How To Develop Professionally (And Why It's Important)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published March 17, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Professional development offers people many channels to learn new workplace skills. Developing professionally can improve your job satisfaction and expand your business network. If you're interested in advancing your career, learning more about how to develop as a professional can increase your chances of new job opportunities.

In this article, we discuss what professional development is, why it's important and how to develop professionally.

What is professional development?

Professional development (PD) is a way for employees to improve their skills, knowledge and effectiveness at work. Many supervisors offer employees PD training after reviewing their performance and noting areas where they can improve. There are many types of PD employees can seek to expand their knowledge about a particular aspect of their work. They can take professional workshops, online courses, extra job assignments or do their research to learn more about a particular skill.

Related: What Is Professional Development? Definition and Examples

Why is professional development important?

Professional development is important because it provides employees with the chance to excel in their position. Pursuing a variety of PD opportunities keeps people updated on emerging industry trends and teaches them new abilities they can apply at work. In addition, professional development is something employees can add to their resumes when pursuing new jobs. It may also be beneficial when pursuing career advancement in their current positions.

How to develop professionally

Here are steps you can use when you're considering developing professionally:

1. Expand your network

Expanding your professional network is a great way to develop professionally. There are many benefits of networking, such as providing you with more career-based knowledge, improving communication skills, introducing you to other professionals that can help you professionally, providing potential career advancements and helping others.

You can begin networking by talking with colleagues and building those relationships. You can also network at professional conventions or workshops. Contacting people through business-related social media accounts can also introduce you to professionals in your industry all around the world.

Related: Networking for Introverts: 7 Tips for Making Better Connections

2. Look for ways to improve your transferable skills

Transferable skills are abilities you have that you can use in a variety of positions. You can use them whether you're advancing in your career or choosing to change career paths in the future. Here are a few transferable skills and ways you can improve them:

  • Leadership skills: If you're looking to advance in your career, leadership skills are important to have. You can consider asking your supervisor for more tasks and responsibilities or taking an online course to learn new strategies.

  • Building relationships: Building relationships is a skill you can use in almost any occupation, whether you're establishing them with colleagues or clients. Focus on having more casual conversations with colleagues you don't normally speak with frequently to become more comfortable with informal discussions.

  • Developing communication skills: A subtle way to improve your communication skills is by focusing on your body posture during your conversations with others. Some forms of body posture can suggest you’re alert, engaged and confident. If able, start by sitting with your arms unfolded in your lap to convey an open, friendly attitude. Sit with your back straight, shoulders back and chest and chin raised.

  • You can also talk to colleagues in person rather than emailing them to practice effectively conveying the purpose of your conversation.

Related: 12 Top Job Skills for Any Industry: Transferable Skills You Need

3. Find a mentor

A professional mentor is someone with experience in your industry that you can depend on to provide advice and techniques to help you improve your skills. They also offer motivation and support, help you develop career goals, introduce you to potential career contacts and provide feedback on your work performance. Depending on what stage of your career you're at, a few ways of finding a mentor include:

  • Talking with an adviser: If you're still in college, you can speak with your academic adviser regarding your professional goals and whether they have any mentoring suggestions.

  • Speaking with HR: Whether you're new to the industry or a new hire with years of experience, you can speak with someone from the HR department to determine if they can pair you with a colleague to mentor you.

  • Socializing with coworkers: If you enjoy speaking to other people, you can establish a relationship with colleagues and management. Once you feel comfortable, you can ask someone you think you could learn from whether they'd be interested in mentoring you.

Related: How To Make the Most of Your Mentor Relationship

4. Learn some new digital skills

As you progress in your field, it may be helpful to learn some technology-based skills you can add to your resume and use at work. Increasing your digital skills can keep you updated on technological advances and demonstrate your willingness to continue growing in your role. Some digital skills you can consider learning or improving include:

  • Computer literacy skills: You can research the latest updates for basic technological skills, such as using word processing systems and presentation software, how to effectively use search engines for research and learning new social media shortcuts and trends.

  • Website development skills: Website development skills can be useful if you're updating or creating a website or webpage. If you're interested in learning some website development skills, you can learn skills, such as basic coding languages, how to effectively use SEO strategies and how to debug computer software.

  • Project management skills: Project management skills can help a team finish their projects on budget and on time. Some skills that can help you develop professionally include project scheduling, financial modeling and performance tracking.

  • Digital marketing skills: Marketers use digital marketing to advertise campaigns over numerous digital channels, including websites, social media, blogs and more. Some digital marketing skills include data analysis, graphic design and SEO.

5. Learn new time management strategies

Time management skills are strategies professionals use to help them better manage their time. Time management skills can make it easier to finish work on time, improve productivity, decrease work-related stress and provide more time for recreational activities outside of work. Some methods to improve your time management skills include:

  • Use a planning tool: Planning tools such as planners, planning apps and wall charts provide a place for you to write all the tasks you want to accomplish each day. You can write the tasks for the following day at the end of each workday, so you know what to do when you get to work the following morning.

  • Minimize distractions: Distractions such as checking for emails, looking through social media and responding to text messages can decrease your productivity while working, so consider limiting the number of times you check emails each day. You can also turn the notifications off on your phone and only check it when you're on breaks.

  • Complete one task at a time: Rather than trying to do multiple tasks at once, focus on one task at a time. Consider giving all of your concentration to one task until it's completed to help you finish more tasks throughout the workday.

6. Set goals

One helpful way to develop professionally is to set SMART goals. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based and can help you define and achieve the goals you're working toward. If you're setting a long-term goal, you may want to create smaller short-term goals that can help you achieve your larger objective. Having smaller goals can help you develop a series of steps for you to complete so you can accomplish your main goal.

Related: SMART Goals: Definition and Examples

7. Read personal development books

Personal or professional development books are a great way to learn from others' work experiences. Some books teach you new skills, while others provide insight from professionals regarding career advancement. You can start by going to the library and borrowing a book that aligns with your professional goals. You may also want to read business articles or blog posts online that offer similar information.

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