Faster, Higher, Stronger: Aiming for Professional Improvement

by Margie F. Pandes

It is natural for humans to always seek something better—a better house, garden, car, cooking skills, communication skills, singing or dancing abilities, and so on.

Our instinct is to always want improvement, not deterioration.

This is true also in our professional lives. We wish for and expect enhancements and upgrades, instead of remaining at the same level, or worse, at lower levels as the years go by.

We expect, for example, to have a higher position or a higher salary than before, when we were younger and had less experience.

We expect to be in a better economic situation as we progress in our career.

However, one cannot simply wish for improvements for them to happen.

We must actively work for these improvements, so that we see and enjoy the results sooner rather than later.

Workers benefit from setting professional or career goals. These goals are targets that serve to guide one’s career, whether in the short term or long term.

They function also to fuel motivation and inspiration, especially during days when the tasks are particularly challenging or hard.

But not all professional or career goals are good. Some are unrealistic or unfeasible.

A worker has to be strategic about setting goals. A rule of thumb is to make sure that the goals are SMART—that is, Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

This means that there must be a particular area of improvement, an indicator of progress, has the possibility of being achieved, aligned with the career, and limited by a specific time period.

Anything that contradicts these characteristics may set one up for disappointment or regret, or even undo previous improvements.

Some examples of career goals that are applicable to various professions are: sharpening communication skills, learning new technologies related to the field of work, improving time management, scheduling, and organizational capabilities.

It may also be helpful for one to engage in related trainings, pursue a related degree, earn certifications, or work under the mentorship of accomplished leaders in the field.

Writing down one’s plans, visualizing the improvements, and strategically planning the steps one would take towards development are important, as well. So are sharing plans with trusted colleagues or superiors, and setting deadlines, so that one remains inspired and motivated to keep striving.

In the end, it all boils down to how much one wants to improve, how hard one is willing to work for such improvement, and what improvement genuinely means in relation to personal and professional fulfillment.