A Guide on How to Advance Your Professional Growth at Work

Updated November 27, 2022

As an employee, it's important to develop yourself professionally to gain access to more opportunities. You can also increase job satisfaction as it helps you get promotions and increased remuneration. Understanding how to advance your professional growth can help you develop skills and competencies that can help you become a unique and vital employee. In this article, we define professional growth, give a step-by-step guide for achieving it, and answer frequently asked questions relating to professional growth.

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What is professional growth?

Professional growth is gaining new skills and experiences to help you improve professionally and reach your career goals. It includes a strategic planning process where you identify what you want for yourself professionally, find resources, and achieve it. Professional growth is important because it helps you stay relevant in the workplace and industry. It also shows self-awareness, tenacity, and ambition. Examples of activities that can lead to professional growth and development include:

  • Deciding to lead during a sales presentation

  • Choosing a role to acquire specific skills, experiences, and knowledge

  • Volunteering to support a charity

  • Managing larger projects, supervising more people, or using larger budgets

Related: How to Develop Your Skill Set to Advance Your Career

How to advance your professional growth

Follow these steps for how to advance your professional growth:

1. Set clear goals and expectations

The first step to attaining professional growth is to set defined goals you want to achieve. When choosing your goals, you can identify areas of inefficiency and redundancy and find ways to improve them. You can also speak to your supervisor or a colleague and ask them to help evaluate your routines and make suggestions on how to improve them. Then, assess these goals and ensure that they're SMART goals, meaning specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. When your goals are SMART, you are more likely to achieve them within a defined period.

Some examples of professional goals you can set for yourself include:

  • Learning new skills

  • Joining a professional organization

  • Getting an advanced academic degree

  • Increasing work duties and responsibilities

  • Learning new technology

2. Create a plan to achieve your goals

After you've defined your goals, you can divide them into a step-by-step process. For instance, if you set a goal to learn a new tech skill, you can plan steps to help you achieve that goal. First, you learn all the basic information about tech skills and their relevance to your career plans and prospects. Next, you choose a platform to learn the skill or get a certification. Generally, when you divide your goals into plans, it's easier to track progress over a set timeline.

3. Search for new opportunities

While it's important to pursue training and certifications, you can search for other opportunities to improve yourself professionally. You can attend conferences, seminars, and workshops while still looking for practical projects to help improve your skills. When you explore new opportunities, you learn more about your potential and see areas where you can improve.

4. Discuss your career goals with a manager or a colleague

While planning your goals, it's important to communicate them with your manager. Let them know your motivations and aspirations and how your present job relates to them. When you communicate your goals with your managers, they can help you work toward them. For instance, they can assign more responsibilities to help you develop or improve a specific skill.

Similarly, your supervisor can be instrumental in your growth process by recommending training and courses you can attend. Generally, when you work on your goals with your supervisor, they can make effective work adjustments to help you achieve those goals. If you don't have a manager or supervisor at work with whom you can discuss your goals, you can tell a fellow employee who you consider knowledgeable.

Read more:

  • How To Get a Promotion in 11 Steps (Plus Tips)

  • 17 Smart Questions To Ask a Manager

5. Use what you learn

An ideal learning process begins with gaining knowledge and exercising it through practical experience. After you study, finish a course, or get a certification, it's useful to find ways to apply the knowledge. For instance, you may take on a new project at work that relates directly to what you learned.

You can also share your knowledge by speaking at events, joining volunteer organizations, or starting a blog. When you apply this knowledge in professional settings, you can learn new trends and developments in the field. The goal is to remember all you learned and ensure that the knowledge stays relevant to you.

6. Track your progress

It's important to track your achievements periodically and review your progress. Through this process, you may identify areas that require corrections and assessment. In addition, you may find better ways to improve your process and methods for achieving your goals. Similarly, when you track your progress over time, it motivates you to do more, as you can identify actual improvements. It also helps you set a more realistic timeline for achieving your goals based on your current circumstances.

7. Join professional groups and associations

You can research associations and professional groups in your field. These organizations bring diverse perspectives and experiences that you can learn from colleagues or experts. You can also find other professionals that can help you critique your work and provide constructive feedback. Similarly, these groups have a viable learning environment as they may provide exclusive access to industry events like conferences, workshops, and seminars.

You may also get discounts on these events while networking with top industry professionals and getting access to influential people. They can also share resources and materials that can help you achieve your goals faster while giving insight into their experiences. For instance, these groups can suggest where to apply for jobs and how to do so if you decide to switch jobs.

Related: 11 Types of Networking Events to Attend for Professional Growth

8. Consider a mentor

Mentorship is a great way to receive guidance while getting industry exposure. You can find a mentor by exploring the company or industry you are in for someone whose work and achievements you admire. Alternatively, you can ask your supervisor or coworker to recommend someone they think is a good fit. When you have a mentor, you learn about their experiences and knowledge. They can also guide your learning process and provide projects you may undertake to record improvements.

Related: 11 Opportunities for Development to Improve Your Professionalism

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FAQs about professional growth

Here are some of the frequently asked questions about advancing your professional growth and their answers:

Is professional improvement the same as personal growth?

Professional growth is the process of learning skills and gaining experiences to increase your career prospects and make you more valuable to the company. Conversely, personal growth involves developing oneself generally and improving how you form relationships with others. When you develop yourself professionally, it also triggers personal growth. For instance, when gaining work experience, you may also learn important skills, such as communication and interpersonal skills, which are a part of personal growth. While you can distinguish between the two, both professional and personal growth affect each other.

Related: How to Advance Your Career (With 7 Insightful Tips)

Where can you find opportunities for professional growth?

The first place you can find opportunities for professional growth is in the workplace. If you're unemployed, apply for internships and jobs that align with your professional goals. As an employee, speak to your supervisor and get insight into how you can get more responsibilities at work. In addition, you can achieve professional growth by conducting research, reading books, and finding other opportunities and resources online.

Can professional growth directly lead to a promotion?

Although they're closely related, one may not always lead to another. For example, it's possible to develop professionally over a period and still not get a promotion. It's important to base your professional growth on multiple motivations. For instance, you can motivate yourself for reasons other than financial compensation, such as access to better opportunities, job switching, or career transition. Ensure that your primary reason for professional advancement is personal goals. You can always switch roles if your current job doesn't support that growth.

What are the advantages of professional growth?

When you work while aiming for professional advancement, you start to progress. More importantly, an employee who constantly develops becomes more valuable to the company. Your employer or manager may feel comfortable assigning you to new projects and responsibilities, and you may experience more job stability.

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