Different motivators have been pulling professionals away from their jobs during the Great Resignation: better pay, more flexibility, higher-level titles, or just a chance to reinvent oneself and follow long-dormant dreams. Those incentives are great, but people looking for long-term career growth and financial success should focus on the new frontiers that are currently leading to the way for personal and professional growth.
Pursuing external professional development opportunities should be at the top of everyone’s list. Here are three ideas for cultivating professional development opportunities that will lead to the most growth:
1. Pursue external professional development
Degrees, certifications, and conferences can lead to growth that can’t be found internally at most companies — but you can carry these on your résumé long past any single job. Continuing one’s education by pursuing a graduate degree in a Master of Business Administration program, for example — no matter how long it’s been since you thought you had finished school — is a tremendous way to gain experiential learning and a career-building degree.
“Any time you can add on a graduate degree, it says something to an employer: You committed extra time and effort to seek additional knowledge needed to succeed in your chosen career path,” says Chris Collier, MBA career coach at Washington University’s Weston Career Center. “The MBA degree outlives the program because it never expires. Many executive-level roles have a preferred qualifications list. Many of those lists start with ‘MBA or advanced degree preferred.’ After completing your degree, you will forever be in the ‘preferred candidate’ space.” And as far as coursework goes, any time you can choose classes in digital analytics or social media strategy, you’re showing even more currency.
2. Follow mentors, not job descriptions
Beyond external development, consider the importance of following mentors and not job responsibilities. It’s vital to pursue job opportunities where you’ll work with professionals from whom you stand to learn a lot. There’s a reason that 100% of U.S. Fortune 50 companies have mentorship programs and that American Fortune 500 companies with mentorship programs made better profits during the pandemic’s financial downturn: Mentorships are some of the best ways to develop people personally and professionally.
While embracing new job responsibilities may teach you how to carry out more tasks, they won’t necessarily teach you how to strategize or approach opportunities and challenges. And the numbers back up this statement, as workers of all ages and across all industries crave these sorts of hands-on training — 76% of employees are looking for opportunities to expand their careers, while 60% of Millennials want leadership training. Mentorship programs are perfect for facilitating these types of relationships that lead to growth in leadership skills and more.
3. Embrace your interests beyond your job duties
Last but not least, endeavor to do something beyond your daily job and its roster of tasks. A side hustle, an Etsy shop, a blog, a networking group — any of these things on their own could spur a new career, but all of them stand to improve your skills in ways your daily job wouldn’t. You can fill in the gaps in your skills — from public speaking to sales — that your current position doesn’t. A side hustle should be all about expanding your personal growth and development, so choose an option that will let you test the waters of various passions and grow your skills further.
If you’re ready to take the next step in your career, think beyond the description and salary and think instead about what experiences and skills you can build for yourself to take your career development to the next level. When you invest thoughtfully in your individual growth, your personal brand (and your overall career happiness) will soar.