How to set goals for your professional development.

How to achieve your professional goals in 6 steps

Too often, our professional goals fall through the cracks because they were not well planned out. Here are six steps that will make you commit to your development as an employee.

1. Envision

Envisioning yourself after you've achieved your goal is a great first step in the planning process. University of Berkeley Human Resources states that we can accomplish anything so long as we "turn off" any negative thoughts that might stop us from aiming high. Let your imagination reel a little and picture how you want your new professional self to be.

Imagine the end result of your professional growth.Imagine the end result of your professional growth.

2. Plan

Now that you have an idea of where you want to end up, the next step in your professional growth is to have a plan. Yale University did a study on how plan-making increases follow-through with goals.

Studies show having a clear plan is remarkably powerful in helping people commit to their goals.

Yale University did a study that showed having a clear plan is remarkably powerful in helping people commit to their goals. The researchers had one group that was given specific instructions to write out their schedules and determine when to get a tetanus shot, while the other wasn't. Of the former, 28 per cent got the shot compared to just 3 per cent of those who did not make plans. 

The plan doesn't have to be outrageously long-term in its thinking. Start short-term to build your confidence, while keeping the long-term goal in mind all along. A study featured in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found that participants who wrote out their goals daily for three weeks were more likely to be active in chasing after their goals and less likely to think each failure represented a total failure, compared to the beginning of the study. Writing out your short-term goals keeps you positive about your progress and this, in turn, makes you more committed to the goal in the long run.

3. Read up

Learning and studying is next. Success doesn't just come out of nowhere,which journalist Malcolm Gladwell showed with his "10,000 hours rule" – the idea that people who have been leading experts in their field have developed their skill by practising it for at least 10,000 hours. But, keep in mind, he refers to the Beatles and their musical skills when he talks about this rule and we may not be looking to get to Beatles level. So, the takeaway is just that putting a lot of time in is the way to develop a skill.

Duke University professor Dorie Clark explains that you should first identify where you're lacking in knowledge and experience. Take into account what skills are marketable right now when considering what to learn.

Once you have an idea of what relevant knowledge you need, Clark recommends starting basic by researching relevant jargon. Then look into a course specific to that skill if you find yourself in need of more information.

4. Network

Another important aspect for achieving goals is to realise who can help you on your journey. It's about realising who has the power in the organisation, Clark writes. Networking is a great way to discover opportunities for your own professional development because you keep up with any changes happening in the business.  

5. Create

Clark also advises "creating" as a way to get closer to your goals. Don't just sit back and listen, play an active role in your learning. Writing a blog or giving a speech makes you better able to communicate your knowledge to others, all the while further clarifying everything you've learned. This is also a way to stay positive and committed to the goal because it shows you just how much progress you've made when you can successfully explain what you've learned.

6. Time manage

You need to know how you will fit your studying around everything else in your life. Author Frances Booth, contributing to Forbes, shows that a key part of managing your time is prioritisation. What are the most important things to you? Of course, you always want to make your goal a priority whenever possible.

Booth advises that you should make a list of five ways you would like to spend your time. Be realistic and determine how often you have spent your time this way in the past month and in the past year. You should determine what drains your time and come up with a plan for how to limit distractions for better time management.

Implement Online has a course on time-management called "Managing Yourself", as well as other online courses that will help you to plan out how you will achieve your goals.