It’s More Than Training: 10 Professional Development Tips to Grow Your Career

Professional development involves more than training. Consider the value of networks, mentors, and other professional development tips.

Are you looking to advance in your career? If you are, one of the best things you can do is work on your professional development. When you develop new skills and learn to use new technologies and innovations, you stay ahead of the curve. That helps set you apart from others in your industry. Typically you’ll increase your earning potential, broaden your professional network, and create new opportunities for yourself.

Of course, you can’t just sit back and hope that professional development will come to you. So let’s take a look at 10  professional development tips that can help you succeed, both now and in the future. 

Top 10 professional development tips 

In order to write your plan for professional growth, you need to get objective. Analyze yourself, where you stand currently in your career, and where you want to go. Then, you need to create a comprehensive plan with accomplishable steps that will help you achieve your career development goals. This may require stepping out of your comfort zone to seek available resources and new professional development opportunities. Here’s how.

1. Assess your skills 

To create your development plan, you’ll need to assess where you are in your career and your current skill set. This isn’t a time to be considering how great you are or how far you’ve come in your career. Rather, it’s a time to be objective about your knowledge, your skills, and where you need improvement or additional training. To begin this task, you may want to make a list of everything you know as of today. Include hard skills like educational degrees, computer coding, or data analysis, and soft skills like strong relationship or communication skills. After you list each skill, rate your competency. Then list the specific areas where you do well and where you do poorly.

Next, list all the relevant skills that you lack. These could be skills that you know you’ll need in order to advance to the next position in your company. Or they might be skills that you’ve been told you need through performance reports or one-on-one conversations with supervisors. 

2. Create a plan 

Next, think about where you want to be in a year, in 5 years, and in 10 years. Most businesses create current, intermediate, and future goals, which translate into 1-year, 5-year, and 10-year business plans. You can do the same with your career development. It’s also important to remember that plans can be flexible. You can adjust them as you meet goals, as the business environment changes, or as your own goals change. 

3. Expand your skill set through free training and online courses 

the first place to look in order to advance and to learn a new skill is your own company.

Next, take another look at your skills list. Compare it to your 1-year goals. What do you need to learn right now? Does your company offer a specific learning program that can help you meet that goal? Some companies invest regularly in their employees’ training and development. So the first place to look in order to advance and to learn a new skill is your own company. If it offers a class you need, enroll in it. If your employer recommends an institution where you can learn that skill, take the course at that institution. If your company doesn’t offer any type of training or recommendations, search for online classes of interest. Remember to check your local university or community college. 

4. Develop a professional network 

Build a rich professional life by cultivating professional contacts and surrounding yourself with people from your industry. Share with people in your department. Make yourself available to your team members, and let them know that you are available for them. You must be willing to give and get, and you must stay in touch with these people. You can’t call them for a favor if you haven’t talked to them in 5 years. Likewise, they shouldn’t do that to you.

As your business network grows, you’ll likely expand to having contacts in other departments, and even outside your company if you attend seminars and conferences. These are the people in your circle of business associates and friends who may also share development tips and opportunities more quickly than you’d be able to find them on your own. 

5. Find a mentor for advice, ideas, and tips 

Many companies offer mentoring and coaching programs, so the best place to start looking for a mentor is within your company’s mentoring and coaching network. If your company doesn’t offer a mentoring program and you belong to a professional group or organization, look for a mentor at your group meetings. A mentor or a coach is someone who can give you unbiased advice — someone who can help you sort through your thoughts about your professional and personal development. Once you get far enough into your career, you can become a mentor or a coach to someone else in your industry. 

6. Build your brand through social media to share — not brag about — successes 

Don’t forget to build your personal brand through social media. This means that you will share your accomplishments, along with pertinent business articles and information, so that others can learn and share in your excitement, advancements, and progress. The trick here is to share your knowledge and accomplishments without seeming like a braggart.

If you just got promoted at work, make sure to give step-by-step updates. After all, no one wants to hear about your $100,000-a-year overnight promotion. People will think that you just got lucky and that you’re bragging or being egotistical. Instead, share how you learned your new skills. Share the way in which you found and applied for the job. Share how you got yourself ready for that promotion, and only then tell people that you got the promotion. Not only will you be sharing your accomplishments, you’ll be helping others in your network advance their own careers.  

7. Read industry-related books, trade publications, and blogs 

Keep yourself up-to-date by reading books about your industry, as well as by keeping up with trade publications and blog posts written by other professionals. This can give you innovative ideas that you may be able to use in your current job. You may also discover new learning opportunities or new software that could help you do your job more smoothly.  

8. Don’t procrastinate when it comes to your career development 

Take time regularly to work on your professional development. Don’t make it just one of your New Year’s resolutions! While you don’t have to do something every day, you might set aside time each week to work on your skills, to network, and to stay up-to-date on industry news and advancements.

It helps if you create reminders for yourself. Perhaps every Wednesday at lunch, you’ll read a few trade articles. On Saturday, you may decide to work on your skills via a free online course. On Sunday, you might check in with your industry contacts or mentor. 

While you don’t have to do something every day, you might set aside time each week to work on your skills, to network, and to stay up-to-date on industry news and advancements.

9. Analyze your successes and your failures 

Just as if you were a business, you’ll want to track your metrics. This means that you will objectively analyze the places where you succeeded and how you succeeded. You’ll also look hard at your failures to determine where you went wrong and what you need to work on in the future to prevent the same type of failure. 

10. Continue to learn 

Remember: Always be learning something new. In business, they say that if you’re merely maintaining, you’re falling behind. For example, if a company made VCRs in the ’80s and determined that people would always buy VCRs to view movies because distributors were selling billions of VCR tapes, they’d be out of business today. This is because VCRs were quickly replaced by DVD players, which offered better video and sound quality.

Today, many people view all of their movies over the Internet. You need to think of yourself as an advancing business. If you started your career using a typewriter, you probably use a computer today, and you needed new skills to be able to operate that computer. So take advantage of continuing education opportunities, and you’ll be ready for the next technological advancement in your industry. 

Start now

What are your professional and personal goals? Do you want to participate in project management ? Do you want to take on additional leadership roles? Or do you just hope that your business will teach you a new skill so that you’ll be ahead of everyone else in your department or industry? No matter what your goals are, you can accomplish them by becoming a lifelong learner and by taking advantage of professional-development opportunities.   

The good news is that you can get started on your career advancement today.

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