Set Self Development Goals Like a Class Rubric

Set Self Development Goals Like a Class Rubric

What in the word does a school grading rubric have anything to do with setting self development goals? Let’s think back…

It’s the first day of school. In each if your classes, the professor hands out a rubric for the course and reads it word for word while you cringe in boredom (why do they do that??). While they talk through it, you do some classic college student calculations to figure out where you need to work hard and where you have more slack for your target final grade. You look up the professor online and chat with colleagues to see how hard the tests are and if there’s a curve.

In short, you’re putting together a tactical execution plan based on a clearly articulated rubric.


Rubrics for Setting Self Development Goals at Work

Enter the workforce. Things are a little different. More often than not, the rubric becomes a joint decision between you and your manager, with organizational goals as an input. You essentially have influence over your own grading criteria, as well as your final grade.

Most people struggle with this new power and craft vague, incomplete goals. “Support the XYZ project as assigned” is easy to write but difficult to measure. For slackers, this is advantageous because just attending meetings “technically” means you were successful (aka passed the class with a C).


Consequences of Setting Self Development Goals at Work With a Vague Rubric

Because of this, some people make the mistake of doing this on purpose year after year, blanketing their minimal effort with success plus an asterisk. Doing this, however, doesn’t translate to any real world value. If someone asked your manager why you should be kept during a layoff wave (cue SpongeBob’s trip to Rock Bottom), he or she will have a hard time coming up with a good reason. The conversation would go the same way for promotions (here’s how you get them to co-sign for your promotion).

Ambitious people are also hurt by ambiguous goals. You can work hard all year and then come review time, your performance can be interpreted in any direction. Because it’s harder to justify to leadership giving you a high score, you shouldn’t be surprised to leave the room with a C — the same score as a slacker.


Benefits of Setting Self Development Goals at Work With a Detailed Rubric

In short, ambiguous goals make it hard to get anything other than a C. Don’t get me wrong, the ambitious person will still be more valuable in reality compared to the slacker. Assuming you’re ambitious, there are a number of benefits to articulating your goals in more detail:

Proof of Performance
In contrast to vague goals, well articulated goals are difficult to justify NOT giving you a high score if you actually went above and beyond. There are more facts in your favor and less wiggle room to spin your performance in a less desirable direction.

Enables Tactical Execution Plan
In college, you were only able to get tactical with your game plan because you had this rubric to work off of. By articulating your goals well, you give yourself that tactical ability again. Without it, you’ll be wandering blind.

Initiative is Impressive to Managers
In most companies, managers are supposed to work with you to make your goals more specific and detailed, mainly because most people tend to write vague goals on the first draft. If you write well articulated goals off the bat, your manager with be impressed by your initiative, which helps you stand out from the crowd. They may also be more willing to help you meet those goals since you have a clear idea of where you want to go.


With clearly defined SMART goals, you’ll be one step ahead of your peers in stretching yourself for success. Your manager will appreciate your initiative, and you will feel more compelled to take on your own challenge with a tactical, execution plan for the year.

What does your career rubric look like?


Photo credit: “Teachers Pet” (CC BY 2.0) by m_shipp22



Comments are closed.