What is Professional Development? Definition & Examples (2024)

Author: Emma Williams
Author: Emma Williams

Chief Research Officer at HIGH5

Table of Contents
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Wanting to be a top performer in your field is great, but knowing what skills you need to learn and how to get better at them is crucial. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Different people have different goals and learning styles.

Some people prefer reading books while others like taking classes or attending conferences. In this article, I’ll share a few ideas that might help you identify your goals and learn new skills in order to advance your career and get ahead as needed.

What Is Professional Development?

Professional development is the process of building or refining skills that are relevant to one’s profession.

Professional development can also contribute to an individual’s personal growth, enabling them to gain new knowledge while improving performance in their current job and increasing future earning power by developing new career opportunities.

Many people think professional development is limited to learning how-to-type skills like programming languages or software applications. That’s just one aspect of professional development.

High performers have a much broader view of professional development because they know that being successful requires acquiring many different types of skills (both technical and non-technical).

What Is Professional Development

Here are some examples of other types of skills you should consider when thinking about your professional development plan:

Why Is Professional Development Important?

Professional development is essential because it helps you gain a competitive edge in your career. When you acquire new skills, it shows that you’re committed to constantly improving yourself and striving for excellence.

This mindset leads to many intangible benefits like increased confidence and a feeling of greater self-worth. In addition to these intangibles, being committed to professional development can also lead to tangible benefits like getting a promotion (and the raise that comes with it).

Companies are looking for employees who are committed to continuous improvement. If you’re one of them, then this alone could be enough incentive to pursue your development plan.

The list of 8 Benefits of Professional Development Include

  1. Higher annual income
  2. Increased job security
  3. Faster career advancement
  4. Greater job satisfaction
  5. Higher self-worth
  6. Continuing education
  7. Networking opportunities
  8. A wide variety of interests

List with 12 Professional Development Examples

  1. Learn a foreign language
  2. Take an online course
  3. Get an internship
  4. Volunteer or join community groups
  5. Take additional courses
  6. Go back to school
  7. Get industry-certified
  8. Join a professional association
  9. Get additional training
  10. Exploring new ideas and technologies
  11. Try self-study
  12. Watch videos on sites like YouTube, LinkedIn and others

Professional Development Framework Explained in 5 Phases of Constant Improvement

There are 5 phases that you’ll want to follow if you want to constantly grow as a worker, entrepreneur, or employable candidate.

Building a Knowledge Base

A knowledge base is built through reading, watching videos, or taking courses. This includes everything from books to blogs, webinars to TED Talks The more you read, the better conversant you’ll be on topics that interest you.

It allows you to develop your own opinions and take a stand on issues. Some people may argue that communication is more important than knowledge but it’s impossible without first knowing something about an area of interest.

As ideas are shared among experts, companies or communities tend to form around those concepts which can make certain subjects grow rapidly. More information means better communication which can lead to new opportunities for advancement.

Professional Development Framework Explained in 5 Phases of Constant Improvement

Also, the more you know about a topic or about an industry, the better your ability to understand it. This can be beneficial when applied to software platforms for technical support or customer service roles. This way, employees understand how their product works and what they should consider when using it.

Observing Models and Examples

The next step in the learning process is to be able to identify models or examples of how things work. This can help solve future issues and make you feel like an expert on your topic of interest.

It’s important here to remember that while there are real-world examples, not everything works out perfectly. You may need to put in more effort than expected before reaching your desired outcome.

Another benefit here is that you can share what you’ve learned with other people. Instead of giving advice, you’re able to talk about practical examples that are related to your field or industry. You may even be able to offer helpful insights that would otherwise go unnoticed.

Reflecting on Your Practice

The next step in the learning process is to be able to identify models or examples of how things work. This can help solve future issues and make you feel like an expert on your topic of interest.

It’s important here to remember that while there are real-world examples, not everything works out perfectly. You may need to put in more effort than expected before reaching your desired outcome.

Another benefit here is that you can share what you’ve learned with other people. Instead of giving advice, you’re able to talk about practical examples that are related to your field or industry. You may even be able to offer helpful insights that would otherwise go unnoticed.

Changing Your Practice

After successfully applying what you’ve learned it’s time to talk with others about your experience. If someone has gone through the same thing, they can offer support and give valuable insight into how they dealt with situations like yours.

Without sharing your expertise and asking questions, you’ll be stuck at this stage and won’t benefit from any of your previous efforts. Pretend you don’t know anything about the subject – ask lots of basic questions and look for simple examples that could help clarify things.

You may even find that someone else is in the same situation and can share their experience. Also, keep in mind that when you ask questions, you might find an idea or concept that makes your previous assumptions obsolete.

You may realize there’s more to it than the model or example you were following. If this happens, don’t be afraid to change course.

Gaining and Sharing Expertise

One of the key aspects of developing expertise is learning how to gain trust from people. By sharing what you’ve learned with others, you’re not only making new connections but also showing what you know.

Being able to communicate effectively will provide different opportunities for advancement. Additionally, having more people to rely on when making decisions or solving problems can help the entire team.

How To Measure Professional Development

Constantly measuring improvement is an important part of boosting your expertise. Remember, the goal is to find new solutions and eventually build your own model or example.

Moreover, it’s important to set small and realistic goals if you want to get the most out of your efforts. Also, these short-term results can help determine what type of effort will be required to reach your final target.

Another consideration is that if you’re able to meet or surpass your initial expectations at a faster rate, you may need to spend more time developing new skills. When coming up with a plan, consider how much effort something will take in terms of time, money, and resources.

If it’s going to be too expensive or difficult, look for less demanding alternatives. When it comes to measuring professional development, ensure that you have a specific goal in mind and be sure to give it time.

How to Measure Professional Development

Additionally, being able to measure your progress will allow you to see if something is working or not. It’ll also help you pinpoint areas that may need more attention. This should lead to better knowledge overall as well as an increase in opportunities for advancement.

In the long term, it’s important to keep in mind what sets people apart from each other as individuals. This will help you stay competitive regardless of what industry or field you work in.

When working on your professional development, remember that everyone has different priorities. Some may have more time to spend on gaining expertise while others might rely more heavily on sharing information.

You must develop a plan that works for your specific needs and overall lifestyle. Without some type of guidance, it can be difficult to manage all of the information you come across.

Every day, there are new problems with different solutions. It’s up to you to keep track of them and find ways to solve these issues. This will help with communicating better as well as increasing your opportunity for advancement.

How Can I Improve My Professional Development?

The process to improve your professional development is a simple three-step plan: identify your goals, learn a new skill, and work with a professional.

Identify Your Goals

As you may have guessed, the first step is to identify where you want to be in your professional development and set your professional development goals.

Are you looking for something specific or just developing more skills that can help? To start this process, revisit any problems or needs that were identified in previous assessments.

Are there still problems that need to be resolved? Are there areas of your practice that could use improvement? What kind of work do you enjoy doing the most? Think about these factors as well as anything else that will help shape your goals for future training.

The important thing is not how long it takes, but making sure you have a clear and concise plan on how you will meet your goals.

How Can I Improve My Professional Development

Learn a New Skill

Now that you have identified what you hope to achieve, it is time to select a skill or set of skills to help reach those goals.

A common mistake professionals make when selecting new tools for professional development is searching for software or technology that they think they need rather than finding out what will best serve their needs as professionals.

By working with a trainer or educational advisor you can help determine which tools may be best suited for your needs. This is an important step since not all programs are available to every professional and the costs associated with these types of technologies can vary greatly.

Work With a Professional

A large part of achieving your goals is finding someone with whom you feel comfortable learning and practicing. Whether it’s another colleague, friend, co-worker, educational advisor, or trainer – we recommend finding someone who will check in on your progress as well as provide feedback as needed as you work towards your goals.

In addition, seeking guidance from those around you also offers support as well as the opportunity to bounce ideas off one another at any point throughout the process.

Professional Development Goals: What is it, and How to Set Yours

An important part of professional development is knowing what to work on. While many tools should be considered, not all of them will apply to every situation.

Professional Development Goals – What is it, and How to Set Yours

Before jumping into a new program or spending hundreds of dollars on a training course, setting goals is an effective way to measure your progress and see whether or not this new tool is the right one for you.

Professional development goals are not set in stone. If you are feeling stuck or are having doubts about your progress, consider turning to your colleagues for advice or guidance.

A Professional Development Plan is a way for teachers to set their own goals or wishes, and plan how they will be achieved. This is important because the teacher sets the agenda of his/her learning path by focusing on what he/she wants to learn next.

FAQ About Professional Development

What are Professional Skills?

Professional skills are the abilities, expertise, and knowledge to deal with everyday challenges at work. These skills can be used in all different types of careers. You can always take a career assessment to discover your skills.

For example, adaptability is one skill that may help you to get along with other people better. If you want to improve your professional development skills there are lots of ways you can achieve this goal.

Overall Conclusion Of Professional Development

In conclusion, there are many different ways to go about improving your professional development skills. Whether you want to work with an educational advisor or seek out certification in any number of available programs, you can be sure that you will always have room for growth and improvement no matter what challenges come your way.

Case Studies, Academic, and Research-Based Sources:

  1. Boud, D., & Garrick, J. (1999). “Understanding Learning at Work.” Routledge.
  2. Eraut, M. (2007). “Learning from Other People in the Workplace.” Oxford Review of Education.
  3. Guskey, T. R. (2000). “Evaluating Professional Development.” Corwin Press.
  4. Honey, P., & Mumford, A. (1992). “The Manual of Learning Styles.” Peter Honey.
  5. Senninger, T. (2000). “Learning as Adventure: The Adventure Pyramid.” Adventure Therapy.
  6. Case Study: “Professional Development in IBM.” Harvard Business Review.
Author: Emma Williams - Chief Research Officer at HIGH5
Author: Emma Williams - Chief Research Officer at HIGH5

Emma is a certified strengths and career coach with more than 25 years of international experience in helping individuals and organizations achieve success by nailing and maximizing their unique value propositions. She is an entrepreneur, proud mother and a C-level executive at HIGH5TEST, where she leads its coaching and research programs.

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