All of us are in charge of our own careers.  If you are lucky, your organization may offer professional development options or assist with tuition.  But building and maintaining a successful career remains one’s own responsibility.  One too often lost in the daily work grind or sacrificed to distractions.   How can you enhance your success?

Develop a Career Plan

  • serves as the basis of professional growth and development
  • assesses your current skills and knowledge against those needed in your current position and your desired next position
  • defines what you need to learn/develop, how you will do so, and when

Core skills evaluation

Do you know what the core skills are in your current job? The one you want next? To succeed in your chosen field? Some professional associations offer lists of core competencies at various levels in their field. Certification programs also do so.

You can learn a lot about core skills by looking at 40-50 job listings in any large job board and analyzing both the main requirements and the challenges of the job. Do this for your current job first and see what is changing in your field. That provides insight into what you need to be learning immediately. Then look at jobs which interest you for your next options and repeat the process.

Complete a SWOT analysis on yourself

SWOT: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats
In doing such an analysis, consider both the specific skills required by your field and the key ‘soft skills’ most organizations seek. These can include: effective communications, teamwork, customer focus, flexibility and coping with change, and similar skills which transfer across many roles and organizations.

Once you have done a SWOT analysis, discuss it with a trusted advisor or mentor. Assess what you may have missed, over-rated or under-rated and adjust.


Your core skills and SWOT will help you define what you need to learn or develop and create a plan to do so. Underlying your choices are your best learning style and alternatives that work well for you.


Options for Professional Development (Arranged arbitrarily.)

1. Attend professional association’s meetings

2. Participate in webinars

3. Read books

4. Ask someone who is good at a specific skill to help you learn it

5. Attend a relevant seminar – learn while building your network too.

6. Take a course at your local community college, online, or via a MOOC

7. Practice in a volunteer setting

8. Ask someone to be your mentor

9. Volunteer for a task force or team in your work setting

10. Check out LinkedIn’s groups for your field and research other online resources and get active in them

11. Read a relevant publication regularly

12. Join a discussion group

13. Create a learning circle

14. Identify someone you work with who demonstrates the skill and ask her/him to allow you to watch it in use several times

15. Join a group that helps develop the skill — such as Toastmasters for presentation and public speaking skills

16. Research and write an article on the topic and share it with others

17. Check out career services and mentoring programs from your University’s career services or alumni programs

18. Join relevant professional groups and participate

Think about how you learn most effectively – and come up with your own list of options to grow your skills. Then create a plan and execute it.

There is little sadder than the person who misses chances to grow and develop their skills and then suffers the consequences. Trying to develop new skills and brush up weak ones when you are out of a job or about to be is a heavy burden, often unsuccessful.