The browser you are using is not supported by this website. All versions of Internet Explorer are no longer supported, either by us or Microsoft (read more here:

Please use a modern browser to fully experience our website, such as the newest versions of Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari etc.

Inner development goals to build sustainable careers

Career coaches Pernilla Thellmark and Stina Vikingsson, standing in front of a whiteboard with text on. Photo.
Career coaches Pernilla Thellmark and Stina Vikingsson: ”"During the workshops, we train and experiment with the IDG framework together with the students. It's a structured way to gradually discover which skills and abilities have been developed.”

Meet Stina Vikingson and Pernilla Thellmark at Lund University School of Economics and Management’s career centre, who have begun working hands-on with personal development goals for a sustainable future. Their target group is students, but the methodology works for everyone from individuals to teams and larger groups in the workplace.

”Choose a skill that you would like to develop. Reflect on it together with someone sitting next to you, preferably someone you don’t know. Which skill would make the biggest difference in your life?”

Career coach Pernilla Thellmark is asking the question. She is lecturing on individual development goals (IDGs), to a group of curious students. The lecture concludes with brief exercises involving reflection – and courage.

”So inspiring,” the participants say afterwards.

IDGs – a framework for personal development 

The United Nations member states have set global sustainability goals, but it can feel vast and abstract for individuals to reflect on how they can contribute to eradicating hunger and poverty. Therefore, ’the inner development goals’ have been introduced – a kind of framework for self-development. They are based on five different categories — such as ”thinking” and ”acting” – and are concretised in 23 skills – such as critical thinking, creativity, and perseverance. The initiative is backed by several researchers, companies, and organisations through a non-profit foundation.

Together with her colleague Stina Vikingson, Pernilla Thellmark discovered IDGs through Martina Oxling, the then Sustainable Future Hub project manager at Lund University School of Economics and Management.

”We talked about how we could utilise the methods developed for working with students and sustainability that the Hub had used. At the same time, Stina and I had been discussing developing our coaching tool. When we started reading about IDGs, we knew we had found the right fit,” says Pernilla Thellmark.

Both testify that many students they meet for career guidance are interested in working with sustainability, but it can be difficult to know how to best support them. With the IDG framework, it becomes more tangible for both career advisors and the students themselves.

”Often I feel ’wow!’, what knowledge, reflections, and ideas the students have,” says Stina Vikingson.

Can I use IDGs for my own competence development, even if I don’t go to your workshops (or isn’t a student)? 

”Oh yes! You can reflect on what competencies you have to drive some kind of change. It’s not connected to knowledge or hard skills but to personal qualities,” says Stina Vikingson. (See fact box on this webpage with all the skills listed)

A woman writing on a whiteboard. Another woman looking at this. Photo.

”We’re experimenting”

For two semesters, the Lund University School of Economics and Management has offered a voluntary extra track – Living the Sustainability Idea – for students in two master’s programmes. Before the start of the track, the team at the School received help and inspiration from Christine Wamsler, senior advisor within the IDG framework and professor at LUCSUS.

Much of the work around the track is built on IDGs, and it became natural to incorporate it into career services as well. This spring, they organised a workshop series, open to all students at Lund University School of Economics and Management. It will continue with a new edition in the autumn. The idea is also to continue developing methods to incorporate IDGs into individual coaching.

”During the workshops, we train and experiment with the IDG framework together with the students. It’s a structured way to gradually discover which skills and abilities have been developed. We don’t start with ’now we're going to train on this specific thing’’. In retrospect, we discuss what skills we have focused on,” says Stina Vikingson.

Pernilla and Stina see great potential for working with IDGs in more ways than with students. Some of the School’s corporate partners work with it among their employees, and Pernilla and Stina have tried them in a staff meeting for the faculty’s administration. They presented the framework and showed the different categories and skills. Then colleagues chose two skills each that they wanted to develop professionally and discussed it with a colleague.

”We experienced a great interest in discussing IDGs at an organisational level. If I could dream, they could be used for both development discussions, team-building, and strategy days,” says Stina Vikingson.

Recently, the career centre at Lund University School of Economics and Management – in collaboration with career coordinators at the Faculty of Social Sciences – organised a professional development day on the theme of a sustainable career.

”There is definitely an interest from other parts of Lund University for this. The nice thing is that the method is not at all tied specifically to the School of Economics and Management, but it is cross-disciplinary. But we need examples of how it can be done and then try it out,” they say.

Example of workshop content 

Pernilla explains that during a workshop, participants work together practically to develop and reflect on a skill. However, as workshop leaders, they try not to steer too much but to be open to what happens.

”We can start with the group getting a number of letters that together form a word. Together they should figure out what the word is and thus get started with collaboration. Afterwards, we reflect on which skill they think they have trained. Maybe we thought it would be critical thinking, but they think it’s openness. They might say they failed a task because they didn’t listen enough to each other,” says Pernilla.

Another exercise involves sharing, in pairs, an experience of feeling unseen or excluded. 

”One tells and the other listens without offering any solutions. Then they switch. The last time we did the exercise, many felt a sense of connection and empathy. It can be quite significant to open up like that to someone you haven’t met before,” says Pernilla Thellmark.

She describes it as positive and developing, even for herself, to work with IDGs with the students. 

”In your average, normal life, there can be a risk of feeling hopeless about today’s situation – what can I do? But this is a tool for doing something. We have a big transition ahead of us. Here you get ownership to act and develop. That’s the point of IDGs. There is hopefulness in that we can all be ’change makers,’” says Pernilla.

Stina Vikingson adds:

”We want to equip our students to be ready when they enter the job market. They need to have the best opportunities possible; to truly have what it takes to create change.”

Inner development goals

Inner development goals (IDGs) are based on the idea that personal development is an important part of achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN's 2030 Agenda. To be able to embrace the SDGs and help fulfil them, we need the skills to think, collaborate and act. Tools, films and articles are available on for those who want to learn more.

Two people talking, not in focus. In focus is some text on a poster on the wall, saying: "Acting: Enabling change". Photo.

The five categories and 23 skills

1. Being

Relationship to Self

Inner Compass

Integrity and Authenticity

Openness and Learning Mindset

Self-awareness Presence

2. Thinking

Cognitive Skills

Critical Thinking

Complexity Awareness

Perspective Skills Sense-making

Long-term Orientation and Visioning

3. Relating

Caring for Others & the World




Empathy and Compassion

4. Collaborating

Social Skills

Communication Skills

Co-creation Skills

Inclusive Mindset and Intercultural Competence

Trust Mobilization Skills

5. Acting

Enabling Change

Courage Creativity Optimism Perseverance