Exercise every day. Make healthier food choices. Read more books.
A new year is synonymous with a fresh start. When making resolutions, however, we often focus on personal improvement to the exclusion of professional development. When we do think about professional goals, we tend to think about career milestones, like getting a promotion or landing a new job, rather than the professional development steps necessary to reach that milestone.
In 2021, resolve to make this the year you prioritize your professional development– and set yourself up for long-term success. From strengthening current skills to gaining new certifications, here’s how to get started:
Set SMART goals
One of the most popular professional development goals is to learn a new skill. But this is also a very open-ended goal. What skill will you learn? How will you determine you’ve successfully “learned” this skill? How will you demonstrate this knowledge to others?
The SMART goal-setting framework turns open-ended objectives – “learning a new skill” – into specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals. For example, to make “learning a new skill” into a SMART goal, you’d plan to pass an industry test certifying your knowledge of a specific topic relevant to your business by a particular date. The SMART framework helps you create an action plan, identify necessary resources, and set measurable milestones along the way.
Since SMART goals are time-bounded, there’s a set period for achieving them. This makes it easier to space out your professional development over the year. Set calendar reminders for a monthly or quarterly check-in to assess your progress.
Renew the right certifications
As roles and responsibilities evolve over our careers, we may need to adjust our professional certifications to better reflect our skill proficiencies.
Start by considering your current certifications. Do any require continuing education hours to stay current? If so, do you have a plan in place for renewing them? It’s also okay to let an old certification lapse if it is no longer relevant to your work. Completing a certification takes time, energy, and sometimes money. If those resources aren’t helping you reach your goals, it’s worth revisiting their value and adjusting.
Next, consider additional certifications that demonstrate your industry knowledge or expertise. Perhaps you’ve become an expert at Google Analytics or Agile Project Management through your daily work. Obtaining the official certification verifies this skill to your current company and prospective employers, and could help bolster your case for a raise or a promotion.
Take advantage of free resources
Many companies will reimburse employees for approved professional development expenses, like taking a skills course or obtaining an industry certification. If reimbursement options are limited, there are still plenty of free resources available online to support you. For example, we offer trusted advice from real recruiters on our Your Career Intel portal, and there are many other avenues to explore as well.
Free webinars are a great way to take a deep dive into a subject. Many companies put videos or recorded webinars on their websites or on YouTube, and a quick online search will take you right to the topics of your choice. They make for great lunch-and-learn sessions, too. Pull up a video or webinar in your area of development and enjoy a meal while you educate yourself.
Podcasts are another place to gain professional development skills. A directory like Podchaser allows you to search through podcasts and episodes with specific keywords, or you can filter by topics relevant to your interests. Since podcasts are a more passive activity, you can learn about a topic while going for a walk, folding the laundry, or doing dishes– it’s a very productive medium!
What’s something related to your professional development that you’re looking forward to in the new year? Tell us in the comments below.