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Setting Effective Development Goals for Your Career

In this post, we will explore how to identify your strengths and weaknesses, set development goals, and create a development plan.

Identify Your Strengths and Weaknesses


When we think about identifying your strengths and weaknesses, it is important to first identify what you are good at doing. Here are some questions to guide you identifying your strengths:

  • What am I good at doing?
  • What do others tell me I am good at doing?
  • In the last 3 months, what did I receive recognition for doing?

It is just as important, if not more important, that you continue to strengthen those things that you’re good at, and that you continue to practice those and keep those strengths in motion.


Next, let’s think about your weaknesses. That word has such a negative connotation, so let’s think about what things you may not be good at doing but provide you with opportunities to learn and grow. Here are some questions to guide you in identifying your weaknesses:

  • What do you avoid doing at work because you don’t feel you’re good at doing that task?
  • What constructive criticism have you received from peers, managers, professors, etc., that include something you could work on improving?

Please do not dwell on what comes up on this list. You are committed to learning and growing, and identifying some areas in which you can do that is part of the process.

Set Development Goals

Look at some of those opportunities that you have and pick one. You can set a development goal (which we’ll talk about next) for this area of focus, and you can start to chip away at it little by little.

After you identify your strengths and your weaknesses, it is important to set development goals for yourself, as this will help aide you in identifying and achieving your career objectives. With regards to career objectives, I think some people get caught up and think, “what’s next for me career-wise?” or “Where am I going next?” maybe “Am I going to become a manager?” and similar thoughts. You’re a lifelong learner, so it makes sense that you’re not planning to stay in one place for too long, right?

Here’s where I want you to take a pause. Breathe.

You don’t always have to be thinking about what’s the next thing role-wise or in relation to that corporate ladder. You don’t always have to think through what the big, huge steps are for you. Your career objectives could be, “hey, I want to improve my skills. When it comes to Java, I want to be a good programmer and understand Java, specifically for my role,” and that could be your objective. You could take it in bite size, and think about those bigger pieces, and where do you want to go next, but I caution you not to overwhelm yourself in that.

Think about what these smaller milestones are and how you can build those up over time. When you think about setting effective development goals, you want to make sure that they follow the S.M.A.R.T.  approach, which focused on goals being Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. I go through the smart approach to goal setting in my 5 Steps to Build a Solid Professional Development Plan (available on


Create a Development Plan

Let’s start off small, let’s identify anywhere from two to three goals – even one to two. Then we’ll start to create a development plan. In your development plan, you’re going to talk about your strengths, your weaknesses, and your goals. The development plan will support you in breaking down your goals into milestones and then actionable steps, or tasks.

A personal example I can share is when I decided to pursue my Ph.D. I turned that into a S.M.A.R.T. goal and then began to identify the milestones, or big pieces of work, it would take to get me from just starting the program to crossing the graduation stage. Some of those milestones included identifying what school I want to go to, completing my coursework, passing my comprehensive exams, and writing and defending my dissertation. For each of these milestones, I incorporated smaller achievable tasks that aligned to each. For example, I had to complete X number of courses as part of the coursework milestone. Each course became a task to complete.



Identifying your strengths and weaknesses is an important step in the professional development process. You can then use this information to create your development goals so that they align with your personal and professional aspirations. From there, you can build out a development plan to ensure you break down your goals into realistic milestones and achievable tasks, enabling you to achieve your goals.


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