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Asked by Chris on December 7, 2015

As a young professional, I want to be growing and gaining experience, but I'm not sure what I should be focusing on most. Any thoughts on goals I should be setting for myself or things I should work toward in my personal development?!

Answered by Ashley, Hiring Expert at Textron Inc., on December 9, 2015

Great question! Professional development is not an easy task when trying to identifying goals and objectives, as well as your own development needs. I would suggest, first taking the time to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses. Knowing your development needs will be a good start in determining which areas you need to improve in. Once you have identified a weakness that you would like to progress, consider creating a development plan. As you create this plan, try to think of ways you can learn and improve in 3 methods – on-the-job experiences, learning from others, and training or courses. A majority of our most effective learning comes from on-the-job experience like projects or putting training into action while the rest comes from colleagues or training courses. Doing this will help you become more comfortable with your weakness while also allowing you to expand on your strengths.

Self-awareness is one of the ways you can identify your professional development needs, another route you can take is to consider is reaching out to your manager or mentor. Your manager or mentor could help you identify some areas of improvement you did not see and also help you set the necessary goals and steps needed to improve that specified area.

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Answered by Steve, Hiring Expert at Caterpillar Inc., on December 11, 2015

As a rule, you should always be focusing on your professional and personal development.  It is important to build your professional network and seek exposure for yourself.  This can be done in a number of ways, but one of the most effective ways is to seek out opportunities to participate on projects teams, particularly those that are not in your direct area of expertise.  It is also important to work to establish yourself as a leader on these project teams.  You do not have to be a formal position of leadership, but you should show a willingness to step up and take on tasks that others do not want to do and be a vocal presence in project meetings.
It is also helpful for you to understand your personal strengths and weaknesses.  There are a number of tools that can help you with this, such as Strengthfinders and DISC.  This will help you to fully take advantage of your strengths and begin to work on your areas for improvement.

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Answered by Bryan, Hiring Expert at IBM Corporation, on December 17, 2015

As an early professional, the world is your oyster! You have the opportunity to explore many paths and see where your interests lie. It is important to never settle and always strive to find a career and interests that you are passionate about. First and foremost, create a list of things that you are interested in; they do not need to be specific. After composing your list, think about possible careers that go along with each of those interests.
Second, while being self-sufficient in the workplace is important, it is also critical to have those around you that inspire you and can provide professional insight. As a young professional, your goal should be to find someone in the workplace that you consider a mentor. This person should be able to provide knowledge, support, and advice due to their experience.
Lastly, think of your long-term goals. Where would you ideally like to be in five, ten, even twenty years from now? It is important to not only know your short-term goals, but also set long-term goals for yourself as a professional. While these may be subject to change, having a general idea of where you see yourself in life professionally will help you to succeed.

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Answered by Rachel, Hiring Expert at ADP, on October 13, 2016

As a young professional myself, I have asked myself this question as well over the course of my first year in the corporate working world... so I get where you are coming from! From my experience, I found the best way to grow professionally was to start taking better advantage of opportunities right within my company.
First, one thing I love about working for ADP is the “open door policy” that employees have to network and learn from senior level employees and executives. Because of this culture, I felt comfortable enough to reach out to a senior level VP within Human Resources that wanted to learn from. I met with her in her office and I just picked her brain about what her team does and for advice on career growth and success. This was a very insightful and valuable experience that allowed me to network and to also learn more about my own company.
Another way to grow is to get involved internally with orgs/committees outside of your everyday role. I joined the iWin (Internal Women’s Inclusion Network) chapter of ADP and now I am leading the community service initiative that the entire NJ chapter will be participating in over the coming months! This has led me to meet so many women throughout ADP that I probably would have never interacted with otherwise.
All in all, I encourage you to network, learn about different areas of your company that may interest you, and get involved in initiatives outside of your day job. By stepping out of my comfort zone in these ways, I have grown my confidence and communication skills tremendously and you can too.
Good luck!

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