Settings Goals Professionally

I was reminded of this topic after yesterday’s #SQLChat. Have you set professional goals for yourself? If so, have you set them professionally? What do I mean?

There’s a difference between a wish and a goal. A wish is something we want to happen but we don’t make any effort towards seeing it come to pass. Perhaps we can’t. I can’t be back in high school to warn myself about playing with several of the injuries that continue to nag me today. But quite a few wishes are within our grasps. We just don’t move forward towards them. The thing about a goal is that we have to decide to move towards accomplishing it. We won’t accomplish all of our goals. However, we will make attempts to accomplish each of them.

With that defined, let’s talking about setting them professionally.

First, you have to clearly outline your goal. If you’re familiar with the SMART acronym for goal setting, this is the Specific part of it. What are you trying to accomplish? How do you know when you’re successful? An example of a bad goal: I want to be happy in my job. What’s wrong with this goal? How do you know what happy looks like? Your specifics could include details about pay, about how much you work (hours is a measurable quantity), or it could be something like, “Each morning I will wake up and determine if I look forward to going to work each morning. 3/4 of the mornings for the year, I want that answer to be yes. That’s how I know I’ll be happy.” We’ve taken something abstract and made it measurable.

Second is the M in SMART, that the goal is Measurable. I’ve already given an example on specific, but we must be able to measure if we’ve accomplished our goal. We also would like to be measure possible progress. Being able to measure means we have a good idea where we stand on accomplishing a goal and what it looks like when we have met that goal. If you don’t measure, you’ll be less likely to push forward towards accomplishing your goal.

Third is the goal should be Attainable. We want it to be a goal, not a wish. I’m not going to be able to reverse time back to high school. At least, not right now. And even if I could, that might not be the best plan as my past determines who I am now. Goals should cause us to strive and stretch, but they shouldn’t be completely out of reach. Goals like that serve to discourage us, not help us move forward.

Relevance is the fourth part of setting goals professionally. Why does the goal matter to you? If the goal doesn’t matter, you won’t make it a priority. Perhaps someone has suggested something be your goal. This often happens to us professionally. Maybe there is motivation to move a goal to relevant status when it normally would not be (such as continued employment at a place where you’re “happy”). However, if you can’t see a goal as relevant to you, it’s very unlikely you’re going to put much effort towards accomplishing it.

The final part is ensuring your goals are Time Bound. What’s the timeline for you to accomplish that goal? We can define goals with no expected completion date. That’s generally not a good idea. If you do this, how do you know your current rate of progress? How do you give yourself that kick in the tail to work harder if there’s no end date? But the end date isn’t the only part of the goal. If you’ve got steps to get towards that end date, when should you be accomplishing those steps.

Got all this? Great! Now, write it all down. Put your goals somewhere you can regularly review. And then do the review. Recalibrate based on how you’re doing. Don’t let goals be like most folks’ New Year’s Resolutions. Make them something you set and achieve.