I don't know about you, but as a college student, I fear the future. With little to no professional experience right out of college, what are we supposed to do to be the best candidate? Hopefully, by the end of this post, you will learn tips and tricks to develop your professional skills and land the job before you even get your diploma—or shortly after.
What is Professional Development?
Professional development, as stated by Top Hat, "is the set of tools, resources, and training sessions for educators to improve their teaching quality and effectiveness." Even after college, learning never stops; it makes us move forward and achieve our dreams. I like to think of professional development as the tools in the toolbox to help achieve our goal.
Grow Your Professional Development
The most important part of growing your professional development is having a vision. In other words, what two to three key elements can help you stand out? You can pick these elements from categories like knowledge, skills, talent, and experience. Let's break down all four categories, starting with knowledge.
Knowledge is power, the type of power that you can control. You control it by the amount of learning you are willing to do. Knowledge can only be obtained through continuous learning.
Skills are the next category we will be breaking down. Skills are considered things that someone is good at. In the business world, this might be graphic design, Microsoft programs, or even HubSpot.
Talents are the third category. Talents are similar to skills, except they are things you are naturally good at, while skills are things you can learn over time.
Experience is the final category. Experience is also known as on-the-job learning. Everybody makes mistakes; we're only human. So it doesn't matter how long you have been in school; you can only gain authentic experience by being hands-on.
Now that we know what professional development is and some key elements or categories to grow our professionalism, let's talk about growing our professional development while still in college. There are 5 key elements to this process.
The first element is understanding your weaknesses. This understanding will help give you a baseline as to what you can improve on. One method you might consider when analyzing your weaknesses is conducting a self-SWOT analysis. To learn how you can use this tried-and-true business method on yourself, click here.
Knowing your baseline may help with element number two: getting out of your comfort zone. Identifying your weaknesses will also identify your fears, and one way you can get out of your comfort zone is by attempting to get over your fear. This article explains the importance of self-reflection, which I find key to identifying one's fears. Getting out of your comfort zone will also assist you in trusting your abilities and improving your confidence, which employers enjoy seeing out of their employees.
The third element is knowing your surroundings. You do this by reading, researching, and improving your knowledge, knowing what employers need before they know it themselves.
The fourth element is to have as many different experiences as possible. This ensures that you are constantly learning something new that can advance your professional development and make sure that you stand out from other potential employees. Element number four also ensures that you have items to list when developing an online profile, which you can learn how to do by clicking on this link.
The fifth and final element to expanding your professional development is to be a go-getter. Please don't wait for something to happen to you. Go out and make it happen, because employers will like to see that you achieved your dreams or goal without having something handed to you or waiting for it to happen on its own.
An example of this would be when I experienced difficulty accessing my bathrooms at my community college due to my disability. I did not wait for the administration to notice the problem; I proactively brought it to their attention. This prompted them to install the necessary equipment for disability access.
My hope for you is that you now have plenty of knowledge to improve your professional development before exiting college and that you take that information and make yourself stand out from the crowd. That's what will make a difference in the long run. If you have set goals, you can achieve them using the key elements talked about in this blog post. Dream it and do it. Please don't wait until it's too late. You should have no regrets when looking back on your career. Implementing professional development ensures that you can say you did everything you could and don't have to ask yourself, “What if…?” For this reason, professional development and its implementation are critical to your happiness.
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