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Owning Your Professional Development

By Stephanie on July 6, 2015

Many new professionals possess passion, excitement and drive regarding their career. Some so much so that they enter their first professional position while simultaneously making plans about their next role. They might have elaborate ideas concerning the professional development they want to take place in order to qualify themselves for the ‘next step’, all at the company’s expense. The truth is, individuals with this mindset are often disappointed to learn their dream doesn’t manifest itself in reality. Their self-made expectations have been let down and they blame the company or their supervisor for their disillusionment and eventually leave their position for another with the same hopes as before. And the cycle continues…

It is time to stop the cycle. In order to do so, individuals must stop relying on companies for professional development and take ownership of their own professional development. Below are a few ideas of how to take your professional development into your own hands:

Attend organization meetings related to your career interests – A great way to network, learn, and grow is to attend meetings at local organizations related to your career interests. To find these types of professional development opportunities, simply search the internet using keywords that pertain to you. For example, if you are a woman in technology, search “organizations for women in technology” and see what results are populated. You might be surprised how many opportunities there are to be involved in your community in this way.

Find a mentor – Learning from your own successes and failures is a good lesson; learning from the successes and failures of someone older and wiser than you is a great lesson. To find a mentor, first look to individuals in jobs you would like to have in the future; connect with these folks – ask them about their career paths and for advice regarding your career. Talking with some of these individuals may be easier than with others – take advantage of the relationships that build naturally and continue to invest in them. Over time, you’ll build a mentor-mentee relationship organically and have someone you can look to as a professional resource.

Volunteer your time – Getting involved in your community has multiple benefits. First, you are helping others in need and that’s a great thing to do. Second, you are able to build your character by giving your time and energy to a good cause. Third, you are able to put this involvement on your resume to diversify your experience. Fourth, you are able to connect with others who share similar passions and values and these connections could lead to job opportunities in the future. 

Network – It’s been said that it’s not just WHAT you know that matters, but also WHO you know. Each day presents opportunities to meet new people. Challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone and introduce yourself to others. Be friendly, genuine, and intentional during these conversations. Remember the names of those you meet and continue to say hello when you see them again in the future. Over time, a relationship will build and with each relationship, you’ll have one more person who might be able to help you in your career in the future.

Stay current – In order to stay competitive in your career, you must take time to read publications (news articles, blogs, books, etc.) and learn new tools related to your field. Keep your knowledge base current by signing up for webinars, reading related materials, and attending conferences.

Invest your own money – It’s great to have an employer pay for your professional development, but not always realistic. If you find a workshop or conference that would be valuable for your career goals, be willing to invest from your own funds to attend. View these types of professional development opportunities as continued education - just as a realtors, accountants and lawyers are required to continue their education to keep their licensure current, you should require yourself to continue your education in some fashion, no matter who foots the bill. There is no disadvantage to broadening your knowledge and improving your skillset.

Professional development plays an important part in your career, which is why it’s important to take it into your own hands. By following the recommendations above, continued professional growth is a guarantee.

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