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If you want to build a successful career, you need to focus on creating a plan for professional development. Having a concrete plan in place allows you to set career goals and accomplish them on a realistic timeline. Using these seven tips can help you get started.

1. Assess Your Skills

Everyone has skills and weaknesses. Knowing your career strengths shows you how you can improve to excel in your chosen job position. There’s no reason to develop skills you already have, so this assessment is a vital first step in creating a professional development plan.

2. Set Goals

Identify how you want to enrich your career and set small goals that will help you. If, for example, you want to be a better communicator, you could set goals of networking with a new colleague each week, trying a new communication tactic, and/or using body language to express yourself more effectively.

3. Create a Realistic Timeline

Professional development is a worthy goal, but it doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t expect your career to take off after just a week of dedicating yourself to professional development. It will likely take months or even years to grow your career through professional development. Break your plan down into manageable goals and give yourself a few weeks to accomplish each one. This slow approach to professional development helps you create sustainable habits that will benefit your career long after you have accomplished your development goals.

4. Take a Professional Development Course

A professional development course can enhance the skills you already have. If you already have good medical coding skills, for example, find out how an online medical coding course can help. You can enroll in a short course that shows you how to process service claims and teaches medical procedures. After completing the program, you’ll take an assessment to make sure you have a good grasp of the course material. These additional skills open up more job opportunities for you. According to one study, 63% of working Americans enroll in higher education for professional development.

5. Join a Professional Association

Many career fields have professional associations and joining one in your industry is a great way to enhance your career. Joining a professional association expands your job opportunities and gives you access to many networking events. You’ll also find mentors who can guide your career growth.

6. Update Your Resume

As you gain new skills, you must update your resume. Draft a professional resume every time you look for a new job. There are many templates available online that you can customize with your own copy. Many templates also allow you to add images, colors, and photos to create an eye-catching resume.

7. Track Your Growth

Because professional development is a lengthy process, it’s easy to get frustrated when you haven’t achieved your goals. Focusing on what you have accomplished instead of how far you have to go allows you to see your progress so that you know you are moving in the right direction. Writing down your complete plan for professional development and marking off small goals can help you see progress in a tangible way. With each goal you accomplish, you’ll enrich your career.

Having a good professional development plan helps you build a rewarding career. Writing a strong resume, enrolling in a professional development course, and joining a professional association are just a few steps to creating a professional development plan that will enrich your life.