Building a thriving career involves more than meeting your business and performance goals; it requires an ongoing investment in your professional development. Dedicating time to your professional growth makes you more valuable to your business and your customers, equipping you with the tools you need to be successful. Here are five areas of focus to help you become the best version of your (professional) self.

Benefits of Professional Development:

The Beatles were right: We get by with a little help from our friends. Having the support of a strong network is an invaluable asset for your professional life. And it’s not just about giving and receiving referrals. Working with trusted partners gives you access to more knowledge, resources, and expertise, which helps elevate your customer experience and can open the door to unforeseen opportunities. To stay connected with your existing network, invite a different industry partner or colleague to lunch once a month. To establish new connections, attend a networking event or conference, or join a professional organization. As you’re building these relationships, explore the possibility of setting up co-marketing arrangements so you can expand your reach.

How do you present yourself to the world? Is your professional image positioning you in the best light? Conduct a brand audit to evaluate and identify areas of improvement. Remaining objective in this exercise can be a challenge, so consider getting an outside opinion, whether that’s hiring a professional marketing firm or enlisting the help of some trusted business colleagues. Review everything from your headshot and logo to your website and business cards to the bio posted on your social media profiles.

Expanding your knowledge and acquiring new skills helps you stay flexible and adapt easily to change, which is vital in a rapidly evolving market. You can leverage your unique expertise to elevate your brand and stand out from the competition. Go beyond the minimum continuing education (CE) requirements and earn a special designation or certification, then highlight that certification as you market your services. You could also learn a technical skill to streamline processes, deliver greater value to your customers, or save time and money on business operations. Maybe you’re ready to take your social media marketing to the next level; a social media master class can be the perfect way to jumpstart your efforts.

Reading is a critical part of your job. To be at the top of your game, you should stay up to date on industry news, trends, and changes. Make it a habit to read every morning, setting aside at least 30 minutes to catch up on what’s happening in the market. Subscribe to industry newsletters, and sign up to get notified when special reports are released. You can use this information to educate your customers and make better business decisions. Aside from industry reading, try to incorporate regular reading as part of your ongoing learning and development. For example, choose some areas of growth to focus on, such as communication, sales, or productivity, and read a new book each month to help you progress in these areas.

No matter how experienced you are or how long you’ve been in business, you can always benefit from the guidance, support, and encouragement of a mentor. Your mentor can provide coaching on a specific skillset, offer advice in difficult situations, and help you navigate your career path. This could be someone within your organization or a professional in another field that you admire and respect. First, clarify your goals, then think of a potential mentor who would be a good fit in helping you achieve those goals. Invite them to meet up for coffee (in-person or over video chat), and if it seems like the right fit, schedule regular meetings to nurture the relationship.