career

How to Make Time for Professional Development

Making time for professional development can be a challenge, especially when we already balance work, volunteering, family time, and other activities. Learn to leverage what extra time you do have for professional development. It may just be the difference between where you are now and where your 5-year plan says you’ll be. 

Establish your goals

To make the most of professional development opportunities, it’s important to understand WHY you want to grow. Determine if you’re motivated by a career change, increased wages, or to boost your confidence. Clarifying your priorities will help provide a clear vision for your next steps.

Schedule time

Though professional development doesn’t necessarily need to be part of your daily routine, it does need to be on your calendar. You never know when you’ll be ready to look for a new job or start your own business. Put a few hours on your calendar every month, or look for networking events in advance so that you ensure you prioritize your future for when the right opportunity comes.

But nevertheless, establish a designated date, time, and place to make certain you follow through. 

Read regularly before bed

Despite reducing stress, improving cognitive performance, and increasing creativity, reading is an excellent opportunity for professional development. Books are an excellent medium to learn timeless professional principles and reading before bed will allow you to implement the most important takeaways before you enter your next workday.

Write regularly in the morning

A popular, but accurate, rule for this decade has been to create before you consume. Because we are bombarded with thousands of messages and notifications daily, creating before the noise enters allows you to generate new ideas and implement them.

Establishing this discipline first thing in the morning will allow you to enter a creative state before you consume any other information. It reinforces the information you glean throughout the week and can become a quick habit to capitalize on a new strength before the weight of your day is on you. 

Make podcasts apart of your routine

Even when life is busy, podcasts are a great way to access industry experts during your commute, time spent getting ready, or even during your exercise routine. Take some time every few weeks to research and subscribe to your favorite podcasts.

That way, as new episodes are released, you receive a notification directly instead of searching for episodes every time. The GaryVee Audio Experience, Marketing School, Tropical MBA, and Sales Gravy are some great ones to help you start.

Find a way to grow in your role at work

Sick of your job, but need a way to pay the bills? Take some ownership and see if it’s possible to grow in your role with different skill sets. Whether it’s creating processes for marketing efforts or event planning, there are ways to further your career while in your current position. Be vigilant for ways to expand and gain more responsibility.

Take an online course

Though we’d all love to go back to graduate school, realistically, student tuition continues to rise, and the value of a college education is sharply declining. Before you embark on an MBA program, look for established skills you can develop and find an online course or certificate program. Google, Udemy, Skillshare, and Coursera are excellent resources to consider. 

Find a community

Instead of attending networking event after event, choose an organization or recurring event to invest time in. Change your presuppositions about networking, and see it as a long term vehicle to foster mutually beneficial relationships instead of taking shortcuts to have a longer contact list.

Cast your net deep instead of wide by developing valuable connections you can trust. The Chamber of Commerce in your city, a BNI group, or a community like America’s Future Foundation is a great starting point. 

Ultimately, take time to refine your goals, choose one opportunity to further your professional education, and find a mentor or community to hold you accountable. Do these three things over time, and you’ll have a bright future ahead.

13 Professional Habits You Should Implement

Considering professionalism is an expectation that goes without saying in any career, it’s important to cultivate habits and disciplines that will set you up for success in the workplace.

Here are 13 professional habits you should be implementing now if you’re not already.

Show up 15 minutes early

Though the saying “better late than never” does have some truth to it, it’s better to never be late.

Ever heard the saying that if you are on time, you’re late, and if you’re early, you are on time? Striving to early allows for additional time for the roadblocks that many people see as excuses for a lack of punctuality. Plan to show up 15 minutes early to everything you do, and you likely won’t have to fear to be late again.

Be the first one in the office and the last one out

Though you don’t have to maintain this precedent for your entire career, being the first one in the office and last one out – at least while you are new to any position or company – will help you gauge the pace of your team. Additionally, it will help you remain disciplined to put in more hard work and show your peers your dedication.

Communicate directly

Sarcasm can be funny in high school, but communication is critical to your growth and success. In a fast-paced or growing company, it’s likely that your boss isn’t going to be assessing your every need or handing out raises left and right.

You are your own advocate, so speak up, and be forthcoming about what you want and need to be successful in the workplace.

Learn when to be “off”

Though the mindset of work-life balance is being shifted to a work-life harmony, being “off” is still important to your rest and recovery.

In a fast-paced culture where we can access our email at any hour of the day, boundaries are important. However, sometimes not checking your messages can give you more stress than if you quickly glimpsed at them.

Know your limits, be present, set boundaries, and make sure you carve out time to be both on and off the clock in a manner consistent with your lifestyle.

Respond within 12 hours

Respond within 12 hours to any communication. Some people will say 24 hours is common courtesy, but in my experience, 12 is best.

If you only check your inbox once a day, make sure you’re communicating with the people who are contacting you even if it’s to say that you’ve received their inquiry and that you’ll have a response within a certain timeframe.

Allow for extra time

Be careful not to over or underestimate your time, or how long it may take you to accomplish certain projects. Always budget more time than less, but if you struggle with this, try using a project management solution, or even a stopwatch and note on your phone to see how long it takes you to complete tasks.

Own your mistakes

Rather than casting blame, take personal responsibility for anything you may not have done fully and correctly. Apologize sincerely, learn how to improve, and adjust for the future.

Dress the part

Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Your clothing communicates the message you want to send, the respect you have for yourself, and sets the tone for your first impression. If you need more help on this topic, check out this article.

Stay off your cell phone

Though cell phones are an effective way to communicate, being on your phone at the wrong moment can send a negative impression. Even if only to take notes, staying on your phone during a meeting appears unprofessional. Try another communication channel like Slack instead.

Plan your day

Planning out your day or even your week will help you prioritize the objectives and projects you need to accomplish. This mindset takes a proactive approach to your work instead of reacting to issues as they arise. Planning out your day will take away the constant need to put out fires and allow you to better focus.

Learn to do things yourself

We’ve all witnessed that one person who just can’t seem to figure things out without any assistance. From storing files to staying on track, we’ve all been around someone who just appears clueless.

Instead of being reliant and asking for help on every project, take initiative to develop new skills or watch tutorials on your own time instead of constantly and consistently relying on others.

Find a mentor

Mentorship can be instrumental to the growth in your career. Find a mentor who’s willing to watch you thrive, and make this part of your continuing professional development.

Know your value

Know the areas that you specialize in bringing and adding value to a team, and exercise them well. Knowing your strengths will allow you to contribute better to any and every team you’ll be a part of, and will also make you indispensable to your employer.

Don’t work for less than what you are worth, and know your value so you can ensure you’re being compensated accordingly.

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