Jan 5, 2012

Lack of Personal Career Goals Leads to Career Stagnation

Welcome to the beginning of a New Year!  The holidays are over.  Last year's performance appraisals have been completed and submitted.  Now it's time to look at your goals for the year ahead.

Just as you have set S.M.A.R.T. performance goals to align with those of your organization, it is important to identify personal goals that will enhance and further your career development.  Start by identifying six goals. While this may sound overwhelming, it really isn't.  Once you have identified six goals, list two on this year's performance appraisal form.  List the other four on a separate sheet of paper.  Strive to complete one of these goals each quarter.  These goals do not have to be complicated.  If you are struggling to identify goals, here are 7 suggestions to get you started on thinking about how to sharpen your saw:

  • Develop two strategic relationships outside of your department.  
    • Benefit:  Developing strategic relationships within your organization expands your internal network, and helps you keep abreast of what may impact your department.  It may also keep you top of mind when special assignments or cross-functional projects arise.
  • Review the information that was shared with you during your feedforward exercise.
    • Benefit:  Incorporating and working on the suggestions shows that you took the information  seriously.  It also opens the doors for future sharing of observations which will help you further develop.  
  • Learn a foreign language.  
    • Benefit:  This skill can help position you to work on an overseas assignment. 
  • Join a professional association for your industry, and attend the meetings.
    • Benefit:  Most organizations have guest speakers who present on hot topics.  In addition, you will meet other members and expand your external network and resources.  
  • Earn a certificate.  
    • Benefit:  You can earn a certificate in a fraction of the time it would take to earn a degree.  You will learn the latest information while earning your certificate.  
  • Join Toasmasters. 
    • Benefit:  Improving your speaking and presentation skills will help you feel more confident and polished when presenting to senior management.  
  • Improve your computer skills by either learning the advanced functions of the software you currently use, or learning a new software package.  
    • Benefit:  Learning advanced functions, shortcuts, and other software can help you work more efficiently.  

When setting performance goals it is easy to forget about your own professional development.  Your career development is up to you.  Don't wait for someone else to set the direction.  Take action yourself!


  1. Great advises Grace, I think it is very important for employees or job seekers to develop their competitive advantages by continuously expand their networks. Being social is not an option anymore and for some people it means developing their emotional intelligence, including cultural sensitivity to be able to communicate with all kind of people.

  2. Anne, you are right. Being social is not an option any more, and it certainly does require a developed sense of emotional intelligence and cultural sensitivity.

  3. Like the simplicity of direction, two goal advance plan to kick start and the quarterly spacing of other goals to allow time to develop and establish results and patterns of success. Great coaching.

  4. Great list of ideas! I especially like Toastmasters and professional associations. These all benefit both the employee and the company. Every manager should read this list!

  5. Nice job Grace. You're right that we often think just about advancing the business (since it can consume all of our time sometimes), but keeping track of our own personal goals is important too. And learning a foreign language can be key just in communicating with people in your area since sometimes it's nice to be able to talk to people in their native tongue. They really appreciate the effort.

  6. Thanks Karleen. While there are many presentation/speaker training workshops to choose from, Toastmasters is reasonably priced. You can also have Toastmasters meetings onsite, which will allow more employees to participate.

  7. I use this approach to help my clients minimize the feeling of being overwhelmed, which can lead to paralysis.

  8. I like that you mentioned learning a foreign language. As we become more global in our pursuits, we'll need to be more aware of global ways of communicating.

    Thanks for your motivational words!


  9. Great benefits! I have been working on the improving speaking skills and did not know about Toastmasters so definitely going to check that out. Thanks


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