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Level Up Your Career: Setting Powerful Professional Development Goals

Level Up Your Career: Setting Powerful Professional Development Goals

Whether you have 10 years of experience under your belt or you’re just starting out on your TESOL career, taking control of your professional development can feel like a daunting task. This article takes a look at some tips to help you set your own development goals. 

1. Identify the goals 

A useful first step can be to do some research to find out where you could focus your energy.  

  • Reach out to your supervisor for feedback. They may have suggestions in mind, and they’ll be thrilled that you’re taking the initiative. 
  • If you work independently or would prefer to tackle your goals without your supervisor, try talking to your colleagues and peers instead. This is a great way to get different perspectives on areas where you could level up. 
  • It can be helpful to check job descriptions for roles that you might wish to apply for in the future, for example on LinkedIn.  
  • Check out blogs such as this one for tips on how to develop and grow! 

2. Be specific, measurable and achievable 

The next step is to write your goals down. Making sure these are specific, achievable and measurable is important for staying on track.  

Be Specific 

  • Avoid vague statements and ensure your goals are precise.  
  • For example, an idea like ‘I will become a better online teacher’ could be made more specific by stating exactly what you want to achieve: ‘I will create more opportunities for speaking production in my classes’ is much more actionable!

Be Measurable 

  • It’s good practice to think about how you’ll measure your progress. Personally, I like to write numerical or time values into my goals to make this clearer. 
  • For example, we could rewrite the goal above as ‘By the end of July, each student will have two more opportunities to speak in each of my lessons.’ 

Be Achievable 

  • Thinking big is wonderful, but setting unrealistic goals can lead to frustration.  
  • Breaking your goals down into ‘bitesized’ stages can help. For example, the first three stages of the above goal might be: 
  • ‘By the end of next week, I will have done one hour of research on how to add more opportunities for speaking to my lessons.’ 
  • ‘At the end of two weeks, I will have tried three different ways to give my students more opportunities to speak in my lessons.’ 
  • ‘During May, I will add one more opportunity for students to speak to each of my lessons.
  • Being specific, measurable and achievable are the first three aspects of the SMART approach to goal setting. For a more in-depth look at SMART goals, Forbes has a great article here. 

3. Hold yourself accountable 

It can help to find an ‘accountabili-buddy’: a friend or peer who can hold you accountable by regularly checking on your progress.  

This is extra effective if your buddy also has professional development goals, as you can help keep each other motivated. Try setting regular, informal catch-ups with your buddy to share and discuss your progress. 

If you prefer working alone, one tip is to keep a simple development diary or checklist to refer to once a week. 

4. Stay flexible 

Professional development isn’t a race. If life gets in the way, or if your goals turn out to be too ambitious, there’s no problem with tweaking them a little.  

You may wish to set regular checkpoints to take stock and evaluate your own progress. If you’re like me and you find this level of introspection tricky, try doing this with your buddy or over coffee with a friend. 

It’s also important to balance professional development goals with your life, health and well-being. Even if you need to put a goal on hold completely, it’s not a big deal! There will always be other opportunities to level up later. 

5. Celebrate! 

No matter how big or small your achievements are, it’s important to celebrate them. Not only does this help you recognize your success, it’s also an effective way of staying motivated for your next challenge.  

  • Announce your achievements online, for example on LinkedIn. 
  • Tell your friends and celebrate together. 
  • You may like to take photos of your celebration to cement your goal completions as positive memories.  
  • When you complete a goal, try treating yourself. A meal out or a weekend away feel even more special if you‘re celebrating an achievement. 
  • Lastly, it’s nice to be mindful of others: try making time to help others celebrate their successes too! 


Happy goal setting, and good luck with levelling up! 


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