Building your professional development toolbox can seem intimidating at first. There are so many resources and differing opinions out there that it can be difficult to figure out where to start. And, when you’re already working 9-5 (or even 8-6), it can be challenging to think about work in your free time. These hurdles can often lead people to keep moving professional development further and further down their to-do lists.
But becoming your own professional development expert doesn’t have to be overwhelming! Below, I lay out a few small steps you can start taking today to incorporate professional growth into your everyday life.
- Share your work wins with your friends
I think it’s high time we start to normalize celebrating our work wins the same way we would successes in our personal life. Get a promotion? Invite your friends out for a celebratory dinner. Tackle that challenging project you’ve been putting off for weeks? Shoot your group message a triumphant text. Whether your win is big or small, your friends are a built-in hype crew.
- Get a daily dose of advice
Find an outlet you trust—be it a newsletter, a podcast, or an Instagram account—and subscribe! This is a great way to passively learn information and gather resources. On Instagram, Career Contessa shares resources and advice to help women be more fulfilled, healthy, and successful at work and Janel Abrahami is a career coach who shares information and personal stories to help people determine their career goals. When it comes to newsletters, I would recommend subscribing to an industry specific outlet to grow hard skills—ask people in your industry for recommendations. (On the PR front, I subscribe to [email protected].) Podcasts I listen to for great career inspiration are NPR’s How I Built This and Politico’s Women Rule. For more relatable experiences for young professionals, I recommend Fingers Crossed.
- Network before you need to job search
The best time to network is before you need a job. If you build relationships with people before you need something from them, they're more likely to help you in the future. You never know where one conversation today may lead tomorrow! I think the least intimidating way to tackle this is to join an industry group, such as PRSA for public relations or AAPC for political work. I also always encourage people to join their college or sorority alumnae network if there’s one in their town. There are also some great groups on Facebook like Rules of Networking and Women in Campaigns that are good resources. To drive this point home, I’ve had four jobs since I graduated from college; one was from a connection from my university, two were from sorority introductions, and one was from a post in the RoN page. (Shameless plug, getting involved with the NeW Professional Network is also a great way to start building your network!)
- Read a professional development book quarterly
Or monthly, biannually, whatever fits into your current reading habits—just set a goal and stick to it! I know folks think professional development books can be boring and unrelatable, but there are so many good options out there these days. You could even start a professional development read along or book club with some of your friends! Here are a few of my top recommendations:
- On work life: Ask a Manager: Clueless Colleagues, Lunch-Stealing Bosses, and the Rest of Your Life at Work by Alison Green
- On figuring out your life goals: The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them by Meg Jay
- On general professional advice: Who Thought This Was A Good Idea? And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House by Alyssa Mastramonaco
- On personal growth: The Art of Showing Up: How to Be There for Yourself and Your Friends by Rachel Wilkerson Miller
- On leadership: Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink
Starting your professional development journey doesn’t have to be a painful process. By adding these small habits into your everyday routine, I hope you feel more confident and assured in—and out—of the workplace. Soon enough you’ll be the one all your friends are coming to for professional advice.
NeW is always here to help you as you build your career and navigate professional life! Don’t hesitate to reach out if there’s anything we can ever do to help.
This blog was written by Marisa Brand, NeW Professional Network Coordinator. Want more advice on how to prepare yourself professionally? NeW Members can sign up for a one-on-one meeting with a NeW staff member this week for Professional Development Week. Talk to Marisa or one of our other team members about your professional goals.