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How You Can Successfully Set Goals And Plan Your Career

Taking Personal Responsibility

Are you ready to take greater personal responsibility for your own professional development? No matter if you are starting your career or if you already have a job in a field you want to stay within and want to start climbing the career ladder, or maybe you want to move to a new career. Today we all need to take greater personal responsibility for our professional development.

Why You Need To Set Goals

Setting goals for your professional development gives you the opportunity to combine your career goals with your personal interests. It is a source of motivation and will encourage you to improve your skills. It will most likely make your current job both more interesting and easier. And it will show your management that you are serious about your career.

How To Set Intentional Goals

I have already covered the six-step method I use for setting goals and you can read about that in my blog How To Set Goals For Personal Growth. But there are many other goal-setting methods that are effective as well and today I will talk about two of them.


Smart is a method for setting goals that are built upon the following five steps; Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-specific. So let’s take a closer look at each one of them.


To be specific with your goals you need to answer questions like; What do you want to accomplish? Why is this important to you? Who is involved in the process? Where is it going to take place? and Which limits and/or resources are involved.
The more specific you can be answering these questions the better.


It is important that the goals you formulate are measurable. You need to be able to quantify how much, how often, or how many depending on your goal. This is the only way you can keep yourself accountable and be able to certify that your goals are reached.


Your goals need to be realistic and attainable, you need to stretch your skills but not go too far so they no longer are reachable. You must ask yourself questions like; How can I accomplish this? How realistic is this goal? If a goal feels too hard to reach, try to break it down into steps and set goals that are more reachable.


To make sure your goal is relevant you should be able to answer yes to the following questions; Does it seem worthwhile? Is this the right time? Does this match my other efforts and/or needs? Am I the right person to reach this goal? and Is this applicable to my current situation?
Maybe the goal is worthwhile and you are the right person but it is not the right time in your current situation. That doesn’t mean that you should give up on that particular goal, it just means that you have to postpone it for now.


It is important to set a target date for every goal you are working toward, whether it is a short- or long- term goal. When do you need to have reached it? It is also important to ask questions like; What can I do in six months? What can I do six weeks from now? and What can I do today?

HARD Goals

Hard is another goal setting method that stands for Heartfelt, Animated, Required, and Difficult. This method is more built upon creating a true engagement within you, to build a desire to reach the goals you have visualized for yourself.


In this stage, you need to really take a look at your desires and describe at least three reasons why you want to reach this goal. The reasons can be inherent, personal, or extrinsic. The purpose of this step is to create a heartfelt attachment to your goals which will increase your motivation.


Let’s start with the animated. This is where you really think about how you want your career to be, what kind of work do you want to do, who do you picture yourself working with, what do your days look like? Try to really picture yourself in your future, be as detailed as possible, and picture yourself three years from now, or five years from now.
Don’t hesitate to let your feelings be involved in this step, how do you want to feel at work, do you want it to be energetic, laid back, or very calm?


Convince yourself and others of the absolute necessity of your goals and take a look at what you need to have accomplished by the end of six months to keep you on track. What do you need to do within the next 30 days? and focus on the one thing, just one thing, that you can do today?


Here you focus on what you need to develop when it comes to skills and knowledge. What are the 3-5 most important skills you need to acquire or develop to reach your goals, and how will you achieve that?

Which Method To Use?

Whether you are using my six-step method, Smart, or Hard, or a combination of them and some other goal-setting methods doesn’t really matter, you will find a method that resonates best with you and your personality. The importance is the process, both for personal growth and professional development it is important to set your goals in writing, which will make them clearer, and harder to forget about.

Why Make A Plan

In many professions and bigger companies, professional development is a compulsory part of the job, for example for teachers, and often this is in combination with a yearly performance evaluation.
But regardless of if it is a part of your job or not I think it is important for everyone to create a personal professional development plan outside of the company controlled one for a couple of reasons.
First of all the company PDP (Professional Development Plan) is created from the company perspective, and doesn’t have your personal interests as its primary goals. If you write your own PDP you have the opportunity to combine professional goals and personal interests.
The process of formulating goals and writing a plan helps you form a clearer picture of what you really want to do and how to get there. At the same time, you will discover things about yourself.
By physically writing, or typing, your plan you are creating a tool to use for review and revisions, as well as help with structure and creating a timeline. It also shows commitment to your current employer and can be used as part of your application when you are searching for a new position or job.

How To Write A Professional Development Plan?

If you have written your goals you have actually already started your PDP. Most of the general templates you can find for writing a PDP contains the following five sections; Self-assessment, Setting Goals, Strategies, Resources, Timelines.


Strategies are where you formulate how you will reach your goals. But I have already done that when I wrote my goals you might think, but here you should start thinking about a variety of methods, like different learning methods, learning-by-doing and learning from others by getting a mentor are just a few examples.
Don’t underestimate alternative learning methods, and one great way that can be used to gain experience and knowledge is by volunteering. If you, for example, have the ambition to become a veterinarian you could volunteer at an animal shelter, if your ambition has to do with helping people you can volunteer at a hospital and so forth.
Of course, formal education and other courses can be a part of your strategies. But be imaginative and you can find many ways of learning.


Under resources is where you write down more specifically where you will write down exactly where you will acquire the skills and knowledge needed. Here you need to write both formal and informal resources, for example, any college courses you are planning on taking, any other courses, but don’t forget things like a webinar and other online resources and professional associations that often have both courses and meeting that can further you on your way to the goals.
But this can also be individuals that you connect with, and other types of organizations, as well as your networking resources.


When you are writing your timeline you need to include both short- medium- and long- term goals. When you start and when you need to have reached every goal in your plan should be specified in this section.
It is also very important to consider this a “living” document that you regularly come back to and review and revise, not just the goals themselves and the strategies and resources you have implemented in your plan. We all know that life happens and that the timeline might have to be revised even if nothing else is changed within the plan.
I also suggest that you try, as far as possible, to include some kind of schedule in this part for all your activities, such as volunteering and meetings with individuals that will help you to reach your goals.

My Final Thoughts

As I have stated several times already I believe that every one of us can benefit from writing our own personal professional development plan. Even if we are not trying to climb a career ladder we all have dreams and ambitions for our lives, and putting pen to paper will help us clarify what that means to us.
And as always, if you are interested in watching my video on the topic I have it linked down below.