How To Start Your Professional Development

by Marianne Stenger
Posted: May 18, 2016

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Your professional development is essential if you want to continue advancing in your career, but it can often be difficult to know where and how to start your professional journey.

That first step is always the hardest, though, so the best thing to do if you’re unsure is to simply do something – anything. Whether you start by making a list of skills you’d like to improve in, identify potentially valuable experiences or connect with likeminded individuals; pushing past the initial hesitation will help the whole thing feel less overwhelming. 

So are you ready to get started? Here are three vital first steps you can take to get your professional development off the ground. 

1.    Talk to the right people

How to start your professional development

Professional development is something you must be willing to take responsibility for, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get some help along the way. 

Think about some of the people in your life whose skills you’d like to emulate and find out whether they’d be willing to share some advice, answer your questions or even let you shadow them for a couple of hours a week. Perhaps there is a colleague you admire or a manager who inspires you? Or maybe you have a friend or relative who is currently working in a field you’d like to learn more about? 

Your employer may also be willing to support your professional development if you can demonstrate that it will benefit the company, so don’t be afraid to bring up this possibility with your boss, manager or human resource department. 

2.    Identify what you can do yourself

Reading industry publications - professional journey

When you’re just starting out, it’s important to identify some of the things you’ll be able to tackle on your own so you won’t become too reliant on any one person for your professional development.

Some of the things you could do yourself in order to update your knowledge, keep your skills current or gain entirely new qualifications and experience include: 

•    Volunteer, intern or find an apprenticeship
•    Read relevant books, articles and journals
•    Enrol in an online or part-time course
•    Attend a workshop or conference
•    Join an online community

3.    Tackle your fear of change head on

Where to start you professional journey

Updating your skills and developing new ones will often require you to step outside of your comfort zone, but if change isn’t something you take to easily, it can help to view the initial discomfort as an inevitable and necessary part of the growing process of your professional journey. 

No one likes making mistakes or feeling like the least knowledgeable person in the room, but the quickest way to learn a new skill is to embrace the awkward moments rather than trying to avoid them. Adopting this so-called ‘growth mindset’ can help you deal with setbacks and makes you more likely to succeed, so don’t worry too much about being perfect and try to focus on the big picture instead. 

Want to learn more about how you can further your career through professional development? Be sure to check out our comprehensive Professional Development Guide for expert tips as well as the industry-specific skills you may want to focus on. 


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Marianne Stenger

Marianne Stenger

Marianne Stenger is a London-based freelance writer and journalist with extensive experience covering all things learning and development. She’s particularly interested in the psychology of learning and how technology is changing the way we learn. Her articles have been featured by the likes of ABC Education, The Huffington Post, Lifehacker, and Psych Central. Follow her on Twitter @MarianneStenger.

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