Professional Development Tips for Career Advancement
There are quite a few things about the modern workplace that are different from the way things used to be. For example, when was the last time you had to use a floppy disk?
But while technology has certainly changed, and even the office environment and schedule have shifted in recent years, there are several things about our work lives that remain the same. And one of those is the challenge of advancing your career, or answering the age-old question, “where do you see yourself in five years?”
Whether you’re in sales or marketing, accounting, analytics, or any field you can imagine, everyone wants to see their hard work rewarded with opportunities for career development and career growth. From small businesses to Fortune 500 companies, employees are eager to learn new skills, expand beyond their current roles, and achieve milestones in their personal development and professional growth.
We spoke to a number of our contributors and partners with specialization in human resources, professional growth, career planning, and training and development, and asked them for their best career advice and professional development tips that they could offer to both entry-level employees and mid-career professionals, too. We’ve compiled some of their best advice here, but rest assured that they have much more to say about development plans, and making the most of your professional life.
Professional Development Tips and Career Advice for Newer Professionals
Questions about career development often come from employees who are just getting started in their careers, and with good reason. The sky’s the limit, and they want to understand the best way to take advantage of learning opportunities, develop leadership skills, and make the most of their professional life. Our panel of experts and UpCity partners had many tips that are helpful for early career professionals, including people who are just getting started on their career path.
“My top tips for entry-level small-business employees are to be patient and persistent with the process, surround yourself with talented people, and find a mentor you trust to assist in your journey. It’s important to be patient and persistent because honing your craft doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, I believe honing your craft never really stops; it’s a lifelong journey. So you must be patient with yourself and allow for whatever time is required.” – Allison Gappa, Founder and CEO at ALLYEXIA
Patience is a virtue, and nowhere is that more true than in terms of your career development. But patience does not mean that you need to stifle your eagerness to learn and grow. On the contrary, being patient with yourself and the process creates time and opportunities to continue learning while performing well in your current role.
“If the opportunity arises where your company is looking for someone with a specific skill set that is aligned with your career goals, step forward and ask to be cross-trained to handle the new tasks. It can be a great way to learn new skills in your field, and it reduces a company’s need to hire specialized positions, too. Cross-training can increase collaboration and motivation, and even reduce the risk of losing a resource that manages one specific area of the business.” – Colton De Vos, Marketing and Communications Specialist at Resolute Technology Solutions
Education and training came up time and again for our experts, and it represents one of the best pieces of advice anyone can get when it comes to advancing your career. Being open to learning and new opportunities is one of the best ways to make your career goals achievable, and can even help accelerate your timeline.
“Without a doubt, internal and external training is the number one way to continuously grow within not only your job position but toward future career advancement, too. Online courses have seen a huge surge since the pandemic and will continue to grow as people look for ways to add new or customized skills to their resumes. Learning and training also help you by helping you adapt well to change and be prepared for anything that may come your way.” – Tarlia Smedley, Head of Recruitment Marketing at Pulse Recruitment
“Be adaptable! And learn adaptable skills like writing and public speaking. These skills apply to virtually every job, which expands your options and makes you capable of many different types of jobs and not just one singular niche job.” – Piper Loehrke, Culture Specialist at Online Optimism
While it might sound like something you’ve heard a thousand times or more, advice about networking and connections is also still a top tip for professionals who want to grow in their roles and organizations. Your professional network can be every bit as valuable as your connections and will have untold amounts of advice that apply directly to your industry, job, and even day-to-day tasks. Plus, your network can give you insight into what other jobs and positions require, and what they are like.
“Building a network of professionals will help you understand the big picture of your industry. The connections that you make can provide you their insights on what worked for them and what didn’t. Linkedin is an incredible networking resource for people at all stages of their careers.” – Ezra Weeks, Manager of Recruitment and Business Development at Recruitment Canada
Another important tip is to channel your enthusiasm and excitement into making the most of your current job. This may take different paths for different people, but getting involved in projects is one of the best ways to advance your career. You’re not only learning about the company and about projects that may help you grow, you’re doing it as a part of your current role.
“The best way to hone your craft is to practice. Ask your boss or team leaders if there are internal projects that you can work on that may be more controlled. This way you can work through problems and find solutions. If you can show that you can generate results or use past experience for future success, this goes a long way and will impress your superiors. Everyone can tell a story or explain how to do something, but putting it into practice is a whole different story.” – Robb Fahrion, Partner at Flying V Group
Speaking of practice, if your field is something you truly enjoy, then it does become a bigger part of your life. And that kind of energy can be very visible to your colleagues, your current employer, and even new jobs.
“Live it. Living and learning your craft daily is going to help get you where you need to be in your career. This mentality positions you to eventually be a subject matter expert in your company/industry. It also makes you invaluable.” – Jared Carrizales, Chief Marketing Officer at Pazona MD
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Career Growth Advice for Mid-Career Professionals
Several of our panelists had advice for mid-career professionals as well. After anyone has been doing a job well for several years, it can start to feel like you are “stuck” at a certain level or in a certain role. But there are numerous ways to jump-start your career progression and take your career to the next level.
“Be more involved in the day-to-day activities, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Many mid-level employees feel like they will look bad if they ask a question; they think they should have all the answers. But the truth is, you’ll never learn if you are afraid to ask questions. And don’t be afraid to start with or move to a smaller company. With a smaller company, you are less likely to have to silo or specialize. You get to wear different hats and learn more about the business.” – Kelly Hamburg, Principal, and Owner at Hamburg Solutions
Much the same way that one of our experts recommended training above for newer employees, that advice is just as important for mid-career professionals.
“Cross-training is not just for entry-level positions. Mid-senior-level employees can gain a whole range of new skills by working with other parts of the business, combining their current skills with new ones. With a more refined understanding of how the company operates based on experience, mid-senior level employees can also make recommendations to management on potential changes that can drive efficiencies and other benefits.” – Colton De Vos, Marketing and Communications Specialist at Resolute Technology Solutions
One of the best pieces of advice, not just for your career but for life in general, is to keep on learning. Pursuing new interests, skills, and subjects is not only enjoyable in the short term, but helps you expand your knowledge base and find new ways to contribute in your current role or in a new role.
“My top tip for mid-senior-level employees looking to gain new skills and learn new things that will be valuable to their careers is to go down rabbit holes. Invest in yourself, read a lot of books, check out podcasts on your industry or field – It’s important to go down rabbit holes when living a life of continual learning because rabbit holes are bursting with interest and curiosity.” – Allison Gappa, Founder & CEO of ALLYEXIA
Start on Your Career Development Action Plan
Step out of your comfort zone, avoid lateral moves, and more. The list of quick-hit career tips that we all receive could go on and on. But our panelists here have tried to move beyond tweet-length advice and provide some real insight as to how you can begin planning and preparing for career advancement. No matter your field or industry, you have certainly put in a lot of time and effort, and want to see new opportunities present themselves to you. And as far as great career development advice goes, this article is just the start. Our group of panelists is just a small sampling of the HR firms that we can connect you with to point you down the path of professional growth.