18/04/2024

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Level Up Your Career With These 7 Professional Development Tips

Level Up Your Career With These 7 Professional Development Tips

New year, new me!

With the fiscal year starting and the review cycle coming up, this should be your go-to motto. You definitely want to show your managers, team, mentors, and peers that you leveled up over the last 12 months to become the best version of yourself.

After another 365 days around the sun, you’ve not only gotten older, but so much wiser! I made my entry into the corporate world about a year back. Throughout the year, I have worked with folks around the world. Starting the corporate journey with only a few months of work experience wasn’t the easiest, but with the right mindset, goals, and people, it began to progress smoothly.

The key to my success was professional development. The 2022 LinkedIn Global Talent Trends Report found that employees believe professional development is the number one way to improve company culture.

I myself have seen growth in my personal and professional life, and I want to be able to document and share it with all of you so that you can use it and better your position at your organization. I have made an internal impact on my coworkers with my professional development work. The appreciation and recognition I get from my team confirms my sentiments.

Organizations with a strong learning culture are 92% more likely to develop novel products and processes. They are 52% more productive, 56% more likely to be the first to market their products and services, and 17% more profitable than their peers. Their engagement and retention rates are also 30–50% higher.

Source: Deloitte

1. Establish your goals

Professional development can be considered anything that makes you more efficient and skilled at your current role and more prepared for your future career. It’s an area where you focus on bettering yourself, whether it is a technical skill like learning generative AI or a non-technical skill such as achieving clearer interpersonal communication. 

To be able to identify what your goal for professional development is, try answering these questions:

  • What are my current roles and responsibilities?
  • What do I enjoy doing? What do I avoid doing?
  • Where do I want to see myself in the next few months and years? This could be a level of proficiency concerning a certain skill set, a job title, or even a different organization.
  • What motivates me? What is my driving factor?

Answering the above questions might not be the easiest, and it’s okay not to have answers right away. I follow what I call the 4R Model: read, record, review, and reflect. This helps me find answers and directions for my starting points and potential destinations. I may not know what my journey is going to look like, but knowing what I’m trying to achieve will get me there.

2. Use your resources

My broad strokes goal when I started my professional development journey was to be a better version of myself each day. Tomorrow’s Yukta should be better than today’s or yesterday’s Yukta. 

I read and consumed a lot in the beginning. When I say reading, I  don’t just mean books. I mean seeking knowledge and ideas in all areas. This can be done by listening to podcasts, watching videos, observing the outside world, and having engaging and interesting conversations with friends, family, and colleagues. 

In your explorations, digitally capture the ideas and projects that interest you. Once you’ve collected what you want to focus on, organize everything based on actionability and feasibility. Make a point to see if these new ideas tie to your personal and professional goals and if they align with the interests of your team, organization, and leadership.

For example, I learned that I liked project management, and I wanted to explore that to a level where I could be confident about it. I decided to apply that in my professional day-to-day work to contribute to my team. I started reading about project management and its principles. I don’t want to jump into certifications and courses directly. It requires a lot of commitment, investment of time, and money. Before I do that, I’d love to see what other people my age and my set of skills and experience are doing in the project management space. 

3. Seek out a mentor

I recommend having a mentor, and this is regardless of where you are in your professional life. When I joined G2, I looked for someone within my team to help mentor me. They should ideally be someone senior you can turn to for guidance or someone whose journey looks like the one you daydream about for yourself. 

My suggestion to most of my peers or friends is to have two mentors: one within your team and one external. This helps give you a broader point of view and less bias when it comes to input and feedback. 

I found my mentor by simply asking as candidly as possible. When I  reached out, I remembered to keep my communications brief, while still expressing who I was. I also told them why I was interested in their mentorship, how I thought they could guide me, and which areas I needed to improve. 

To capture their attention, I mentioned their work – an article, a podcast, a blog post  – and I told them how it resonated with me. That set common ground for our communication.

4. Grow your professional network

Communicating, networking, and growing your professional network is a must. There are so many people outside of our circle of friends, family, and workspaces who are doing what you want to be doing in your career. 

My go-to forum for connecting with like-minded people has been through LinkedIn and communities on Slack. I have also gotten opportunities to explore and attend in-person sessions with these communities. These get-togethers are intentionally interactive to give you a perspective of everything available to you in your professional life and how to take advantage of your current situation. 

Apart from networking with people from your industry, don’t forget to attend sessions and talk to experts outside of your personal comfort zone and professional work zone. 

5. Communicate your needs

Communication in the area of professional development means maintaining and facilitating reciprocal communication with your manager, peers, team, and all relevant stakeholders. 

I have improved my communication and learning skills from peers, books, podcasts, and courses. I’d like to shout out this new LinkedIn course I completed on communication essentials. I was surprised upon completion that this course has teachings I can use in my professional and personal life.

Having fostered a healthy relationship with my manager here at G2, I can talk about anything freely without hesitation. We share a judgment-free zone. 

I am a big-time planner and checklist person. Usually, before our 1:1s, I love to offer an agenda or mention discussion topics. This helps us address key points effectively since we’re prepared beforehand. This is a practice that I follow across my communication in the corporate world. 

A few things that I usually end up talking about are our progress updates, new areas of work to explore, personal and professional wins, and any piece of content that I find intriguing. One thing that I have also learned is that your agenda shouldn’t be too long. It’s okay to be quick as long as everyone has time to contribute. 

6. Be open to feedback

Feedback has played a very important role in shaping me. I think it’s best to seek feedback proactively from your colleagues. I usually schedule some time quarterly or semi-annually to reach out to my manager and people from teams I work closely with. This helps me get an unbiased idea of areas I need to focus on and tasks that perform well. 

I consider feedback processes as a personal SWOT analysis. Again, feedback is not a one-way thing. My team here at G2 has always encouraged me to share any comments or pieces of constructive criticism. 

Recognize and share feedback for improvement, reach out to your colleagues, thank them for guiding you, and make it easy for them to work and collaborate with you. 

7. Further your education

Professional development never truly stops.

Employee development statistics show a high demand for growth, upskilling, and continued training. Employees are more engaged at organizations that prioritize career development, a powerful tool for recruitment and retention.

Professional upskilling and development have a positive impact on your personal life and growth as well. Employees who want training, coaching, and mentoring are usually high performers and highly engaged. These employees desire new skills and want to be more valuable and versatile. Don’t you want to be associated with these adjectives? 

Keep leveling up

As we celebrate the start of a year marked by personal and professional growth, let’s carry forward the need for continuous development. Remember, the journey to becoming the best version of yourself is ongoing, and professional development is the compass that guides us through the ever-evolving corporate world.

Whether it’s acquiring new skills, fostering a culture of learning within your team, or seeking mentorship, the commitment to growth pays off in individual satisfaction and organizational success.

Are you a company looking to invest more in the training and development of your staff? Start by collaborating with them to create an employee success plan.