Personal, professional goals

Published on 08 February 2016

When was the last time you set a goal? Was it a personal goal? Or was it professional? Did you succeed?

Now think about the last time your employer helped you define an explicit goal for yourself and subsequently helped you achieve it.

The fact is, many companies -- particularly startups -- don't find it "cool" to invest time into doing certain kinds of things for their employees. The kinds of things larger, more advanced, well-established organizations do. The same things that keep their employees growing, engaged and retained. One of these in particular is goal-setting.

So in these smaller (often startup) companies, the responsibility for setting attainable yearly goals, seeking out the pathways to success and celebrating these successes often falls squarely on the shoulders of the employee. It seems awfully corporate to some, and a little bit useless to the naive, but without a meaningful target to aim for, success is impossible to measure.

And while I know the post is a bit delayed (it's February!), I have taken some extra time to think about what I want out of 2016 and lay out a small recap of 2015. It is my hope that you'll find some impetus within this post to build goals into your work life. I know that far too few people think about it, and even fewer implement this basic growth process in their lives.

My goals for 2015

For at least as long as I've worked in this industry, I've had some variety of professional goals set out each year. I'll give you some examples:

  • Attain the highest peer rating on all my projects for the year.
  • Learn to evaluate and rate my own performance accurately and dispassionately.
  • Become more capable in a technology by utilizing it in a project. (Python powers my app portfolio)
  • Utilize other non-technical skills I possess to help other teams in the organization. (i.e. being a native, educated English-speaker helps a lot with marketing)

I generally keep such goals secret until they are met, but for 2015, I'll speak of couple:

  1. Bring an app to market on a competing platform, with feature parity.
  2. Become less religious about competing platforms.

Most of my professional year 2015 was spent fulfilling these goals. Which meant I spent the better part of the year overseeing design and building out an Android app counterpart to our iOS app. In less than 10 months, I achieved full feature parity, high user adoption and support for eight major versions of Android. All of that while also maintaining our iOS app. Goal #1 achieved.

As for Goal #2, the things I learned in 2015 refreshed my understanding and challenged what I considered to be good service from an API vendor. Over the years, many of Apple's APIs were broken or performed in unexpected ways that required developers to make their own workarounds independently for several major versions. The same is of course true in many instances with Google's APIs, but then I learned how much time Google has really invested in the toolchain for Android. That investment has many rewards for developers. So my ability to better appreciate both platforms has come strictly from experience, and I expect that to have a positive impact on the decisions I'll make in the future. Goal #2 achieved.

While I had employed other goals for 2015, these two were the most relevant to my work and overall career target. Setting and achieving both of them set the tone for my 2016 while also providing proof to myself that my next set of goals are realistic and attainable options for the coming year.

Often not easy

Every new year, billions of people set out goals in the form of resolutions. Many of these are unmet each year for any number of reasons. Some are simply unrealistic while others are not taken seriously enough.

Your professional goals should be attainable, and you should plan a clear path to success. If it means roping your super/advisor/mentor in to talk about what you want to accomplish and how it will benefit the organization, do it.

Having someone to talk with about your goals will make it more likely for you to set high-quality goals that result in growth for both parties involved.