Professional Development

Four Ways to Improve Your Professional Development Skills

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by Jama Thurman, M.A., LMHC, career services manager at Hodges University

As students and working professionals, we are always looking for opportunities to grow in our skills and knowledge, and there are certain times when you should stop and evaluate your occupational wellness, which is considered the balance between your work and personal life and the ability to achieve personal satisfaction and enrichment from work.

In addition to practicing stress management and relaxation techniques, occupational wellness can be achieved by improving your professional development skills and knowledge. Attending school is one way to gain new skills and knowledge, but there are many other ways that will also help you feel more satisfied and challenged in your current position, or help you to acquire a new position that is even better for you. Here are four ways to improve your professional development skills:

  1. Engage in professional development activities. Common activities include reading books related to work, attending professional development workshops or conferences, and gaining new certifications to improve occupational wellness and job satisfaction.
  2. Growing your network. Expanding your professional network and improving your interpersonal skills is another way to improve job satisfaction. One of the best ways to expand your professional network is to join a professional organization. You can also try volunteering, attending community service organizations such as Lion’s Club or Kiwanis, or improving your public speaking skills through a group such as Toastmasters.

Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm, suggested in an article featured on that “Many people who self-identify as leaders make a point of being involved in the community through charitable organizations, so it’s a good avenue for connecting with other motivated professionals. There is also nothing like rallying around a good cause to forge strong bonds. Plus, some employers look favorably on resumes that list significant community engagement.”*

  1. Mentoring is good for professional development.Become a mentor or find a mentee. Helping others grow in the field can help you stay current with new trends and knowledge. Finding a mentor can help you discover a path for success and gain professional advice and feedback. You can also create a peer lunch group of colleagues who are interested in discussing professional development and competence. Group members can share ideas and knowledge related to professional growth and advancement opportunities.
  2. Improve transferable skills and soft skills. One of the best ways to achieve career success and job satisfaction is to focus on gaining and improving your transferable skills and soft skills. These are skills that can be transferred from job to job or industry to industry. Employers know that receiving a college degree equals a certain amount of knowledge. However, students often overlook soft skills. Employers look for individuals with a strong work ethic and dependability. Think about how you can show that to your current boss or to a hiring manager on your resume.

Employers also seek workers who are self-motivated with positive attitudes. They are looking for team players who are organized and work well under pressure. Employers also want employees who are flexible and confident. Most of all, your skills, knowledge and abilities must be communicated effectively to your boss or hiring manager. Improving your written and verbal communication skills can make the difference between getting the job or moving on. Presenting yourself confidently and professionally can unlock many doors.

In an article, titled, “Career Coach: Yes, you still need strong communication skills,” written by Joyce E.A. Russell, contributing writer with The Washington Post, she referenced an interview of Arne Sorenson, president and chief executive of Marriott International, presenting to the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. Emphasizing the importance of strong oral and writing communication skills, he said, “If you’re a master at running a spreadsheet or a financial model, but really don’t have the ability to understand the assumptions that are in it, or debate the assumptions in it, then you’re not going to go as far as you could go otherwise.”**

For additional information about how you can strengthen and improve your professional development skills, contact the Office of Career Services at (239) 938-7815.

*Robert Half, “5 unconventional ways to grow your professional network,” Careerbuilder, June 19, 2015,

**Russel, Joyce E.A., “Career Coach: Yes, you still need strong communication skills,” The Washington Post, April 29, 2016.