Taking time to invest in yourself is not only good for your career, it is good for your personal development, too. Studies suggest when you engage in professional development throughout your career, you keep yourself marketable – and valuable to your company. You bring smarter, more effective skills to the worktable, which can save an organization time and valuable dollars. On a personal level, you can leverage your professional skills, such as project management or software programs and apply those abilities to managing your home projects or personal finances. It’s a win-win!
“One quality of leaders and high achievers in every area
seems to be a commitment to ongoing
personal and professional development.” ~ Brian Tracy
No matter how you look at it, adopting a growth mindset and committing yourself to learning is a positive and necessary step in boosting your career potential and adding value to your organization. Of course, it can be easy to be complacent about developing yourself when time is already a challenge, but don’t let complacency or ambivalence get the best of you. Instead, make a plan, set aside time to invest in your professional growth and do it. You will be happier for it.
Follow these six successful strategies to take charge of your professional development.
1. Continue Your Education
There can be nothing more satisfying than learning. Many colleges and universities offer an array of classes that may be of interest to you and great for your career. Fortunately, too, many schools offer virtual classes and other flexible options to work with your busy schedule. Challenge yourself by enrolling in a program that will enable you to reach new career heights and flex your leadership muscle. Be sure to speak with your manager or boss about your interest in continuing your education. Often, your company will help with tuition cost.
2. Develop Your Interpersonal Skills
Our technical skills are important to do our jobs, but it’s often our soft skills, our interpersonal skills, our people skills, that will determine how successful we are in our careers. People prefer to conduct business with individuals who are kind, empathetic, trustworthy, confident, and a host of other attractive character traits. When you invest in your interpersonal skills, you value yourself, and there is no better gift. There are many online soft skills seminars and workshops. Additionally, many professional organizations offer special programs that focus on people skills. You might even consider talking with your leader and asking if he or she would consider hosting a soft skill program for your team, like a lunch and learn. Chances are whatever the topic, it will likely be one for which all can benefit.
3. Read a Professional Development Book
You can gain a lot of learning and growth by reading, and there are countless books on every imaginable business subject to whet your professional growth appetite. There are classics like, “Who moved my Cheese,” by Spencer Johnson, M.D., or Steven Covey’s, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” or “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” by Dale Carnegie. Of course, there are numerous other informative and helpful books lining library and bookstore shelves. Take time to peruse the shelves and pick a book that appeals to you. Read it and soak in the knowledge. Share bits of it with coworkers and friends and then choose another book to read. You might also think about forming a “book club” at work where you can engage in stimulating conversations about the book’s content, concepts, and case studies. By taking the lead in this venture, you are already investing in professional growth – and displaying leadership!
4. Join a Professional Organization
Among the many benefits of joining a professional organization is the exposure you will have to learning and leadership opportunities. Many professional societies offer continuing education, conferences, and lectures along with other ways for learning. Involvement with a professional society also will afford you network opportunities with other colleagues in industry and practice as well as give you the chance to associate with senior members of your profession and learn from them. What’s more, joining a professional organization is critical to keep abreast of the latest knowledge, practices, and issues locally, regionally, and globally. Consider asking your manager or boss if he or she will pay for the membership cost to join a professional organization.
5. Seek a Mentor
When you are motivated and passionate about your job and want to grow in your career, seeking a mentor may be a good advancement tool. Mentors are typically accomplished leaders in their respective field, someone you look up to and want to mirror their leadership qualities. Mentoring is a serious commitment for the mentor and mentee; you’ll want to ensure you have the time and understand the work involved before you take any action. It may be helpful to have a conversation with your manager or boss and share your desire for a mentor. Present a plan including topics and timeline. Get his or her approval. When you receive buy-in, your boss shows his or her support and you, in turn, exhibit your commitment to develop yourself. Your boss may recommend a mentor, or you can suggest a mentor (Be sure you personally know the mentor and they know you.). Mentoring is an excellent way to enhance your leadership skills while learning from others.
6. Advocate for Yourself
It’s great when your boss chooses you to lead a project or special event. He or she is essentially saying they trust you and can count on you to do an excellent job. However, there’s nothing wrong with advocating for yourself when you see an opportunity that is right for you. Most of us work in competitive environments where many are looking to move forward. Volunteer to do more than is expected. Take the initiative to spearhead a project. When focusing on your needs, say a salary increase, for example, use relevant examples as to why you deserve a raise. Keep emotions out of the conversation and always communicate in an assertive, calm, controlled manner, and maintain respect.
About the Author: Nancy Schnoebelen Imbs is an empowering professional development consultant, dynamic motivational speaker and author. Highly dedicated and results-oriented, she has the skill and passion for helping individuals become more confident and successful in business and beyond. She and her company Polished help clients focus on key adjustments that result in meaningful impact and effectiveness.