Taking Charge of Your Professional Development

Posted by The Jacobson Group

The start of a new season is often a time for goal setting and reflection. In the post-pandemic reality, many individuals are focusing their goals on what brings them joy and fulfillment – both in their personal and professional lives. 

As you solidify your career aspirations, ensure you’re thinking strategically about how you’d like to grow and advance. If your current role is feeling more like a job than a career, now is an ideal time to rethink how you’re approaching your growth and remaining motivated. The following best practices can help focus your energy in the right areas and enable you to take charge of your professional development.

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Take ownership. 
Even if your organization offers training or other development opportunities in house, you are ultimately responsible for your professional trajectory. Consider your career a business and think of yourself as the CEO. In this position, it is up to you to create an executable strategy to effectively reach your goals. This means seeking out and understanding the tools and opportunities available to you, not just within your immediate role, but throughout the rest of your organization and externally. Leverage your network, seek out additional insight and educate yourself on the skills needed to get to the next level. Then, set realistic timeframes and expectations for meeting your goals.

Professional Development in 2023-02Commit to ongoing improvement. 
No matter where you are in your career, there will always be ways to learn and improve. Continually identify areas for growth and new skills to master in order to be prepared to take action when opportunities arise. Think comprehensively and be open to stepping outside your current role’s parameters to sharpen your skills in other areas that can have a long-term impact on your success – such as emotional intelligence or virtual leadership. As a bonus, bettering yourself as a professional often goes hand-in-hand with your personal development, positively impacting relationships and interactions in all areas of your life. 

Vocalize your aspirations.
Career advancement and professional development don’t typically happen by accident or coincidence. Even if you are excelling in your role, it’s unlikely you will be automatically approached with a promotion or new opportunity. Share your goals and interests with your manager and other trusted individuals within you organization. Initiate conversations around being considered for new projects, suggest areas where you might be an asset and seek out ways you can gain more exposure within your organization. Your career path does not need to be linear or traditional. In today’s evolving environment, you may identify new areas of opportunity and even recommend how your role could be adjusted or reimagined to better fill the organization’s needs. 

Professional Development in 2023-03Prioritize accountability.
It can be easy to set goals at the beginning of the year and then lose sight of them due to competing priorities. As a result, accountability is essential for following through on even the best laid plans. While your manager and other individuals on your team may be helpful in discussing your progress, ensure you also have a neutral third party invested in your growth, such as an external mentor. A trusted individual who is outside your organization can hold you accountable for your progress and provide unbiased insight, while serving as a sounding board for adjusting or reprioritizing your plans. 

Reframe your mindset. 
As you think strategically about your growth, consider if anything could derail your ability to meet your goals. Sometimes, what holds people back is their own fear of failure, and even fear of success. If this seems like a potential hurdle, focus on how you can make the greatest impact, rather than what’s at stake for you as an individual. This is also helpful if you’ve reached a plateau or need clarity around your next steps. Ask yourself questions such as, what can I do to be a better use in this organization? Or how can I have a greater impact in society? Shifting your focus can help alleviate your doubts and help you feel like you’re working toward a greater mission.

Professional Development in 2023 goals-04Be your own advocate.
In some cases, your current organization may not be able to provide the growth opportunities you desire. If you have been honest and vocal in your career conversations, improved your skills and taken all the right steps to advance, it may be time to consider moving on if there are no signs of results. Tough conversations may come into play at this point; however, a good manager and leadership team won’t try to hold you back or make you feel guilty for considering opportunities they know they can’t provide. 

By taking an intentional and proactive approach to professional development, you’ll be positioned to make strides in the future. Openly communicate, take ownership for your growth and don’t forget to celebrate your accomplishments along the way!