How You Should Invest in Your Professional Practice

Most professionals get a degree. To the world, that degree means you know something, but to some professionals, it means you are done learning.

Your teachability index is how teachable you are at any given time. As a child your index is high, but after you think you know something, for some professionals, your index drops to zero and you stop learning. This is the worst possible thing that can happen to any professional. 

These are the same people that wonder why they are not getting anywhere with their lives. Then protest when they get passed over for that promotion, or get laid off when times are tough.

Professional development affects your entire life, not just your work life but also your personal life. Successful professionals are always open to learning something new.

If you are still reading, then the following guidelines can help.

Where do you want to be in 5 years? 

If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”

Zig Ziglar

Set yourself a goal for where you want to be in your professional life in five years’ time. Craft a vision of what you want to your career to look like. If you don’t, then who knows where you’ll end up!

You need to balance changes you want professionally, and personally. The two will ultimately overlap. 

There will be certain aspects of your personal development that you believe are specific to personal life but may eventually carry over to your professional life. 

For example, if you have wanted to increase your skills as a community leader, you could easily incorporate these into your professional career. The key is to identify and imagine what this new skill will look like.

Assess your current situation

Before you make any changes in your professional practice, determine where you stand right now. Assess your strengths and weaknesses to help you formulate a plan to make the necessary changes. I recommend you focus on your strengths and develop them and not put too much effort into overcoming your weaknesses.

Think about what you really like doing and enjoy and do more of that, and what you hate doing. Also consider what you might like to do as well.

Set goals

Once you know what your strengths and weaknesses are, create some goals to move you towards that vision of where you want to be. 

Start with what you would like to achieve in 5 years, then break them down to the next year, then the next 90 days. Each time you should be more specific and more detailed. 

These should include high-level goals as well as action steps. Most important, set milestones with firm dates for these action steps.

Don’t be too worried about the longer term goals at this stage as you will have plenty of opportunity to revisit and refine them in the future.

Keep it simple

If you add a bunch of unobtainable goals, you are likely setting yourself up for failure. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to push yourself. It just means being realistic about your capabilities. Most people overestimate what they can achieve in the next week or month and underestimate what they can achieve in the next year or five years.

Consider alternatives

There can be valid reasons why you can’t meet certain actions or goals. 

But, instead of abandoning the entire professional development plan, come up with alternative steps. 

Be careful not to simply fall back to tackle easier steps and defer the primary goals because they are harder.

Develop a realistic action plan

Start with 90 day goals–this far enough out to have enough time to get something done, but not too far that you put it off. Ask yourself the following questions

What skills or knowledge do I want to gain? What do I want to learn more about?
What opportunities or career paths do I want to explore?
What projects do I want to start or get involved in? 
What books should I read? What courses should I explore?

Then be specific with the action steps to take in the next month, and for each of the next four weeks.

Evaluate how you are doing 

It is critical to regularly review your progress. Best to start weekly, plus take a more strategic or broader review monthly and each 90 days. 

See what you have achieved, did you reach the milestones you set and assess what you have learned and update your plan.

This is a crucial step, and it’s important to be realistic and truthful. 

The best way to handle this is to have someone else work with you on this. It may not be easy to hear, but the benefits will be well worth it.

Take action

You won’t get to where you want to be in five years’ time without first setting a vision, then identifying your professional development goals and actions.

Setting up an action plan with broader 90 day actions and more specific weekly action steps, and regularly reviewing progress and making adjustments means you will make progress, a step at a time.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

Lao Tzu