Sept. 11, 2019

Six excellent reasons to set professional goals

Be deliberate about your direction this year — submit performance goals by Sept. 27
Person ascends stairs in the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning
Performance goals are due by Sept. 27, 2019 Rebekah Jarvis

Goal setting can inspire ambition and help you achieve more in your professional and personal life — if you need some convincing, we asked James Edwards, director of talent management  for his top five reasons to set goals for your upcoming year at UCalgary

  1. Setting goals is the first step in reaching them

Everybody is striving to improve themselves in one way or another, but no matter what your working towards, evidence tells us that the best way to get there is by setting and writing down concrete goals.

“We all want to perform better professionally, personally and physically, but those aren’t really goals, are they?” says Edwards. “A useful aspect of goal setting is that it forces you to break down a general wish for betterment into smaller, concrete and achievable actions.”

So, don’t simply plan to be successful at work this year — instead, define measurable goals that will contribute to a successful year.   

  1. Seeing purpose in the everyday brings greater purpose, every day

Because goals tend to fit with portfolio goals and institutional strategies and plans, they help reveal the impact of your work on the bigger picture.

“It’s possible to get so bogged down with what you’re doing that you lose track of why you’re doing it,” says Edwards. “Goals remind us to look at a specific task or duty and understand its impact on, say, student experience or campus community — they help us see ourselves in the success of the greater institution.”

Even if annual planning in your area isn’t complete, you’re still encouraged to submit individual goals by the deadline on Sept. 27 — if necessary, goals can be easily edited, added or removed throughout the year using your online performance document.

  1. Agreeing on goals cuts through the chaos

Some days, work just happens to you — urgent tasks command your full attention and you get stuck in reaction mode. Goals are one way to keep these days from taking over your week, your month, or even your year. 

“By sitting down with your manager and setting commit goals together, you are agreeing on your priorities,” says Edwards. “A shared notion about what aspects of your job are most important helps you make more strategic choices about what gets more of your time and attention.” 

For help using your performance document to add or edit goals, check out the how-to guide or watch an interactive demonstration

  1. Stretch goals help keep the spark alive

If a career is to last, it must evolve, offer new challenges and encourage new opportunities. Setting stretch goals helps you think long term about where you want to take your career and act on a plan to get there.

“Stretch goals make room to reach beyond the basic expectations of your role,” says Edwards. “By taking on new responsibilities, working to improve or refine processes, or getting involved in different projects, you’ll develop additional skills and learn more about yourself as a professional.” 

If you’re nearing retirement in the next few years, career growth may not drive you like it used to, but stretch goals are still useful in transferring your wealth of knowledge to others before moving on. Set stretch goals to take on mentoring opportunities that will enable others to succeed at UCalgary after you move on to enjoy your next chapter.

For help understanding the difference between commit and stretch goals, try comparing sample stretch and commit goals.

  1. Defining success means you can celebrate it

By setting specific goals, you are defining, in advance, the moment that you should jump up and shout, “I did it!” Sure, it’s possible that you would complete the same project or set of tasks whether you set the goal or not, but the goal helps you see the accomplishment more clearly.

“Employees do a lot of wonderful things at this university,” says Edwards. “Goals and goal tracking make it easier for employees and their leaders to recognize effort and success.”

Celebrating success takes many forms:

  • Discuss it during a one-on-one meeting or mid-year/annual review.
  • Acknowledge achievements at team meetings.
  • Pop into your online performance document and fill in the details of your accomplishment while they’re still fresh in your mind.
  • Congratulate a colleague on achieving a goal in person or with a print card or e-Note.
  1. It’s the first year for online support staff goal-setting documents — here’s how to use them

The mid-year review period for support staff is in the fall, and is a great time to review and adjust goals, celebrate successes and highlight development opportunities for the remaining performance year.

This year, support staff are using online goal-setting documents rather than the previous process using paper goal-setting templates. Many support staff members and their managers already work together to set annual goals — the only difference this year is how to record them. Get started with yours today:

  • Explore and use your online performance documents:
    • Support staff: Log in to and click on All about me > My job > Performance management
    • Managers: Log in to and click on My work > People Management > Manager self-service > Performance management
  • Managers may hold one-on-one meetings to discuss goals with their direct reports.
  • Once discussed, staff visit to enter goals in the online performance document.