8 professional development strategies

Where are you at in your career now, and where would you like to be? Many people want to develop their careers but don’t have answers to the question, “What is professional development?” Broadly speaking, professional development means creating a plan for getting from where you are to where you want to be. With a strategy in place, you’re able to build the fulfilling career you deserve. But the beauty of fine-tuning your career is that it’s yours and yours alone, so you’re empowered to tailor a professional development definition that resonates with you. 

Your career trajectory is up to you, and it hinges on the professional development goals you set for yourself. Professional development is affected by a few key factors, but ultimately it comes down to your own determination to improve your skills and psychology as they relate to your job. If you’re truly committed to improving your professional life, it’s time to make a change. 

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What is professional development?

If you’re unhappy in your career, you already know that professional and personal contentment are closely related. If you’re discontent at work, it’s virtually impossible to be happy at home and vice versa. If you don’t improve both, you feel stuck in a downward cycle of negativity. Creating your own meaningful professional development definition requires a personal breakthrough regarding what’s important to you on and off the job. 

You deserve to live an extraordinary life, and professional development means building a career that meets your needs. Your breakthrough will help you create professional development goals to take your career to the next level. 


Setting professional development goals

Take charge of your professional development goals by following the eight steps below.

1. Set SMART professional development goals

Having a clear idea of where you are and where you want to go in your career is essential. If we don’t ask ourselves the right questions, how can we ever find the right answers? And without the right answers, we can never honestly assess our assets, challenges and roadblocks, all of which are critical pieces of information in moving our careers forward. 

The key to implementing the professional development definition you crafted is setting goals you can feasibly accomplish. To set yourself up for success growing your career, set SMART goals – outcomes that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and set in a time frame. You’ve heard the age-old question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”. To create professional development goals that will elevate your career, take this question one step further and ask yourself: Where do you see yourself in one year, five years and 10 years, and how old do you plan to be when it’s time to retire? What benchmarks will you use to measure success at the one, five and 10-year points? Are those benchmarks achievable and realistic? If not, tweak them so you’re not setting yourself up for failure. 

Once you have your long-term plan in mind, think of what it will take to get there. How can you set achievable, incremental goals that will lead to success down the road? Establish some short- and long-term goals that ultimately help you reach your true professional purpose.

professional development strategy

2. Create a plan for reaching your professional development goals

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Now that you’ve identified what it is you want from your career, it’s time to create a plan for reaching your professional development goals. Since you set SMART goals, creating an actionable plan is straightforward. Establish what tools you need to accomplish your goals and what metrics you’ll use to track your progress. What if you don’t know what tools you’ll need or how you’ll measure your progress? Try to break your professional development goals down into their simplest components: If you want to learn to speak Spanish, break that goal down into a step-by-step plan. Research local Spanish classes, enroll in a course most feasible for your schedule and complete the class.

As you make progress, remember to track your successes and hold yourself accountable. In our class example, you can measure success and hold yourself accountable by completing your homework, doing well on a test and finding ways to integrate your new language skills into everyday life. You can recalibrate your plan if certain aspects aren’t working for you along the way.

3. Find a mentor

Do you want to make major strides in your career? Sometimes the best way to grow is to find a mentor. Turn to someone whose career you admire who can give you objective advice. Don’t know anyone who would be a great mentor in real life? You can still research others whose success you can replicate. As Tony often says, “Success leaves clues.” To make an effective, meaningful professional development plan, study the career path of those who have already achieved massive success and mimic their actions.

How does shadowing a mentor play into your personalized professional development definition? A mentor who’s been where you are has found answers to the question, “What is professional development?”. It’s a matter of physics; engaging a mentor creates a soft counterforce to balance the sometimes rock-hard path of professional growth. The Institute of Physics reports that, in addition to cultivating new skills and an understanding of one’s career trajectory, engaging a mentor also provides a sense of stability, constructive feedback and an unbiased perspective on the mentee’s goals, strengths and challenges. Mentorship is a safe space for exploring one’s weaknesses and practicing new skills without fear of reproach.

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4. Look for professional development opportunities through your employer

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Oftentimes, employers offer added enrichment benefits like reimbursing employees for different classes or professional development training programs. Maybe you want to go back to school to receive your MBA, or perhaps you want to go through an immersive leadership training so more opportunities will be available for you in the future. Whether it’s finding ways to volunteer with your employer and expanding your horizons and résumé that way, or taking nighttime courses to learn a new language, make sure you’re not missing out on any beneficial courses.

5. Attend professional development events

There are many valuable professional development events out there the trick is finding the one that’s right for your needs. Choosing an immersive program that helps you shape your career trajectory and presents you with real-life situations is an effective way to sharpen your skill set. Many times, employers will reimburse you for these beneficial programs as well.

When identifying your professional development goals, the key is to understand what it is you really want. What do you consider the pinnacle of professional success? What are your financial goals, and how does your career path align with them? Understanding your business identity is an incredible way to start on your journey to greater success.

professional development strategies

6. Align your career with your nature

professional development strategies

True professional development is not synonymous with fitting yourself into a box. An authentic personal development definition aligns with your personality, interests, skills, and goals for the future. So like much of life, planning your career trajectory starts with getting to know yourself. What is your true nature? What do you really want in life, and what’s preventing you from having it? Consider taking a career personality test to find your professional niche, whether you are a natural artist, a leader or an entrepreneur. As you work out your professional development goals, make a separate list of personal growth goals. Taking a holistic approach allows you to leverage all your assets, personal and professional, to make your dreams a reality. 

7. Help others develop their skills

As ironic as it may sound when you yourself are a work in progress, helping others develop their career is one of the most powerful tools for developing your own. Mentoring others to build your own skillset since it forces you to be creative. As you help your mentees create their professional development goals, you hone your ability to think outside the box. You develop collaboration skills that are critical to success in any career. You might even discover a career path you didn’t know existed, opening up new opportunities for greater professional fulfillment.

Professional Development Strategies

8. Surround yourself with empowering people

Professional Development Strategies

When you’re building your career, the people around you have a make-or-break influence on your outlook. If you’re surrounded by negative, critical people, their perspective will taint yours, making your challenges more difficult and your successes harder to come by. Don’t fall into this trap. Empower yourself by choosing your company wisely. With the support of people who believe in you, reaching your professional development goals is infinitely more feasible.  

Professional development is crucial for business mastery

If you are a business owner or a manager charged with running a business, securing ongoing professional development is actually a pivotal part of running the business successfully. After all, operating a business is about far more than crunching numbers or learning to strategize around profits and losses. Given the stress of running a company, coupled with inevitable economic fluctuations and the certainty of unforeseen setbacks, it is crucial that those responsible for making business decisions are equipped with holistic career and business mastery skills.

To cultivate well-rounded business mastery skills, one must implement a well-designed professional development plan. It is this need for a business-relevant skill set and never-ending improvement that draws people to Business Mastery. This one-of-a-kind, five-day experience guides participants in creating a customized professional development plan, leading to exponential growth and learning, clarity on future goals and maximal business outcomes. As you consider these areas of growth for your business, consider how they apply to your own professional development. In doing so, you will emerge with the skills and insights necessary to take your career and business to the next level.

A rewarding career is within your reach. Discover the driving force behind your professional development goals to create the compelling future you deserve.

Achieve a greater sense of self-understanding

Take the DISC assessment. This powerful tool helps you better understand your personal strengths, which you can then sharpen to help you reach your business goals.