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December 21, 2023 3 Min Read

How to Set Professional Goals with Boundaries

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For most of the modern workforce, gone are the days when you put in 20 years, earn a commemorative gold watch, and retire by age 50. Overall, we’re working longer into our lives than ever before. So it’s more important than ever to enjoy what we do every day. This significant commitment to our careers has sparked more and more conversations around the importance of work-life balance. And companies are paying attention, creating real cultural change. With recent news touting narratives around ‘quiet quitting,’ boundary-setting, and protecting mental health, advocating for your happiness has become accepted and expected. 

But what about those who do love what they do? Do you have a fire in your belly eager to keep growing, learning, and thriving? Leadership and Professional Development Coach Shari Jo Watkins shares top tips for balancing this big ambition. In other words, how can you work towards lofty career aspirations while also protecting other important aspects of your life? 

Whether you’re keen to keep climbing the corporate ladder, are happy to hold where you are or have already reached the top, she says that understanding your position and setting professional goals to match is crucial to job — and life — satisfaction. 


Some crucial things to consider when creating career goals: 

Stop siloing yourself
Stop thinking about yourself in parts. You’re not ‘Version A’ at work and ‘Version B’ when five o’clock hits. You are oneself, all the time. Remember that, as a whole; you have ambitions across the work-life spectrum. Some aspirations are more relevant to your personal life, and some closely align with your career – and that’s okay. Your goals can co-exist if you don’t pit them against each other.


Ensure your personal and professional goals go hand-in-hand
Your professional goals must align with your values and all aspects of your personal life. When setting your professional intention for the year, consider your mental health, physical well-being, and family life — your overall happiness. Your personal and professional goals should intertwine, interconnect and support each other, with plenty of overlap and commonalities. A great way to do this is to set all your goals concurrently — ensuring that reaching one is not at the expense of achieving another.


Ask yourself, “How do these feel?”
You’ve already heard that the key to a great goal is to make it SMART — that is, it should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. Once you settle on an objective, do a gut check. If your instinct is telling you that a goal feels “icky” (Shari Jo’s technical term!), it probably isn’t aligned with a core value in your work-life continuum. Ask yourself why you feel uncomfortable, and re-work the goal to fit your values better.


Don’t be afraid to ask questions
It’s common practice for job roles to have measures of success built in. But sometimes, these cookie-cutter key performance indicators can feel arbitrary, unrealistic, or incompatible with your long-term career goals. If your manager sets your goals for you, don’t hesitate to question each. It’s your right to ask questions like: How will these achievements support the organization’s strategy? How do they align with our department’s goals? How do they align with your personal goals as my manager? An open conversation like this may uncover ways to adjust your KPIs – and ultimately set you up for success. 


Invest in career coaching
If you don’t have great leadership in your workplace, are seeking a mentor outside your company, or need an extra advocate in your corner, consider working with a Professional Development coach. Coaches like Shari Jo can help you identify what’s important to you, refine your goals to make sure they’re SMART, and talk through your successes and challenges. 


What should you expect when working with a career coach?

Shari Jo says every person’s journey is entirely different, so you’ll get a tailored approach. There’s no one-size-fits-all plan, but some things she may encourage you to do are all about creating a positive mindset: 

  • Keep a gratitude journal to acknowledge the good in your work life, clearing negativity from the narrative. 
  • Celebrate your wins by logging all of your successes. This will not only remind you of your worth but will come in handy for reviews or when advocating for a promotion. 
  • Create a time-wasters log to understand whether your actions are serving your goals, and if not, identify what tasks to remove from your day. 

If you’re working toward a promotion, have a difficult career conversation coming up, or want to invest in yourself, consider a coaching session to set professional goals that will set you up for long-term success. 

Book a session with Shari Jo now, or explore our range of experienced coaches standing by to help you balance ambition with boundaries and prevent burnout. 


Book Coach Shari Jo

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