Level Up With This Five Step Professional Development Guide

Whether you’re just starting your career or you’re considered an expert in your field, professional development never stops. There’s always something to learn, skills to refresh or simply things to improve on. Professional development training courses can also be a valuable stepping stone towards a new career if you’re looking for a change.

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The beauty of professional development is that it can take many forms. It’s also a very broad type of learning that always offers new insights or concepts to keep you motivated. So, regardless of where you’re at in your career, there’s never a bad time to consider increasing and expanding your skills.

What is Professional Development?

Professional development might look very different for you than it does for the person next to you. Everybody has different ambitions and career goals, and that’s why professional development is so varied. However, when we talk about professional development there are generally a few common types of learning involved. The main groups of development courses are:

  • Influence and Negotiate
  • Leadership
  • Business Writing
  • Presentation Skills
  • Project and Time Management

Under these five pillars you will find several more specific skills that you can study depending on your needs. However, when you break it all down, all of these course types are designed to help develop your skills to make you more confident and effective in your job. They also bring the added benefit of helping to take you from where you are to where you want to be.

For example, you may be a project manager already. Therefore, while project management courses are always great as a refresher, you may already feel like you’re at the top of your game. If the next career step for you is management, you might benefit far more from studying a range of leadership courses.

As we mentioned, professional development is a very personal thing. Your pathway may look substantially different from your colleague’s, depending on your own unique aspirations and goals.

1. Identify Your Career Goals

Before you start signing up for all the professional development training courses you find, have a good think about your goals. Do you have a two-year plan? A five-year plan? Maybe you’re looking even further ahead. Whatever your goals are, it’s helpful to break those up into smaller steps. It’s a lot easier to achieve long-term goals if you know what to do in order to get there.

If you want to hold a leadership position within two years, identify the skills you need to improve on to reach that goal. Hard work alone isn’t always enough, so you may need specific training on how to lead teams through change, or how to develop high-performing teams. You might already be a great strategic thinker, but you find it difficult communicating your plans to others. In that case, a course on communicating with influence would be perfect.

These smaller goals are very achievable, and they all go towards making you better prepared when those career opportunities come along. For that reason, it’s better to start doing some courses now. Rather than wait until you think you’re ready for a step up, start developing the skills now and you can put them into practice every day until your next opportunity pops up.

2. Find a Certified Professional Development Course Provider

Secondly, you need to be careful how you go about accessing your training. There are plenty of cheap or even free courses available online, but you may not get any real value from them. Even though professional development courses don’t necessarily come with a national accreditation like a Diploma, it’s still important to find quality courses.

A certified professional development program in Australia delivers far more value than a series of free online courses by non-recognised providers. When choosing a training provider, try not to be too influenced by cost, because you get what you pay for. If a course is free, you should be quite wary about how valuable the learnings are.

If you’re uncertain about a training provider’s credentials, have a good look through their website. If you see they also offer a range of nationally accredited training courses, you’ll feel a lot more confident about the content in their professional development courses.

3. Choose Courses with Broad Benefits

Some of the best training courses are those that can benefit you in all aspects of life. While many courses are considered to be ‘professional development’, they can give you a range of skills you can use outside of the workplace. In fact, your life outside of work can benefit greatly from almost every professional development course you do.

Consider courses like time management, communicating with influence and conflict management as a starting point. These types of courses are great because you can apply the knowledge to your work life as well as your everyday life.

Even if some courses are very business-focussed and may not help as much in your personal life, they can still have very broad appeal. Take, for example, a change management course. Or a program focusing on strategic thinking and planning. These types of courses help you perform better in your current role, but they also build the skills you need for advancement. You’ll also be able to rely on this knowledge if you look to move into a new organisation or even a completely different career.

4. Move on to More Specific Courses

If you’ve covered most of the broad professional development training courses, perhaps it’s time to look more specifically at your goals. When it comes to linking your career goals to development and training, it usually isn’t too hard to identify your needs.

For example, if you want to move into a role as a trainer, or anything else involving public speaking, you’ll need to hone these skills first. Courses that help you create and deliver engaging presentations are an obvious step.

If you’re considering moving towards a role in policy management, a course in business writing is a must. You’ll develop the skills you need to research and write clear, consistent policies and procedures.

It just takes a little searching, but once you can identify your specific development needs for career advancement, you can easily find the right ones for your unique pathway.

5. Remember, Professional Development is Ongoing

The final step is to remember that professional development doesn’t stop at the end of a course. Just because you’ve picked up some new skills, it’s not time to sit back and think you’re ready for career advancement.

Firstly, you need to consolidate your learnings by putting them into practice. This is exactly why we say you should start looking at training courses sooner rather than later, because you need to put your new knowledge to use in a real-world setting.

Secondly, there are just so many courses out there to help with your career development that you should never stop at just one. It’s a common mistake, thinking that a Leadership Fundamentals course gives you everything you need to be a great leader. You’ll certainly learn the basics, but truly successful leaders are deeply skilled in all aspects of the job, not just the basics.

Also, remember that professional development isn’t just about training courses. Mentors, for example, are a great source of knowledge and motivation. Choosing mentors within your industry or organisation can also help with the specific steps you need to take in order to progress.

Professional development courses are a fantastic step towards achieving your career goals. Combine high-quality professional development training courses with industry experience, and you’ll be well on the way to reaching the level you want to achieve.