Own Your Career: Professional Goal Setting Worksheet

Professional Goal Setting Worksheet

The beginning of the year is an especially attractive time to think about career growth. However, it’s important year-round to be intentional about your career and the ways in which you want to develop, grow and improve.

Goal setting is an important component of intentional growth and development. Don’t overlook this valuable activity.

Why Professional Goal Setting is Important

Setting professional goals for yourself does several beneficial things:

  • Keeps your job interesting
  • Allows you to continue to grow
  • Increases opportunities
  • Allows you to continue to provide value to your organization and others
  • Supports professional and career satisfaction

When you set professional goals, you intentionally and thoughtfully considering what you want for yourself. You think deliberately about your future and what you want it to look like. Rather than letting it happen to you, you take an active role in how it evolves.

How to Set Professional Goals

When setting your professional goals, think about both your immediate and longer-range professional goals.  Imagine where you want to grow and develop in the short and long term.

You may have a very clear idea of how you want to grow in your company or career.

If so, setting goals will likely be easier.

But if you don’t, you can assess areas of weakness that you’d like to strengthen, and those that will be most beneficial in your career.

It can also be helpful to assess if your goals are in line with the organization you work for. This will ensure you’re not struggling in an uphill battle and trying to reach them on your own. This can be as simple as talking with your boss about your goals.

Talking to Your Boss About Your Goals

You can take time to talk with your boss about goal-setting for the year, and ask how he/she sees you can add more value to the company. For example, you can ask the following simple questions for significant insight:

  • What areas do they see as most valuable, and how can you contribute to that?
  • What areas can you target for improvement over the year?

By letting your boss know you’re interested in developing or strengthening skills, you also do the following:

  • Allow them to share information on what they find valuable.
  • Gain insight into their thoughts about where you might best focus on improvement.
  • Let them know that you’re focused on growth, which will hopefully gain their support in this endeavor.

This activity lets them know you’re interested in growth. It also shows that you want your growth to be in-line with what will provide value to the organization, while also providing professional benefit to you. Many employees don’t make the effort to actively pursue career growth, especially while considering the benefit to the organization. This will set you apart from others.

Professional Goal Setting as an Employee

Throughout my career, I’ve been taught to set SMART goals. SMART is an acronym which stands for the following:

SPECIFIC: Be specific and clear about what you want to accomplish. If your goal is vague, you’ll not know what you’re working toward exactly.

MEASURABLE: Make your goal measurable so that you’ll know when you’ve reached it.

ACHIEVABLE: Set goals that you can reach within the target timeframe.

RELEVANT: Set goals that are consistent with your overall vision and plan. Set goals that are congruous with your values and dreams.

TIME-BOUND: Set goals that you can accomplish within the timeframe you’ve established.

Professional Goal Setting In Action – Selecting Your Goals

To give you a better idea of what professional goal setting looks like in real life, let’s walk through an example of setting a SMART goal relevant to improving your project management skills.

In a previous post the Project Manager Career Path I laid out a list of characteristics of effective project managers:

Picking Your Goal

For our example, let’s pick one from this list and focus on making improvements in that area for the year. As an added benefit, many of these translate to other career roles as well and can serve you well outside of project management.

From this list, let’s select “improving leadership skills” as a target area in which you choose to improve. To set SMART goals around leadership, you need to determine specifically what areas of leadership you want to focus on, since leadership itself is a broad area.

In my post “Top Leadership Skills and How to Develop Them” my research provided this list of skills valuable in great leaders:

  • Inspire and motivate others
  • Display high integrity and honesty
  • Solve problems and analyze issues
  • Drive for results
  • Communicate powerfully and prolifically
  • Collaborate and promote teamwork
  • Build relationships

You might determine that one leadership area you most need and want to focus on is improving communication since this is also a trait listed for great project managers as well.

Professional Goal Setting In Action – Making it SMART

To give you a clear idea of what this looks like in action, let’s use some potential goals as examples.

Example Goal 1: Improving Leadership Skills

High-Level Goal: In the next 6 months, I’ll improve my leadership skills in the area of communication. I will achieve this by focusing on improving communication skills in various settings and with different audiences.

Target Goal: I will improve my communication skills

Specific: I’ve gotten feedback from others that I could benefit from improving my communication skills and interact more respectfully. In order to improve my skills, I need to gain a better understanding of ways to communicate more effectively and respectfully. I will do this in the following ways:

  • Read 2 books on improving communication skills.
  • Incorporate active listening techniques during interactions with others.
  • Give full attention to others when speaking with them, and not engaging with my mobile phone while others are speaking to me.
  • Reduce the number of times I interrupt co-workers and peers.

Measurable: Within two months, I will have improved my communication skills and gotten positive feedback from my boss and peers that my communication skills have improved.

 Achievable:  This is achievable within two months.

 Relevant: Improving communication skills will be valuable to the team and to me professionally. Because there is a great deal of collaboration needed across our team and communication is critical for both productive output and team cohesion, this goal is beneficial for the team. Additionally, it’s valuable for me professionally since communication skills are critical for project management success.

Time-Bound: I will have completed this goal within two months.


Goal: Improve communication skills in the next two months. Improving my communication skills will benefit me professionally and support the team’s need for collaboration and cohesion. I will improve my communication skills by reading 2 books on communication skills, incorporating active listening, and improve respectful interactions by not interrupting and listening fully when others speak. Within two months, I will have improved my communication skills and gotten positive feedback from my boss and peers that my communication skills have improved.

Example Goal 2: Improving Presentation Skills

High-Level Goal: In the next 6 months, I’ll improve my presentation skills. I’ll achieve this by researching and learning how to give great presentations to various audiences. I’ll seek out opportunities to give presentations.

Target Goal: I will improve my presentation skills.

Specific: I want to be able to create and give presentations effectively to various audiences. In order to improve my skills, I need to both create and give presentations to various audiences at different management levels.

Measurable: Within four months, I will have created and presented PowerPoint presentations to at least three audiences. These presentations will be relevant to our team’s projects and will include charts and graphs conveying relevant information. I will have given this presentation verbally to both peers and managers at least three times within four months.

Achievable: This is achievable within four months.

Relevant: Improving presentation skills will be valuable to the team and to me professionally. Because our team regularly needs to share information about our projects with multiple audiences, this skill will be valuable to the team. Additionally, it is a valuable skill for me professionally and will be useful going forward as I move forward in my career.

Time-Bound: I will have completed this goal within four months.


Improving my presentation skills will be valuable to both the team and to me professionally as I move forward in my career. I will do this by creating and giving a PowerPoint presentation including charts and graphs conveying relevant project information. I will share this presentation verbally to both peers and managers at least three times within four months.

Prompting Ideas for Professional Goal Setting

When determining the goals you’d like to focus on, in addition to talking with your boss, you might consider these questions from the article Goal-Setting: Developing a Vision & Goals for Your Career Plan:

  • “How do you define career success?”
  • “What would your career be like if you had the power to make it any way you wanted?”
  • “What you would like your obituary to say about your career accomplishments and the types of impacts you left with the people you worked with?”
  • “If absolutely no obstacles stood in the way of your achieving it, what would you most like to attain in your career?”

Contradicting Setting Achievable Goals

There’s a lot of value in setting SMART goals. Especially if you’ve not been setting goals at all previously.

However, one area I’ve recently been contemplating is the aspect of “Achievable”. Not long ago I read and wrote about the 10X Rule by Grant Cardone.
Cardone advocates setting extremely high goals. He suggests that if you want normal levels of success, set common goals. If you want to really level-up, you need to set goals much higher than normal.

Decide for yourself if you want to take this approach. If you do, and you’re setting goals in collaboration with your boss, be very clear on the fact that you’re creating large stretch goals, and that if you don’t reach them you won’t be penalized.

Take time for Professional Goal Setting

Taking time for professional goal setting can give you a great return on your effort. This is not a one-time activity, but rather one you want to revisit to assess your progress along the way. Incorporate professional goal setting as a part of your career, and you’ll be taking an active part in your professional and career growth.

Inspirational Quotes for Career Goals

1. “The best way to predict the future is to create it” – Abraham Lincoln

2. “Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination.” — Fitzhugh Dodson

3. “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” – Jim Rohn

4. “Begin with the end in mind.” — Stephen Covey

5. “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” — Wayne Gretsky

6. “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” –Seneca

7. “A year from now you may wish you had started today.” ― Karen Lamb

8. “If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.” –Thomas A. Edison

9. “Look to the future, because that is where you’ll spend the rest of your life.” – George Burns

10. “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” ― Sheryl Sandberg

In addition to the guidance in this article, I’ve created a free workbook for you to use. Take ownership of your career!

I’d love to know what goal you start working on first! Share in the comments below!!


  1. Sofia November 25, 2021
  2. Leslie Vaugh January 11, 2017
    • Leigh Espy January 12, 2017
  3. Clay January 5, 2017
    • Leigh Espy January 12, 2017
  4. Barry Hodge January 5, 2017
    • Leigh Espy January 12, 2017

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