5 professional development tips to stay relevant in the workforce

No matter where you are in your career, staying relevant professionally will be a big part of your success.

5 professional development tips to stay relevant in the workforce

Commit to your professional development.

Nobody wants to look like a dinosaur in their industry. Staying relevant in your field, though, isn’t easy. Unfortunately, a number of mid-level workers rest on their laurels and don’t bother with further professional development. “I think some people become content with where they are in their career,” says executive and leadership coach Jane Scudder, “but a lot of other people are hankering for more career development and want to continue to progress in their industry.”

Hiring managers want to see that you’re invested in your professional development, no matter what stage you’re at in your career. This shows initiative and curiosity, as well as the understanding that you can—and should—always learn new things. In order to be competitive, companies need to be at the forefront of their industry and adopt new innovations, setting the standard for others to follow. By adopting a similar work ethic, you’ll be a strong candidate.

But it takes work. Use these steps to commit to your professional development and stay relevant in your industry.

Focus on your skills development

Keeping your skills current is crucial. To do that, you’ll have to take ownership of your professional development, says Michael Melcher, an executive coach and partner at leadership development firm Next Step Partners. Be proactive, and don’t rely on your company to show you the way forward.

To determine what skills are in demand today, Scudder recommends looking at job postings for positions that are one or two steps above your current role. “It’s like reverse engineering,” says Scudder. “You’re seeing what core competencies and skills employers are looking for.”

Once you’ve identified the skills that you’re looking to gain, take a targeted approach by seeking out both internal and external training opportunities.

Pro tip: Many unions and professional associations offer free or subsidized job training to members. Seek out online classes to help you brush up on Excel, Photoshop, public speaking, and other skills—and you can learn at your own pace from your computer or mobile device.

Network, network, network

Building relationships with industry peers will enable you to gain a broader perspective of what’s going on your field, while also learning new work styles and problem-solving approaches. You can start by meeting employees of different ages at your current company (every generation of workers operates differently), and then branch out to industry professionals outside your employer.

Continuing to expand your professional network will also help you improve your visibility within the industry, says executive coach and leadership speaker Debra Benton. According to Benton, networking should be part of your daily tasks. “It isn’t easy, but the more networking you do, the more comfortable you’ll get at doing it and the more successful you’ll be,” she says.

Ideally, you want to focus on forming relationships with thought leaders in your field—people who’ve already proven their ability to stay relevant in your industry.

Build a presence on social media

In today’s workplace, simply being on social media isn’t enough, says Benton. To fully leverage these platforms, you have to be actively using these sites. This means taking the time to share other people’s tweets or posts, comment on industry news, and build your follower base. Consistency is key.

Looking to establish yourself as an expert on a certain topic? Consider starting a blog on the subject, and use your social media profiles to drive traffic to the site.

Improve your visibility in the industry

You don’t necessarily need an invitation to take an active role in a professional association. Try getting on the speaking docket or moderating a panel discussion at an industry conference—anything that helps you gain exposure and establish yourself as a leader in your field, says career and branding coach Thomas Powner.

Talk to conference organizers and past speakers to find opportunities. If you’re not comfortable in front of a microphone, taking a public speaking course through an organization like Toastmasters can help you overcome your stage fright.

In addition, asking your boss to let you take on high-profile projects can help you improve your visibility at your organization. “Stretch projects are great,” Scudder says. “They help you show decision makers at your company what you’re up to and the value that you’re bringing to your company.”

Apply for awards

Don’t be afraid to promote your career achievements thus far, says Peggy Klaus, author of Brag!: The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It. No matter what job you do, chances are good there’s an organization handing out honors within your industry. To focus your efforts, consider researching what accolades your role models have received and then apply for those awards or honors.

Awards aren’t just for individuals; if you’re part of a team or manage a team, nominate yourselves for industry awards. Anything that brings positive attention to your achievements is worth seeking out.

Expand your professional development

It’s not enough to win one game and declare yourself a champion. You need to consistently improve your game if you want to capture the attention of top companies and recruiters. Could you use some help with that? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you can get career advice, workplace trends, and job search tips sent right to your inbox so you can see how to get yourself to the next rung on the career ladder. Additionally, you can upload up to five versions of your resume—each tailored to the types of jobs that interest you. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you. How far you go in your career is up to you, and Monster can help you reach your full potential.