20 Professional Development Topics That Can Help You at Work

Updated March 28, 2023

A successful career requires ongoing professional development. Employees who go through professional development training can impress management by showing a commitment to their role and loyalty to the organization. Professional development can also help you feel confident in your abilities and the value you provide to the workplace.

In this article, we describe what professional development is and provide some topics that you may find covered in conferences and training sessions that'll help you grow in your career.

What is professional development?

Professional development is the process of improving skills and gaining knowledge that will help you continue to find success in your role and even develop the marketable skills you may need to get a promotion or change positions. Professional development should be something you actively do throughout your career so you can stay up to date in your field. Professional development can include training courses, degree programs, certifications or even connecting with a mentor who can help guide you in your career.

Related: How To Write a Professional Development Plan in 5 Steps

20 professional development topics

Whether you're a manager who is helping your employees grow in their profession or an employee who wants to continue developing their craft, these 20 professional development topics can guide you:

1. Workplace conflict management and resolution

Conflicts in the workplace are a normal occurrence and not necessarily a negative thing. It's important for leaders and employees to know how to handle conflict so it doesn't profoundly affect business operations or the relationship that exists between members of the team. Conflict management involves understanding another person's point of view and coming up with mutually beneficial solutions to a problem.

Read more: 4 Levels of Conflict and Tips for Managing Them at Work

2. Critical thinking

Critical thinking involves finding solutions to complicated problems. To think critically, you must understand the issue, consider all perspectives from those involved and arrive at a conclusion on the best way to move forward.

3. Delivering performance appraisals

If you're in a management position, then part of your job may include completing performance appraisals. A great way to develop in your professional career is to have a more solid understanding of how to deliver these appraisals to employees in a way that lets them know you value their work and want to help them continue to succeed while also addressing any areas for improvement.

4. Time management tips

When you can manage your time, you'll naturally be more productive and experience less stress at your job. If every member of the team also has great time management skills, then projects are completed on time and there may be more time to attend conferences and other training sessions. Time management also has a direct impact on your work/life balance.

5. Establishing a mentor

Mentors can be an invaluable part of your career progression. Mentors serve to guide you, provide encouragement and connect you with professional contacts. As part of your professional development, you'll find someone in your industry who you feel comfortable with and who has been on a similar career path to yours. You'll be able to establish a long-term relationship with this individual so you have someone to turn to throughout your career.

6. Mastering change in the workplace

Nearly every organization goes through change, but a successful implementation largely depends on all employees and managers. If you're a leader, you may benefit from learning more about how to communicate changes to your team so you can prepare for it as a group. As an employee, you may want to know how you can create important change or welcome change.

7. Persuasive storytelling

If you are in a sales role or any other position where you must get someone else to perform an action, then persuasive storytelling is a viable skill. It involves being able to naturally connect with your audience so they feel a connection to you and your purpose. Persuasive storytelling means you are able to show empathy for others and communicate your position in a way that allows your audience to envision themselves in the situation you're presenting.

8. Finding comfort in public speaking

Public speaking makes many people nervous, but if you spend some time focusing on this as part of your professional development, you can gain the confidence you need to speak in front of others, whether you're presenting on a topic at a conference or pitching a promotion in front of a leadership team.

9. Enhancing the customer experience

If you hold a customer service role, then developing your customer service skills will make a major impact on your company and the people you serve. To enhance the customer experience, you must be patient, understanding, empathetic, adaptable and level-headed. Professional development in customer service can provide you with the tools to deal with difficult customers or ways you can help turn a customer's negative experience into a positive one.

Related: 11 Best Practices in Customer Experience

10. Performance management

As a manager, you may want to learn more about performance management for your employees. This skill involves evaluating members of your team, understanding their skills and experience and putting them in positions where they are fully utilized. Performance management can also mean addressing any performance problems, coming up with an improvement plan and discussing negative behavior.

11. Setting goals

One of the most important things you can do for your professional development is set goals for yourself. Your goals give you a path and a purpose in your career. Your department may have goals for the team and your company can have overarching goals that drive business decisions and strategy. Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based to give you the most chance of success.

Read more: How Do You Set SMART Goals? Definition and Examples

12. Harassment awareness and prevention

Taking a professional development course on harassment awareness and prevention can help you contribute to a positive environment where all employees feel safe. If you're a manager or human resources representative, you may learn how to confront instances of harassment in the workplace.

13. Communication skills

Professional success depends on how well you're able to communicate with others in the workplace. As part of your professional development, explore ways to improve your communication with peers, managers, vendors and customers. You can understand more about how to adapt your conversation based on someone's attitude and how to communicate using various methods, like in-person, through email or on the phone. Communication skills also involve knowing about body language, both how to interpret it and how to be mindful of your own.

14. Celebrating diversity and practicing inclusion

Part of your professional development can also include celebrating diversity. Diversity is a benefit to many businesses and inclusion helps those at an organization feel like they are just as valued as their peers.

Related: How To Increase Workplace Diversity: 9 Steps

15. Influencing others

Whether you're in a leadership role or an employee, you have the ability to influence those around you. It's important to understand the power you hold as an influencer at work and how you can make a lasting impact in the workplace.

16. Giving effective presentations

At some point in your career, you may need to deliver a presentation. Being able to give an effective presentation that makes people think or inspires individuals to act is a commodity that can make a big difference in your career. As part of your professional development, you can learn more about how to plan a presentation and deliver something to your audience that is memorable.

17. Using creativity to solve problems

You will likely be in situations where you need to solve a problem. Having the skills to do so is valuable in any workplace, but when you can also come up with creative solutions, you can solve even the most complex of problems. Your problem-solving skills affect those you work with and any customers or clients you may have.

18. Management training

If you have goals to eventually work in a management role, then part of your professional development could focus on how to prepare for the opportunity. You could take courses to learn more about management styles and what people expect from their leadership team.

19. Delivering constructive feedback

Being able to deliver and receive constructive feedback is a crucial part of any employee's job, no matter where they are in a company's hierarchy. Managers may provide feedback on your performance, or you may have to deliver constructive criticism to a coworker during a peer review. As part of your professional development, consider learning more about how you can give clear feedback respectfully and how you can graciously listen to others as they provide feedback to you.

20. Becoming a valuable team member

Being a valuable employee is important in the workplace because when you're a valuable team member, you work well with others, think creatively, encourage others, feel motivated and increase productivity. Professional development that focuses on how you can be team-oriented works well for small and large groups, management teams and even an entire workforce.

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