5 Creative Ways to Reach Your Professional Development Goals


In a recent blog post, I discussed a common trait I find among most successful professionals: They are committed to continuous learning and development. As you contemplate your goals for 2017, I urge you to put professional development on your own to-do list as an “essential.”

And if you’re a manager, remember that training and development can be a prime way to retain your employees as well. In fact, nearly 90 percent of millennials rate “professional or career growth and development opportunities” as a key factor in their job satisfaction, according to Gallup.

While on-the-job learning is always a winner, it’s also important to look for other ways you can hone critical skills. Here are some tips for finding those learning opportunities this year, and a couple of takeaways for companies looking to increase their employees’ engagement by encouraging continuous education.

Find Learning Opportunities at Speaking Events

“All major cities and plenty of small towns have abundant opportunities to hear guest speakers who are experts on a number of topics. … Write down a couple of key takeaways that you can bring back to the office and use to strengthen your everyday routine. Or, use the message to brainstorm an outside the box solution for a problem you may be facing or to start a new initiative in the workplace.” — Read more at The Muse.

Up Your Worth With a Certification

“Maybe you could accomplish your goal with more education or training, but you’re not in a position to go back to school at this point. The answer just might be earning a certification in your field — or in a new field. Certification programs have proliferated enormously in the past several years. … Where we once could determine the competence of professionals and purveyors of services through word of mouth, our global and technologically advanced society needed new ways of recognizing competence. No matter what field you’re in, chances are there’s a certification for it.” — Read more at LiveCareer.

Become the Expert in Your Department By Reading, Reading, Reading

“One of the simplest things you can do to better recognize trends is read research reports or solution guides. Often, industry leaders perform original research and compile their findings in one large report, and by taking the time to actually read through it beyond the executive summary, you can almost always find something in it that’s valuable and relevant to what’s trending right now in your space. … A good alternative is making a point to read through top blogs and publications in your industry every day. A lot of the articles in those publications will probably reference data from the longer reports you don’t have time to read in full anyway, so you can still gather that info in a more conversational, easy-to-digest format.” — Read more at Inc.

Identify What Your Employees Need to Know — for Their Benefit and Yours

“Learning is a skill that requires practice, just like anything else. By learning something new, no matter what it is, your employees are practicing the skill of learning, which is invaluable. Plus, you never know how learning an unrelated skill can help down the road. As department leaders and managers, take an active role in partnering with your employees to figure out the skills they need to develop based on business goals. For example, one of our customers noticed that SEO traffic was down on a major product last year. The manager assigned an SEO course to the product manager responsible for that product. After watching the SEO course and implementing some of the best practices it highlighted, SEO traffic increased over 75%.” — Read more at Harvard Business Review.

Open Up Their World with MOOCs

“Talent development and HR professionals are poised to add great value to their organizations by implementing a framework for optimizing MOOCs [massive open online courses] as a tool for employee development. Kylie Kwan, senior consultant of people and change at PricewaterhouseCoopers, believes that MOOCs ‘have the potential to disrupt the traditional learning function of organizations.’ … Employees can build the skills most relevant to their professional development needs, and they can do it without taking the time (and incurring expense) to travel away from the office.” — Read more at Association for Talent Development.

I’d love to hear your plans for professional development. Share below what you hope to do — or what you’ve done in the past that helped your career skyrocket.

Lindsey Pollak is the leading voice on millennials in the workplace, trusted by global companies, universities, the world’s top media outlets — and, most importantly, by millennials themselves. A New York Times bestselling author, Lindsey began her career as a dorm RA in college and has been mentoring millennials — and explaining them to other generations — ever since. Her keynote speeches have audiences so engaged that, in the words of one attendee, “I didn’t check my phone once!” Contact Lindsey to discuss a speaking engagement for your organization.

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