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14 examples of personal development goals to boost your career

Last updated

29 November 2023


Chloe Garnham

Reviewed by

Warren Jonas ACC

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To turn your dream of career success into a reality, you’ll need to actively move toward specific goals. These goals can help you stay on track, take you to the next level, and ensure your career progression aligns with where you want to be.

The right goals can help increase your effectiveness at work, lead to professional growth, and boost your overall skill set—all of which will help make you a more in-demand employee.

What are personal development goals?

Personal development goals relate to self-improvement and self-growth. They can be connected to different areas—character development, new abilities, existing abilities, and interpersonal relationships.

Achieving a personal development goal could help you gain a promotion, move into a career field of your choice, manage a team, or perform your role more effectively.

Goals you set and work toward now could make a huge difference further down the line as you progress through your career.

Benefits of setting goals for self-improvement

Goals aren’t just useful for your career—they’re useful for self-improvement in general. People often strive for milestones and achievements to give their lives meaning. They provide a sense of progression, worthiness, and achievement.

As the American psychologist Fitzhugh Dodson wrote, “Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination.” Goals are vital, as they provide a target to aim for.

Self-improvement can help you become a more rounded individual with a deeper understanding of yourself and the world around you.

In the workplace, employers value those who focus on improving themselves over time. Employees who are improving are more useful to the company, and they are more likely to be sought after as leaders and problem-solvers.

14 examples of personal development goals for work

You might not know where to start when thinking about personal development goals for work. Here’s a list of examples to give you some inspiration and help give your career a boost:

1. Create a career roadmap

While it’s natural to take unexpected career diversions, a general roadmap for progress can help keep you on track and working toward a desired role or situation. Your career roadmap can act as a guide that helps you when making those challenging career decisions and making the moves that will transport you up the ladder.

You don’t have to adhere to your career roadmap perfectly. It can serve as a goalpost to aim for, helping you execute improvements, measure the impact of your actions, and demonstrate the work you’ve put in to improve.

Your manager may be able to help you create a roadmap within your organization so they are able to support you as you progress.

2. Take an emotional intelligence course

Emotional intelligence, also called emotional quotient (EQ), has typically been undervalued in the workplace and seen as less important than intellectual intelligence. However, EQ is becoming more recognized as having high value at work.

EQ is made up of four components:

  • Social awareness

  • Self-awareness

  • Self-regulation

  • Social skills

Being able to communicate effectively with teammates, recognize other people’s points of view, maintain composure during difficult situations, and engage in healthy colleague relationships are all essential aspects of EQ. 

To learn more about your emotional intelligence, consider taking a free Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) test online to learn about your strengths and weaknesses. This is a good starting point to begin improving your EQ.

Consider taking an EQ course, reading the well-known book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman, or holding an EQ workshop in your organization to allow all team members to benefit.

Other techniques for improving EQ for yourself and your colleagues include 360-degree assessments, practicing active listening, journaling, and promoting a collaborative group culture in the workplace.

3. Practice mindfulness daily

You might not think mindfulness is related to work, but it can play a key role in every area of your life—including your career.

Unfortunately, work stress is a significant issue right now. According to The American Institute of Stress, 40% of workers say their job is extremely or very stressful. 25% believe their job is the top stressor in their lives. These statistics show how impactful workplace stress can be and how important it is to manage these emotions.

While mindfulness can’t necessarily solve difficult workplace situations, it can help reduce stress, increase calm, and bring new perspectives to situations. Research has also shown that meditation and mindfulness play a positive role in reducing workplace stress and increasing employee engagement.

Try setting the goal of engaging in just 5–10 minutes of mindfulness meditation each day. It could make all the difference!

4. Attend networking events

Networking can play an integral role in career progression. Meeting others can lead to meaningful connections, and some could even lead to job opportunities or career progression.

Some research has even shown that networking is the most common way people find employment. Roughly 85% of jobs are filled this way.

Networking doesn’t come easily for everyone, though. If you feel socially awkward, remember you’re not alone. Many people find the prospect of networking intimidating. Facing that fear can boost your confidence to tackle other difficult situations at work, such as a tricky conversation with your boss, sharing an opinion that opposes the group, or having to explain a project that didn’t perform as hoped.

Boost your networking skills by attending a networking event, approaching someone you admire on LinkedIn, or asking a senior manager if you can buy them a coffee and pick their brains.

5. Practice public speaking

Just like networking, it’s not uncommon to fear public speaking. While it might be something you prefer to avoid, public speaking can be a key part of more senior roles and can help you progress in your career. If you aim to become a manager, for example, you’ll likely need to speak in group settings to manage and motivate your team.

While it’s natural to feel anxious, setting a goal to increase your public speaking skills could boost your self-confidence and advance your career.

You could start by presenting to just one or two colleagues, then build up to larger speaking opportunities. Attending an event run by Toastmasters can also prove very helpful for some people.

6. Update your LinkedIn profile

LinkedIn profiles can be significantly more extensive and dynamic than a resume. Your profile enables your network to put a face to the name and displays your work experience, education history, licenses, certifications, testimonials, and skills.

The platform is helpful for networking, posting work updates, and sharing links such as your portfolio.

Keeping your LinkedIn profile up to date can help show prospective employers that you’re serious about advancing your career.

7. Take a business management course

If you want to lead a team or improve your leadership skills, a business management course can prove beneficial. 

Extending your current management skill set can make you more attractive to future employers and more valuable to your current organization.

There are many options depending on your schedule. Platforms like Coursera offer online courses, while universities and polytechnics typically offer both remote and in-person programs.

8. Work toward a promotion

If you’ve been in your current role for some time, you may be ready to move on to the next level. Setting a goal to gain a promotion can ensure you’re continually progressing and moving up the ranks in your company.

Consider telling your manager that you’re keen to take on a more senior role. They may be able to provide feedback about the skills you need to progress and offer insight into the path your career could feasibly take within the organization. Your manager can then support you as you gain the necessary skills to take on the next role.

9. Ask for more responsibility

In line with taking on a more senior role, it can be helpful to ask for more responsibility at work. That doesn’t necessarily mean your workload should increase, as this may just pile more stress onto your shoulders, reducing your effectiveness. Instead, your workload may be adjusted to ensure you can learn new skills and be a more effective member of the team.

If you want to be promoted, taking on more responsibility can prove you’re proactive, a leader, and have the skills to progress. The key is to show your value by executing a high standard—so ensure you don’t take on too much and underdeliver.

Additional responsibilities might look like coaching junior staff, leading a small team, increasing your decision-making powers, or taking on a challenging project.

10. Boost your productivity

Boosting your productivity at work can have a range of career benefits. It could result in a promotion, pay rise, career pivots, and other desirable consequences.

There are many ways to be more productive. Consider using time-blocking, where you allocate a specific time block in the day to a task. This can increase your focus on one task at a time.

Limiting time for tasks can also boost concentration, and you could even try restricting your internet access to help buffer procrastination.

The University of California, Irvine, found that it can take 23 minutes to regain focus after a distraction. So, the key to productivity may be reducing distractions as much as possible.

11. Reduce social media use

It might not seem strictly work-related, but social media use can be very addictive. Some statistics show that the average person spends 2.5 hours on social media every day. This can cause you to become distracted from work and waste important time you could be spending upskilling or engaging in healthy stress-reducing behaviors.

Social media use is also linked to depression, anxiety, and stress.

Unless social media is critical for your job, it can be helpful to set a goal to reduce your screen time. You might decide to turn on app limits, leave your phone at home or in a locker, or meet colleagues for lunch rather than scrolling through social pages.

12. Become more tech-savvy

With the global rise of technology, increasing your tech knowledge can only be a good thing.

Technology moves quickly, so it’s helpful to stay updated on the latest platforms, news, and tools to boost your effectiveness at work. This might mean watching how-to videos on YouTube, reading tech blogs and forums, or taking online courses to boost your skill set.

13. Gain a critical skill

If you’d like to progress in your current career or in an entirely new one, it can be helpful to learn skills that will give you an edge.

Learning programming languages, for example, can be an excellent way to boost your resume, increase your earning power, and stand out from the crowd. With the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), coding is predicted to become a more in-demand skill than ever before.

Other in-demand skills like data analysis, project management, web design, cybersecurity, and crisis management can help you stand out.

14. Discover your values

It can be all too easy to move into roles that are in-demand, well-paid, or aligned with your skills. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but many people feel dissatisfied if they are not making a difference or working in line with their values.

Gaining clarity on your values can help you zone in on roles, organizations, and career pathways that align with them. Consider brainstorming a list, taking an online quiz, or working with a trusted colleague or manager to gain a neutral perspective.

5 tips for setting personal development goals at work

Setting personal goals for work is a great first step. The tips below can help you actually work toward those goals and ideally achieve them:

1. Set SMART goals

The acronym SMART can help you define goals you’re more likely to achieve. SMART stands for:

  • Specific: get clear about what you want to achieve and ensure your goal is clearly defined.

  • Measurable: how will you know whether you have achieved your goal? What data will you use?

  • Achievable: aim to set goals that stretch you but are not so big that they’ll cause overwhelm or be unachievable. Think challenging, but attainable.

  • Relevant: don’t set goals just for the sake of it. They should be relevant to your long-term objectives and values so you’re more likely to achieve them.

  • Time-bound: it’s helpful to set a time limit on your goals to ensure you stay motivated.

2. Get support for motivation and accountability

Being held accountable can increase your chance of success. Setting goals as a team or alongside a supportive colleague can help ensure you work toward those goals and don’t forget about them when other things come up.

You might find it helpful to use accountability apps or find a coach or mentor who can support you as you work toward your goals.

3. Your goals should motivate you

Goals you are passionate about and excited to achieve will be much more successful than those you think you should achieve. Choose goals linked to your values or that are enjoyable for you to achieve to boost your motivation.

For example, if you set a goal to reduce your social media time by 30 minutes daily, you might replace that time with something you enjoy, like playing tennis or going on a nature walk.

4. Put your professional goals in writing

Writing your goals down on paper can help solidify what you’re looking to achieve. It can also make the goal feel more real and imprint it in your mind.

You can even write your goals somewhere you’ll often see them, such as in your work diary or even on your fridge.

5. Determine how you’re going to develop and achieve the goals

Once your goals are in writing, think about how you will achieve them. This might mean breaking a bigger goal into smaller, practical stages.

If your objective is to gain a promotion, for example, it could be helpful to outline the precise steps you’ll take to achieve it. These may include speaking to your manager, taking a business management course, or taking on more responsibility at work. Finally, conduct a six-month review to assess your progress.

Personal development goals for self-growth

Self-growth is important for many reasons. It can boost your personal skills, capabilities, awareness, empathy, and communication. Ultimately, self-growth can help make you a more well-rounded person, increase your confidence, and bring more ease into your life.

Setting goals for self-growth can also help advance your career. Employers value workers who are willing to improve themselves over time to better contribute to their team and organization. These goals could be the missing link to help you leap forward and secure your dream role.


How do you write SMART goals for personal development?

Using the SMART acronym can boost the chances of you achieving your goals. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

Ensure your goals align with all of the SMART principles. A SMART goal, for example, wouldn’t be vague or unachievable. Here’s an example:

  • A typical goal: To increase my fitness

  • A SMART goal: To run for 20 minutes five days per week for the next two months. After two months, I’ll increase the running time to 30 minutes per day.

You’ll have a higher chance of actually achieving your goal if it’s more specific and time-based.

What are the eight skills in personal development?

Personal development does not necessarily involve eight universally agreed skills, but some of the common skills can be helpful, such as the following:

  • Empathy

  • Leadership

  • Problem-solving

  • Social skills

  • Communication

  • Time management

  • Self-awareness

  • Self-efficacy

  • Listening skills

  • Motivation

Progressively improving yourself in these areas can prove beneficial at work and in life generally.

What is the end goal of “personal development”?

Personal development can boost your skills, improve your character, help you communicate better, expand your capabilities, and enable you to better understand yourself. It can also boost contentment as you gain focus on the things that are important to you.

However, keep in mind that personal development doesn’t necessarily have one specific end goal. It’s a good idea to progressively improve your skills throughout your life. Celebrate your successes; don’t become obsessed with perfection. As humans, we are all learning and growing, and there’s no such thing as “perfect” or an “end goal.”

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