A few years ago, I was asked to speak to a group of new college graduates about their career aspirations and goals. As I looked out into the audience, I could see the nervousness and excitement on their faces. I could also see the fear of the unknown.

I took a deep breath, looked out at the group, and said, “Close your eyes and think about what you want your career to look like in 10 years.” After a few seconds, I asked the group to open their eyes and said, “Now, how are you going to get there?”

I went on to explain that while there are many factors that contribute to career success, one of the most important is continuous learning and personal development. I encouraged the group to take their career into their own hands and set a plan for learning and development that would help them achieve their goals.

I often think back to that day and the advice I shared. While it may have been a little overwhelming for the group, I know it’s an important message for anyone looking to grow their career. Whether you’re a recent graduate or a seasoned professional, it’s important to take control of your career and your professional development.

1. Set goals for your professional development.

What do you want to learn, and how do you want to grow in your career? These are important questions to ask yourself when selecting professional development activities.

Set goals for your professional development. This will help you identify the skills you need to work on, and it will give you a clear vision of the types of activities you should pursue.

2. Identify your preferred learning style.

Our preferred learning style can help us identify the types of professional development that will be most impactful for us. There are three primary learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.

Visual learners prefer to see information in order to process and understand it. They do best with visual aids, such as slides, diagrams, and charts.

Auditory learners prefer to hear information in order to process and understand it. They do best with verbal instructions, discussions, and listening to themselves speak.

Kinesthetic learners prefer to experience information in order to process and understand it. They do best with hands-on activities, like group work, role-playing, and building models.

3. Ask for feedback from your manager.

Before you enroll in a professional development opportunity, it’s a good idea to get your manager’s input. They may have some specific suggestions based on your career goals and areas where you need to improve. Getting your manager involved in the decision-making process can also help you avoid any potential conflicts with your day-to-day responsibilities.

If you’re planning to take a course or attend a workshop, ask your manager if they have any experience with the program or instructor. They may be able to provide some insight into the quality of the content and how it may apply to your role at the company.

4. Research potential professional development activities.

Once you’ve identified your needs, you can start looking for professional development activities that will address them.

One of the best places to start is with your own organization. Many companies offer professional development opportunities to their employees, and you may be able to take advantage of programs and resources that are already in place.

If your organization doesn’t have a professional development program, or if you’re looking for something specific that isn’t offered, there are many other resources you can explore.

Online courses and webinars are a great way to learn new skills and gain knowledge without having to leave your home or office. Many of these courses are free or low-cost, and they cover a wide range of topics.

You can also look for professional associations and industry groups that offer professional development programs and resources. These organizations often provide training and certification programs, as well as conferences and events that you can attend.

Another great way to find professional development opportunities is to talk to your colleagues and other professionals in your field. Ask them about the activities and programs they’ve found most helpful, and get their recommendations.

Finally, take some time to research the professional development activities you’re considering. Find out as much as you can about the program, the instructors, and the organization that’s offering it. Look for reviews and feedback from other participants, and make sure the program is reputable and well-regarded.

5. Consider the potential return on investment.

Professional development activities, like any investment, should be evaluated based on their potential return.

In this case, the potential return is your ability to apply the skills and knowledge you gain to advance your career or positively impact your organization. The greater the potential return, the more valuable the professional development opportunity.

Similarly, the more you invest in your professional development, the greater the potential return. This is not to say that you should always choose the most expensive option, but you should be willing to invest in your growth and development.

The most valuable professional development activities are those that help you develop the skills and knowledge you need to achieve your goals, advance your career, and make a positive impact in your organization.

6. Don’t forget about soft skills.

The term “professional development” often brings to mind technical skills, like learning a new software program or mastering a new tool. But soft skills, like communication, teamwork, and problem solving, are just as important. And, in fact, they’re often what sets great leaders apart from the rest.

Soft skills are often less tangible and harder to measure, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find professional development activities to help you grow in these areas. Look for workshops, webinars, or conferences that focus on communication, emotional intelligence, or any other soft skill you want to develop. You can also find opportunities to grow your soft skills within your existing role by seeking feedback, taking on new projects, or finding a mentor.

7. Think about what you can bring back to your team.

It’s important to consider the impact that your professional development experience will have on your team. In addition to sharing your experience with your colleagues, you can also think about how you can apply what you’re learning to your team’s goals and objectives.

For example, if you’re learning about a new technology, you can think about how you can use that technology to improve your team’s performance. If you’re learning about a new leadership skill, you can think about how you can use that skill to motivate and inspire your team.

By thinking about how you can bring what you’re learning back to your team, you can make the most of your professional development experience and have a positive impact on your team’s success.

Conclusion

There are many ways to go from learning to leading, but it all starts with the individual. By taking the time to invest in yourself and your professional development, you can position yourself to become a leader in your organization and in your industry.

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