As a coach, I often work with clients who are needy for knowledge. They desire to grow professionally and often feel stuck in their current work environment. It is no secret that when an organization values developing their people, the benefits are numerous for both the employee and the organization.

The benefits often include lower turnover, increased engagement and a smarter workforce. Professional development can bring about these benefits in a powerful way. But strategic and intentional professional development goes beyond cookie-cutter training programs. It involves a deeper commitment to learning and equipping employees to thrive in their work.

If you and your workplace aren’t engaging in professional development programs, it may be time you need to. As an employee, you can be intentional about engaging in activities and processes that strategically give you the tools and experience to move forward and continue to add value to your organization. To help you continue along this path, here we share four essentials of professional development to empower you to achieve your goals.

1. Keep on Learning

Learning can take various shapes within an organization. It can be organic, formalized, personalized or on-demand. Whatever the shape, the approach to learning is the first essential of professional development. According to Dr. Brad Staats, associate professor of operations at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler School of Business, “today’s fast-paced, ever-changing, global economy requires us to never stop learning or we risk becoming irrelevant.”

As you grow in leadership, learning is an important practice and habit to keep up on. Whether through formal courses or a passion for curiosity, leaders should be learners. Grow in your professional development with an attitude to always keep on learning.

2. Take the Lead

The second essential of professional growth is to take the lead in your development. Don’t wait on your organization to offer growth opportunities. Take the initiative and seek out growth opportunities for yourself.

There are various resources available, and some are even free. These resources include:

  • Continuing education/certification programs from professional associations.
  • Higher education-based professional and graduate programs, such as those offered at Cornerstone
  • University’s Professional & Graduate Studies division.
  • LinkedIn’s
  • Free online courses, like Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).
  • Webinars, TED Talks, seminars and conferences.

With these resources and many others, you can explore areas of interest to you and continue on your path of professional development.

3. Find Your Style

The third essential of professional development is finding a style of learning that works for you.

Do you prefer a structured learning program and an in-person environment? Or do you want to work at your pace and complete learning via a virtual program? These are important questions to answer before you search for the right opportunity. Some virtual programs offer digital credentials, like a badge, that adds to your professional credibility and can meet your learning style.

Discover your learning style and cater to your professional development activities to meet those tendencies.

4. Create a Plan

Creating a professional development plan is the fourth essential of professional development. The plan will serve as a guide in setting your development goals, deadlines for completion and illustrating how the professional development fits into your overall career or professional brand. For example, if your work requires project management, or if you desire to become a project manager, then becoming a certified Project Manager Professional would be an excellent goal to pursue.

Your professional development plan should identify the areas in which you desire or need to grow and what methods will be used to attain these goals. How will you use the new knowledge you gain?

Whatever your plan, make sure you have enough interest to pursue additional learning in that area. Growing as a professional also means growth as a person. There needs to be an alignment between “who you are” and “what you do.” This is one path to finding satisfaction in our work. Professional development can offer more confidence and career opportunities.

No matter your position within your organization, you need to focus on growth. If you want to stay relevant and confident, then invest in professional development.

Enhance Professional Development With a Degree

One clear way you can continue to grow in your professional development practices is through continuing your education with a degree program. At Cornerstone University’s Professional & Graduate Studies division, you can gain practical and relevant knowledge, skills and experiences you can easily apply to your working environment. Take your next step in reaping the benefits of investing in your future and check out a program that meets who you are and where you want to be.

Learn more about our adult programs

Learn more about our graduate programs