If you are a non-supervisory employee or in any individual contributor role, you can get ahead in your career through various channels. One proven way to help you advance is through professional development. When you develop new knowledge and skills, especially in a variety of business areas, you increase your professional value by demonstrating that you can add more to your team and organization, and that you’re committed to excellence. Professional growth also helps increase self-confidence, credibility, self-esteem, focus and other essential professional traits.

What is Professional Development?

Professional development is building knowledge, skills and experience that help to make us better equipped to achieve success as a business professional. In a more direct way, it can also refer to earning or maintaining professional credentials, academic degrees, attending conferences and more. To ensure effectiveness, professional development should be intensive and focused, and preferably include some type of evaluation as to its success. There are various stages of professional development, including acquiring new knowledge, observing models and examples, reflecting on how you practice a particular knowledge or skill, changing that practice as needed for improvement, and increasing and sharing your expertise—for example, in collaborations with other professionals.

Why is Professional Development So Important?

Professional development is crucial to success and advancement in business because it’s the only way we can take on and successfully manage new and more complicated challenges in business. When we achieve professional growth, we are also positioning ourselves for career growth since we can now add more value to our job duties. As we keep this development ongoing, we compound its overall impact throughout our career. The more one grows professionally, the more readily one stands out to their managers or other leaders.

Areas of Professional Growth

There are many areas of professional growth to consider, and to have an impact on performance and career advancement, they should cover multiple business disciplines, including those listed below. As each area is developed, it can strengthen and support other areas and increase one’s flexibility, resilience, versatility, adaptability and more.

Interpersonal Skills

The ability to collaborate and achieve success as a professional is strongly connected with interpersonal skills—how we relate to others, assimilate in different environments, resolve conflict and establish good working relationships. One who is highly skilled in other areas but lacking in interpersonal skills faces ongoing challenges and obstacles to achieving their goals.

Interpersonal skills are an incredibly important soft skill to develop, especially as you progress your way into management. Learn how you can start to sharpen your interpersonal skills today.

Communication Skills

Progress toward a goal in business cannot occur without effective communications. The steps that move any endeavor forward involve ongoing verbal and written communications, and they must be effective and professional in order to achieve success.

Communication skills will take you far in your career. Learn how you can fine-tune your communication skills today.

Time Management Skills

Having the best skills and the strongest motivation to apply them is ultimately ineffectual without good time management skills. Being able to plan and achieve goals step-by-step in a specified timeframe is vital for staying on target, on budget and maintaining effective work relationships.

Time management may feel difficult to implement at first but with the right tips and training, you can feel efficient with your time.

Project Management Skills

Many projects in business involve a complex and interconnected sequences of steps in order to reach completion. Since these steps frequently impact multiple individuals performing different but interrelated tasks, an effective planning structure must be established from the beginning, with milestones and follow-up checkpoints to ensure the project is on track. Apply proven project management skills to ensure success.

Project management skills give you the ability to not only drive projects to success but allow you to work with a variety of stakeholders and teams. That experience can benefit you on your career advancement.

Soft Skills Development

So-called “soft skills” generally relate to personality traits or characteristics of an individual that are important to job effectiveness and advancement, but that are not necessarily measurable. Even if one doesn’t innately possess these types of traits, they can be taught and learned.

Self Awareness

Without an awareness of how we are coming across to people, or a realistic sense of what we can and cannot do, we may be prone to self-deception and therefore less likely to correct flaws or build on hidden strengths. This trait can be developed by applying the right reinforcement or corrective feedback, or other eye-opening insights.

Emotional Intelligence

The emotionally intelligent professional is able to control their own emotions and be sensitive to the emotions of others. This makes it more possible to manage emotions and emotional responses to stresses, and to therefore build, strengthen and maintain relationships.

Strategic Thinking

This type of thinking helps us plan and execute more realistically, and keep in mind potential challenges, obstacles and changing circumstances. It is every bit as important in career planning as it is for businesses when they are planning their strategic goals.

Creating a Professional Development Plan

The best way to achieve goals is to start with a plan, and achieving the professional growth that one envisions for greater success starts with a professional development plan. Like any other plan, it should include specific ideas, action steps, milestones and timelines. In addition, the plan should be used to track progress, measure and recognize any successes achieved.

Professional Development Courses

Get started on developing an individual professional development plan by exploring the wide variety of courses AMA offers that can enhance multiple areas of professional development and growth—from adapting to change and improving productivity, to assertiveness, expanding your influence, stepping up to management, leadership and much more.

AMA OnDemand Training is a comprehensive collection of courses that address critical skills all professionals need in business, management and leadership. Learn on demand 24/7 with self-paced convenience and high-quality, compact lessons.