Ways to Advance Your Professional Development

Ways to Advance Your Professional Development

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1. Organize Your Life (Make a List)

Organization skills are paramount in any career development process. Keeping journals, list-making, and goal-tracking are great ways to keep track of your development progress. Making lists brings me great peace and solitude. When there seems to be an endless amount of tasks on my plate, I make a list and draw a little 

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1. Organize Your Life (Make a List)

circle next to each task. To me, nothing is better than making a list. Well, nothing besides checking those little circles. To advance your career, I want you to make two lists: – What I want to achieve in the next year – What I have already have achieved

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2. Map Your Goals

Map out your goals at work. Maybe your goals are on a smaller scale, like a software upgrade or the opportunity to organize better in your new year. Maybe your goals are quite lofty, like spearheading an entirely new department in your startup environment or going after a big promotion. However your goals meet your 

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2. Map Your Goals

personal style, make sure to prioritize them. It's equally important to break up your goals into smaller pieces and celebrate your progress every step of the way.

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3. Keep Track of Wins

A great way to motivate yourself and recognize your true worth at work is by tracking your wins. This is something that might not come naturally to you. As women, we tend to be more reserved about our accomplishments. Instead of shouting our victories from the rooftops or hanging from the rafters in joy, we give 

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3. Keep Track of Wins

ourselves a sly, knowing smile and move on. Think about keeping track of your wins on a monthly or weekly basis. Write them down. If the wins are due to a team effort, then describe how you were a key element of the overall success. After a while, these wins will communicate a specific skill set, whether it’s leadership, project management, or technical skill.

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4. Explore Losses

Just as you keep track of your wins, keep track of your losses. Maybe your “loss” is a simple mistake you made. Maybe it’s a huge mistake, like a missed deadline or a lost client. I am a firm believer that you learn more from your losses than from your successes. If you start tracking your losses, you’ll be more cognizant of why they are happening, and how 

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4. Explore Losses

you can problem-solve for the future.

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5. Identify Gaps

Once you have started keeping track of your losses, you’ll inevitably improve in some way. Things like spelling errors and missed deadlines can be tackled with simple organizational techniques. When in doubt, do as your most detail-oriented friends and colleagues do. Keep in mind that some losses might be due to a skill gap. 

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5. Identify Gaps

For example, maybe your decision-making or problem-solving skills can be improved with a little studying. Make it your mission to do an honest self-assessment of your skills and where they can be improved for ultimate career success. Pay close attention to what you can fix. Work hard on implementing your own spin on organizing your work life, 

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5. Identify Gaps

maintaining good communications with clients and coworkers, and focusing on other more detail-oriented areas of work.

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6. Expand Your Skill Sets

If you have identified your gaps, you can then take steps to fill them with the requisite skills.  This can seem daunting (and expensive), but that’s not true! You don’t need to accrue a monumental amount of debt by attending graduate school. You can likely attain the skills you need to level up by taking an online course or certificate. Here is an extensive 

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6. Expand Your Skill Sets

round-up of courses, classes, free videos, and more that you can use to expand your skills.

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7. Talk to Management

Communication with management is essential for a forward-moving career. First of all, cut off any notion that management is scary or unapproachable. You are a valuable part of your company, and you deserve to be seen and heard. If you're looking for greater responsibility, different types of tasks, or regular feedback 

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7. Talk to Management

counseling, look to leadership as a giant untapped resource. Establish and keep an open line of communication with management.  In this way, you might be able to get management to buy into career advancement seminars, skill development courses, and other professional development opportunities that might interest you.

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8. Always Ask Questions

The best way to get an answer to a question is by actually asking. (Who would have guessed?) Use your open lines of communication to ask questions. Inquire about specific changes, about upcoming projects, and about continued education opportunities. Asking questions transforms you into an 

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8. Always Ask Questions

engaged employee, someone who is dedicated to learning more and progressing within her company. As a perk, you're also doing the work to improve your interpersonal relationships. When you need to ask for help, you’ll already have a rapport with several people in your workplace who are willing to lend an ear and help out.

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9. Learn to Negotiate

Learn how to get what you want in your professional career. This will likely involve some negotiation, which is an invaluable skill for upper management. Before ever asking for anything, make sure to prepare yourself with research, numbers (if applicable), and possible positive outcomes. Part of the negotiation will come from 

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9. Learn to Negotiate

being able to present confidently and convincingly. Make sure to master this skill.

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10. Get Feedback

Get feedback wherever you can. If you’re not sure of something you’re working on, get feedback. If you recently completed a project, get feedback. If you manage a team of employees, get feedback. Get it? Feedback, get it. Keep a constant loop of feedback open. Some feedback items you 

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10. Get Feedback

can ask about include: – Expected outcomes for projects (budget, amount of time, and any other data points) – Components of a successful [YOUR JOB TITLE] as you navigate your career – The expectation for active participation, especially when it comes to interdepartmental work or "raising your hand" for other special assignments. – Expected level of expertise on specific topics

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11. Actively Listen

We talked a good amount about how you can reach out to others. Listening skills are crucial in the workplace. Aside from being polite (!), listening—really listening—will clue you into things that are going on that wouldn’t otherwise be obvious. Listen to what management is saying about the next quarter. Listen to what struggles your 

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11. Actively Listen

development team is having. Listen to where marketing needs more support. When you have a 360-degree understanding of the organization, what is happening (and how to fix it), you’re more likely to be promoted from within.

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12. Always Network

When the time comes to make a professional advancement, you’ll have no choice but to activate your networking skills. If the phrase “networking event” makes you cringe, fear not.  There are many ways to network that won’t leave you name-tagged, slinking in the corner of a busy banquet hall with a greasy napkin full of pigs in a blanket.

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12. Always Network

Take LinkedIn, for example. Use it to network with employees at your desired company, with individuals who work similar jobs to you, and to reach out to your (possible) future mentor. Utilize your friend network, too. Chances are, you have a friend of a friend who might have some insights into your industry or desired position.

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13. Say Yes to “Discomfort Zones”

This is something I’ve made a huge effort to do over the past few years. How many times have you said “I can’t do that” when asked to participate in something outside of your comfort zone? How many times have you avoided something that terrifies you? Consider saying yes to things you’ve previously said no to. For me, my “discomfort zone” 

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13. Say Yes to “Discomfort Zones”

would be appearing on video. At Career Contessa, as a personal challenge, I finally had to say yes. While filming my first video, I was literally shaking through the first take. Now I only sweat a little on camera. Something I could “never do” is all of a sudden something I’ve done dozens of times.

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14. Consider Your Work-Life Balance

A key to advancing your career is not getting burnt out. Take a good look at your work-life balance. Is the work balance you have chosen serving you well? Can you sustain this level of work for the next five years? The next ten years? Alternatively, is work fulfilling enough?  If you’re constantly bored at work, it’s probably time for a transition.

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14. Consider Your Work-Life Balance

Expanding your skills can be the first step to recognizing a new professional future—maybe even one you never considered achievable before now. Whether you are overworked or underworked, consider redesigning your own future according to what will keep you happy and fulfilled in the long-term.

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15. Focus on Your Wellness

Don’t make any huge professional advances without first taking yourself into account.  Gallup describes workplace wellness with these five elements: – Purpose – Social – Financial – Community – Physical

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15. Focus on Your Wellness

Make sure all of these elements are in place in your career. If they aren’t (and at any point, something will likely be out of whack), keep an eye on it. Small ways to focus on your wellness are meditating, exercising, leaving work at the office, and getting quality, restorative sleep.

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16. Speak Positively to Yourself

This is a tough one for some of us. How does your internal dialogue run? Do you say positive things to yourself within your mind? Do you give yourself pats on the back, compliment your own appearance, and give yourself credit for a job well done? Many of us (myself included) struggle with negative self-speak. This can unintentionally 

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16. Speak Positively to Yourself

turn you into your own worst enemy. Pay attention to your negative voice and make an effort to reframe positively. This will be especially useful in the most challenging times.

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17. Trust Your Gut

Guess who knows the most about you? I’ll give you a hint—it’s a person who hangs out with you constantly, who knows your every move. It’s you. Listen to yourself. If something doesn’t feel right and that feeling lingers, it is worth addressing. If you are unsatisfied at work, struggling with your workload, or battling with management, listen to 

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17. Trust Your Gut

what your heart and body are telling you.

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18. Change What Doesn’t Work

Once you start listening to both the positive and negative aspects of your work life, you’ll have a good grasp of what doesn’t work. Now it’s time to change it. We understand that you can’t always quit a job when things aren’t working out. What you can do is address the root of the problem and make a concerted effort to fix it. If the 

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18. Change What Doesn’t Work

problem is too daunting or deeply-rooted, then you might start looking for better opportunities. Whenever you’re looking forward to a new opportunity, whether it’s a brand new job or a promotion within your company, pay attention to red flags. In moments of excitement, we often ignore warning signs of future turmoil.

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18. Change What Doesn’t Work

One more thing. Change isn't always switching up your job. Sometimes, change is getting a career counselor, doing some volunteer work, or starting a creative project (like a blog or podcast) to change things up!

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19. Establish a “Me First” Frame of Mind

In your life, you come first. We know, it's a tough pill to swallow for many of us! Whether you’re a co-worker, an employee, a daughter, a wife, a mother, a sister, or a friend, you still come first. Establishing a “me first” mentality will serve you both in your professional life and your personal life. Putting yourself first and maintaining a mindful 

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19. Establish a “Me First” Frame of Mind

awareness of your own well-being will set your career on track. Someone who maintains a “me first” mentality is less likely to stay at a dead-end job, be taken advantage of by a disrespectful boss, or overstay at an unfulfilling job.

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20. Embracing Changed Plans

Lately, we talk about resilience—a lot. Whether it's navigating an unexpected layoff, a change at home, or a global pandemic, resilience is necessary to continue your path—and embrace what might happen next. Resilience helps your mental, physical, and emotional help. Next time your career path changes or reroutes entirely, 

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20. Embracing Changed Plans

embrace it. Sometimes, the biggest shifts bring the most positive changes. Reframing the toughest blows to your career as experiential learning opportunities will help you get through the biggest challenges

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