presumably, other professionals either in your field or people that can help you to advance your field. Let's get even more specific: Become active in a professional association.

Now how will we measure this goal? How active will you be? Will you attend all meetings? Will you become a board member? Will you join? How will you determine if you have met this goal? The goal also has to be attainable. If you can only make one meeting a month because of an already full schedule, don't set your goal up to fail by requiring yourself to make weekly meetings.

For the goal to be relevant, it has to be a professional organization that helps you to advance your career, not a random organization. Finally, it has to be time-specific. When will you know you've met this goal?

Perhaps the revised goal will look like this:

I attend monthly meetings of the freelancers organization and introduce myself to at least three people at each meeting for six months. I follow up with those people after the meeting to form connections and grow my network.

Can you see the next actions for this goal?

GOAL 2 – Learn More About Freelancing

While this goal seems specific, it's not. What exactly do I want to learn about freelancing? How will I measure my knowledge? Is this attainable? Is it relevant (not so much if I'm not a freelancer, and unless it's made more specific it won't be at all)? It's definitely not time-bound.

Let's rewrite the goal together. Fill in the blanks.

I learned about _____________ (social media, marketing strategies, accounting, copywriting skills) by ______________ (taking a class, reading a book, finding a mentor…). I did this _________ (date). I apply this knowledge to ____________.

GOAL 3 – I Will Make More Money by December

What is wrong with this goal? Is it SMART? Does it tie in to a vision statement? Are there actions that can be created for it? Take a moment to analyze this goal and rewrite it so that it applies to your situation.


Go write down your vision statement and make a list of 3-7 professional development goals that support that statement. Break down your goals into actions. Complete one of those actions, now, for extra credit. Look back at these sample professional development goals if you need help. You are well on your way to improving your professional situation.

This post is part of the series: Self Assessment & Goal Setting in the Home Office

When working from home, it’s more important than ever to set goals for yourself and to regularly assess those goals. The thought of these activities may make you cringe, but they’re not as bad as they seem. In this series, find tips to make the whole process easier.
  1. Sample SMART Professional Development Goals
  2. Goal Setting Tips Plus Downloadable Worksheet
  3. 8 Free Goal-Setting Freeware Tools
  4. 10 Goal Setting Strategies for Work-at-Home Moms