What are your goals for professional development?

A woman holding a star as she thinks about her goals for professional development

Whether it comes up during a job interview, performance review, or personal reflection, "What are your goals for professional development?" is a common and crucial question.

Having career goals motivates you to keep striving for better, grants you a competitive edge as a job candidate and helps you reach your full potential in your current position.

Of course, developing professionally requires knowing your strengths and blind spots—and knowledge like that doesn't come easily.

Thankfully, the advanced performance and collaboration platform F4S, uses an evidence-based assessment to create a report just for you, and it's completely free.

Keep reading to learn more about professional development goals and how F4S can help you reach them.

Table of contents
What are professional development goals?
Do professional development goals really matter?
How to set and achieve meaningful professional goals
Top 10 examples of how to answer "What are your professional development goals?"

What are professional development goals?

Professional development goals are work-related objectives that advance your career, specific job role, or your team. They can include goals such as getting an MBA, receiving a promotion, becoming a better listener, or finding a mentor.

Do professional development goals really matter?

Let's review the research on employees and professional development:

  • Professional development opportunities attract top talent.

65% of workers find employer-provided upskilling to be "very important" when considering a new job and 48% of American workers would take a new job if it provided skills training opportunities.1

  • They increase employee salaries.

American workers who recently went through an upskilling program got an average pay raise of $8,000 more than those who did not participate in one.2

Employees who have access to professional development have 34% higher retention and are 15% more engaged.3

40% of employees who quit their job said that a lack of future career development was a "dissatisfying factor."4

How to set and achieve meaningful professional goals

Of course, it's one thing to say what your goals are, it's a whole other thing to achieve them. Below, we'll describe the steps necessary to achieve your professional goals.

Step 1: Uncover what motivates you at work.

Instead of guessing or asking others (neither of which are very accurate), take the free F4S assessment to access an in-depth report of the 48 motivations that influence your work—and find out how you score on each trait.

This will provide you with deep insights into your strengths and blind spots, backed by world-first research into work motivation.

F4S dashboard shows your workplace motivations to you can set goals for professional development
F4S dashboard

Step 2: See how you compare to high performers in your role.

Once you get your F4S report, click on the XFactors tab to benchmark your results against our sample of Entrepreneurs and Business Builders across the globe (with more roles to come as our research grows!).

To see your blind spots (areas for growth), click on "Red Zone." This will show you where you fall outside the scores we've found align with success in these roles. Think of these as learning opportunities to gain new skills.

F4S shows how you rank on a visual chart so you can better answer what you are your goals for professional development

Step 3: Turn blind spots into career development opportunities through coaching.

At F4S, we believe in a growth mindset. The best way to set and achieve meaningful professional goals is to know the opportunities for improvement and then receive targeted coaching to strengthen those areas. Through our AI-powered Coach Marlee, you can get professional coaching at your own pace.

Coach Marlee even has a Goal Catcher program where you set the goal, and it'll hold you to it!

Step 4: Develop an action plan.

Create a written document that lays out how you will achieve your professional goals. This action plan should include:

  • A specific goal statement. What is it that you're trying to do? Unless you can say it in one sentence, you might not have the clarity you need. An example of a goal statement is, "Within 12 months, I will find a mentor who has experience working at an ad agency as a Creative Director."
  • Long-term goals. Start with long-term goals (those that you'll achieve in the next year to ten years).
  • Short-term goals. To keep motivation high, break those long-term goals into smaller short-term goals (objectives you'll achieve in the next weeks and months).
  • A time frame and due dates. Assign specific due dates for each milestone to hold yourself accountable. Add these dates to your calendar so you don't miss them!
  • Metrics. How will you know you've succeeded? Try to assign metrics, if you can. For example, it's not enough to say, "I want to be more creative." Instead, try to find ways you can know that you've achieved that goal in a quantifiable way.

Admittedly, creativity is tough to measure. But when you use F4S, it's actually quite simple. One of the motivations, Difference, measures how motivated you are to start new things and think in radically different ways (one aspect of creativity). You'll receive a numeric score, and you can actually track how that score changes over time.

As part of your written documentation, we recommend keeping a journal. Within the F4S dashboard, we make it easy to journal about your professional development progress right inside the platform. You can even set up reminders so you never forget to write an entry.

F4S journal can track your professional development goals and can improve your confidence and communication skills

Step 5: Find an accountability partner.

The added pressure of knowing someone's going to check in on you is often the motivational boost you need to achieve your goals! Ask a coworker, mentor, manager or even a friend to hold you accountable for your professional development goals.

If no human is on hand to help you out, though, AI Coach Marlee will always have your back. Sign up for our Goal Catcher program, and Coach Marlee will guide you to your goals and check in on you to make sure you're on track.

Top 10 examples of how to answer "What are your professional development goals?"

If you're struggling to come up with professional development goal ideas, we've created a list of the top professional development goals of the year. These are useful skills you'll want to hone regardless of your current role or job title.

You'll notice many of the following are "soft skills," but don't let this turn you off. Soft skills are highly desirable to employers because they're incredibly useful. When hiring, businesses report that one of the main reasons they struggle to find qualified applicants is that applicants lack soft skills.5

1. Develop my emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the skill of recognizing and appropriately managing emotions in yourself and in others—and it's a must-have skill for any person, especially if you're a leader.

Having a high EQ helps you manage your team's dynamics, leveraging each individual's differences to create a stronger group. You're also keenly tuned into the best ways to communicate with someone effectively so they feel seen, heard and understood, while still getting your message across.

In the F4S dashboard, you can see how your entire team scores as a group in the emotional intelligence category. We'll show you the related work motivations that influence EQ and which motivations your team scores high in versus which ones they score low in.

The great thing is, you can change each of these motivations through consistent coaching and practice!

To develop your emotional intelligence, all you need is internet access and 20 minutes a week. F4S offers a free Increase EQ self-paced online coaching program, where AI Coach Marlee guides you through boosting your self-awareness, picking up on signals from others’ tone of voice, and harnessing your own physical gestures to make a point. And the best part is each session takes only 5-15 minutes.

Personalized insights for your goal

Pioneering new things
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You like some variety, radical changes, doing new and different things in some of your work or business.

100% Match
Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
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With a little bit of development you can become more socially aware of yourself and others.

61% Match
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2. Improve my creative thinking skills.

Creative thinking is the number one on-the-rise skill, according to a 2023 Future of Jobs Report from the World Economic Forum. In F4S, we call this trait "Difference," which is a pioneering approach that motivates a person to start new things rapidly and disrupt the status quo.

This can be incredibly useful in certain circumstances, such as a startup looking to disrupt a particular field, or even an established business seeking to branch out into new opportunities.

With F4S, you can see how you score in Difference. If you're on the low end, don't worry! F4S will show you how to move that score higher so you can boost your creativity. For example, you could take our coaching program Start Fast. In just eight weeks, you'll increases your motivation for trying new things, and most importantly, being the one to initiate them quickly!

Further, F4S features a "Me Over Time" tab, which allows you to take the assessment once a year and compare results. That way, you can see how your Difference score changes over time.

3. Brush up on effective communication.

Don't mistake speaking or writing a lot for effective communication. In reality, having good communication skills requires active listening, identifying facial expressions, picking up on body language, learning the nuances of tone of voice and adjusting to each person's preferred communication style.

The best way to begin communicating better with your team is to learn their communication and learning styles from their F4S report. Within it, you can see if they're a Neutral versus Affective Communicator as well as if they learn better by Reading/Writing, Visual, Hearing, or Kinesthetic.

The above motivations affect everything your teammates do. For instance, if a team member is an Affective Communicator, they'll understand you better if they can see your facial expressions and hear your voice, rather than just reading your words. And if they're a Visual Learner, they'll make better decisions if you send them videos to watch or map out the idea for them on a whiteboard.

Knowing these motivations will help you adjust your communication and get your messages across.

4. Put my leadership skills into practice.

If you want to become a more effective leader, it begins with learning the critical leadership skills and then putting them into practice to hone them.

To begin, Coach Marlee helps you step into your personal power and develop executive presence that helps you positively influence others. The 8-week self-paced online program is perfect for anyone with a busy schedule.

Once you've gone through the coaching program, put your skills to the test by seeking more leadership opportunities. Here are some ideas:

  • Volunteer to head up an Employee Resource Group (ERG).
  • Raise your hand and present a new idea at the next team meeting, and let others know the steps you'll take to bring it to fruition. See if you can rally the team around it!
  • Be the one to take the initiative and plan a social event that your coworkers have been talking about for months.

5. Get better at delivering constructive feedback.

Delivering constructive criticism can feel cringe-worthy, but it's often more helpful than positive feedback. Why? Constructive criticism helps people improve. You're actually doing them a favor!

To do it well requires a healthy dose of EQ and an understanding of the recipient's preferred communication and learning styles. If getting good at giving feedback is one of your professional development goals, then the Multiply Your Impact coaching program might be just what you need.

In just two sessions per week, you'll learn how to deliver transformational feedback that empowers your team. Coach Marlee will demonstrate how to leverage the power of questions to get to the heart of the matter and help others make their best decisions.

6. Sharpen my technical skills.

Technological literacy is the #3 top skill on the rise, according to the World Economic Forum. This makes sense, as technology becomes more advanced and increasingly important for business operations.

Here are some ideas for gaining tech skills that will give you a competitive edge in this landscape:

  • Learn a programming language.
  • Incorporate more AI tools into your workflow.
  • Try video editing.
  • Get into UI/UX design.

7.  Polish my public speaking.

Whether you're in a leadership role or not, brushing up on your presentation skills and public speaking will definitely contribute to professional growth. There's no way around it! When you work with a team, at some point, you'll need to present something in front of them.

The best way to strengthen your public speaking skills is to practice them. You can do this by:

  • Volunteering to present at your next all-hands meeting.
  • Joining a local Toastmasters club.
  • Applying to speak at an industry conference.

8. Find a mentor.

Mentoring can make the difference between floundering or thriving in a role. A skilled mentor is someone who's been to the destination you're trying to reach; maybe they currently hold your dream role, or they've held it in the past. They can check in with you, offer advice, help you set goals and be a sounding board for ideas.

Here are some ways to find a mentor:

  • Talk to your manager.

When you tell your manager that you're looking for a mentor, this shows you're taking your professional goals seriously. On top of that, it's likely they'll know someone within your organization or team who can mentor you.

  • Attend networking events.

Networking isn't just about finding new job opportunities; it's also a fantastic way to meet potential mentors!

  • Join professional organizations.

Look for organizations to join in your field. Often, they'll have a directory of people in your industry who have volunteered to become mentors.

9. Enhance my systems thinking.

Those who have a high motivation for Systems Thinking are masters at optimization. They like to zoom out and take a holistic view of processes, and then see how each part and person interrelates with another, affecting the entire system.

For early-stage ventures, this motivation may not be that important, but as businesses grow, Systems Thinking becomes essential to scaling a business steadily.

To improve your ability to step back and take a broader perspective of long-term goals, take our free Big Picture Thinker online coaching program. In it, you'll learn the power of asking the right questions, how to grasp abstract concepts and how to avoid getting bogged down by details. Gaining this kind of perspective is useful for achieving long-term goals.

10. Grow my analytical thinking.

Yet another top skill that's growing in demand, analytical thinking means that you're able to pause and reflect on the facts of the situation before making a decision. It mitigates risk because you're not prone to jumping into anything without doing your due diligence.

Within F4S, the motivations that are related to analytical thinking include:

To develop analytical thinking skills, take the Reflection & Patience online coaching program. In just two sessions per week, Coach Marlee will help you cultivate the self-awareness and mindfulness required to take a step back and think things through before acting.

Your professional development goals are nothing without science-backed insights and a plan

The next time someone asks, "What are your professional development goals?" you'll be able to respond with impressive depth and a plan for achieving your objectives. It all begins with a quick and free F4S assessment that delivers evidence-based insights plus suggestions to help you reach your full potential.

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  1. 'The American Upskilling Study: Empowering Workers for the Jobs of Tomorrow'. (2021).  Available at: Gallup. https://www.gallup.com/analytics/354374/the-american-upskilling-study.aspx
  2. 'The American Upskilling Study: Empowering Workers for the Jobs of Tomorrow'. (2021).  Available at: Gallup. https://www.gallup.com/analytics/354374/the-american-upskilling-study.aspx
  3. 'The Impact of Professional Development'. Available at: Better Buys https://www.betterbuys.com/lms/professional-development-impact/
  4. Morris, S. (2018) 'Lack Of Career Development Drives Employee Attrition'. Available at: Gartner. https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/lack-of-career-development-drives-employee-attrition
  5. New Survey: Looking For a Job? Employers Value Soft Skills More than Ever Before. (2021).  Available at: GlobeNewswire https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2021/07/28/2270394/0/en/New-Survey-Looking-For-a-Job-Employers-Value-Soft-Skills-More-than-Ever-Before.html

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