Development goals for work (with examples)

By Randi Sherman

10 min read

Development goals for work (with examples)
Illustration by Kevin Yu

Development goals help individuals and organizations reach success by providing focus, direction, and motivation

These goals can be long-term or short-term; the rungs of the ladder, if you will. 

In this article, we'll look at different types of development goals for work—with examples—so you can find out how to set achievable objectives and level up in your organization. 

We'll also explore strategies for effective goal-setting so you'll have the tools necessary to create a comprehensive plan leading to success for yourself or your company. 

So, grab your metaphorical ladder, and let's start climbing!

Why does goal setting matter

Having goals keeps us engaged, both in work and in life. In one study, participants who set and followed through with their goals got more done, were less bored, and showed signs of being happier than those who didn’t set goals.

Goals provide direction, meaning, and a sense of purpose. They help satisfy the part of our brain that wants to know why we’re doing what we’re doing. From personal experience, some of the most overwhelmingly positive moments in my life happened in the pursuit of, or achievement of, a goal that was really important to me.

The next parts will explain why some people reach their goals while others don’t and how to ensure you end up in the first category. 

How to set goals that matter to you

I’d bet that many people don’t achieve their goals because they don’t actually care about the result. Their goals are things they feel they should do, or milestones they feel they should reach. They aren’t what they really want.

Studies have repeatedly found that the closer a goal aligns to our values, the more likely we are to achieve and benefit from them.

So the first, most important, step to setting goals is figuring out what you truly want to achieve. Here are some steps to figuring that out:

1. Think about your values.

What's important to you? What are the issues, concerns, and ideals that light the fire in your belly?  

Imagine the 'ideal' version of you. How does that person behave? How do they conduct themselves? This exercise will help you develop a profile of your future self and give you something to strive toward. 

It’s really important to not get distracted by what other people think the ideal life looks like. If the happiest version of you sleeps in on the weekend, that’s perfectly fine.

Don't feel like your character has to be static, either. People change, and so should your vision. This is simply the first chapter. 

Think about people you admire. What is it about them that you admire so much? Break it down into character traits and ways they display their authenticity. These points should help you shape the foundations of who you want to become. Factor in the personal achievements you're most proud of, as they will continue to play a role in who you are. 

If you’re not sure what your values are, that’s okay! Use this values-based checklist to get a feel for what matters most to you.

2. Picture your ideal workday.

In your ideal workday, what do you do? How do you spend your time? What do you accomplish? How do you influence or connect with those around you? 

Thinking about your current career path or situation, consider the pros and cons of what you do daily. Are there things you want more of? Less of? Make a list and prioritize both sides. At the top of the pros will be things you want to emphasize or do more frequently, while at the top of the cons, you'll have things you most want to eliminate from your day. 

There are no wrong answers here. Remember, this is about you, nobody else.

3. Some tools that can help

Goal setting isn't always a simple thing. Here are a few helpful tools to help you organize your thoughts.

  • Ikigai is a Japanese concept that helps to unite purpose with passion. The philosophy behind Ikigai is that one's potential for happiness is much higher when aligned with purpose. The four elements of Ikigai are passion (what you love), vocation (what you're good at), mission (what the world needs), and profession (what you're paid for). Your Ikigai is where these elements converge, a powerful catalyst for personal growth. 
  • VIA Institute Character Strengths is a survey designed to reveal your greatest strengths. Reports based on your answers can provide an in-depth analysis of your top character strengths and tips on boosting them and achieving greater well-being. 
  • Gallup CliftonStrengths is an online assessment designed to help you understand what makes you unique. The report measures the strength and intensity of your talents across 34 distinct themes with results designed to help you sharpen your skills, improve your problem-solving capability, and lead you to success. 

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Strategies for following through with your goals

Once you've established your goals, it's time to implement them. To ensure success in your goal-setting journey, consider implementing the following strategies: 

  • Break it down. Goals can be short-term, long-term, and somewhere in between. Breaking larger goals into smaller increments makes them seem less monumental. You're also less likely to give up if you see some progress. 
  • Set SMARTER goals: SMARTER goals are similar to SMART goals. They are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. They are also Ethical and Rewarding. 
  • Track your progress. Set timelines to achieve your goals and check in with yourself periodically. Seeing progress toward your goals is the best motivator to keep going! 
  • Stay accountable. Holding yourself accountable means acknowledging your goals and what you must do to achieve them and committing to seeing the process through. Accountability helps you prioritize your time and motivates you to keep moving forward. 
  • Seek feedback. Seek honest, constructive feedback from colleagues and mentors throughout the process to ensure you are on the right track. Be open to the feedback you receive, as it will help you course-correct when needed and provide valuable insight into your progress. 

These tips will help you set yourself up for success as you strive toward your developmental goals!

Types of development goals (with examples)

By breaking down different categories of objectives, you can create a roadmap to success tailored to your individual needs. Here are some developmental goals that can help you reach your professional aspirations.  

1. Professional skills 

Learning more about your industry can open doors to other roles and help you develop a vision of your future. 

  • Short-term strategy: when collaborating with others, be curious about what your teammates do and what they're good at. Learn more about how they succeed and seek to understand what drives their passion. 
  • Long-term strategy: visualize where you'd like to be in the future. If there is a person you know in a similar role, break their job into a list of attributes and set yourself up to advance your skills in those areas. 

2. Leadership skills

If you see yourself in a leadership position in the future, start honing those skills and attributes. Leadership is about people just as much as the business itself. 

Top leadership skills include:

  • Critical thinking
  • Taking initiative
  • Active listening
  • Delegation
  • Conflict management
  • Empowering others
  • Self-discipline
  • Short-term strategy: identify the leadership traits and soft skills you need to acquire, strengthen, or refine. 
  • Long-term strategy: take courses, seek mentorship, and actively pursue opportunities to develop these skills. 

3. Career advancement

Take action to move your career forward through skills enhancement or certifications relevant to your field. 

  • Short-term strategy: identify skill sets needed to level up your career and seek opportunities to learn from them. 
  • Long-term strategy: continue pursuing growth opportunities and challenge yourself to go beyond your comfort zone. 

4. Professional network

Establishing and maintaining connections in your field is an excellent way to expand your horizons and stay current. 

  • Short-term strategy: attend trade shows, conferences, and other networking opportunities in your niche. Join LinkedIn groups related to your industry and interests and engage with topics you care about. 
  • Long-term strategy: nurture the connections you make, stay in touch, and regularly interact with your network to strengthen ties. 

5. Interpersonal skills 

How you communicate with and interact with others is pivotal to career success. 

  • Short-term strategy: assess your interpersonal skills gaps through self-assessment or soliciting constructive feedback. 
  • Long-term strategy: seek training to improve competency and self-awareness in effective communication, conflict resolution, and negotiation. 

6. Workplace skills

Workplace skills encompass learning, communication, collaboration, time management, and flexibility. 

  • Short-term strategy: set yourself up for success by allocating dedicated time to these skills. 
  • Long-term strategy: connect with a coach, ask for help, solicit feedback, and track progress. Workplace goals should be measurable and provide clarity on ways you can continue to improve. 

7. Technical skills

Advancing your technical skills is an excellent way to broaden your career horizons. Doing so may help you narrow your focus and choose a direction you'll love. 

  • Short-term strategy: research courses and certifications needed to level up.
  • Long-term strategy: be curious; continually seek new learning opportunities to enhance or advance your skillset. 

8. Commit to learning

A commitment to learning is essential for personal and professional growth. If you're open to that, learning new things stimulates creativity and may steer you in entirely new directions. 

  • Short-term strategy: actively seek learning opportunities through your industry, online courses, or professional network. 
  • Long-term strategy: identify what resonates with you and dive deeper into those topics. Make learning part of who you are. 

9. Find a mentor

Mentorship is an excellent way to gain tacit knowledge and guidance from people you admire. 

  • Short-term strategy: find out about mentorship opportunities in your workplace or identify potential mentors in your network. 
  • Long-term strategy: understand what you want from mentorship, engage with a mentor, and commit to the process. 

10. Self-improvement

Development is all about coming into your own. It's your journey and yours alone, but to make the most of it, you must have a solid commitment to bettering yourself.

  • Short-term strategy: set achievable goals, surround yourself with positive people, and maintain your focus to lay the groundwork for success. 
  • Long-term strategy: commit to maintaining a healthy work-life balance, maintaining physical and emotional well-being, and developing daily habits to align yourself with your goals.  

Final thoughts

Today, we've established that identifying and achieving development goals at work are multi-faceted, encompassing personal and professional pursuits. For the development process to succeed, you must seek to understand your purpose and be willing to learn, grow, and evolve through new experiences.

Where will your development journey take you? 


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Randi Sherman

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