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With exam season looming, it may feel as if the pressure is mounting. Acing those finals is often key to successfully earning the credits you need to complete your degree program. While you cram to earn those top marks, you must also focus on the start of your career path.

Career development plays a crucial role in the success of any career path, regardless of field or industry. Setting career development goals for both the short and long term can help you balance your exams with launching your career.

Understanding Career Development

The National Society of Leadership and Success defines career development as the process of cultivating your career path and developing a strategic, actionable growth plan for your long-term professional goals. Career development is more than just finding your first job after graduation — it is developing the skills you need to enter the workforce and progress in your field.

The Importance of Career Development

One of the most common mistakes college students make is prioritizing academic achievement at the cost of career development. While it is essential to study for your exams and focus on your schoolwork during college, you also need to devote time to professional development. Career development should begin during your first year of school, as this is when you will start building your resume and honing the soft skills required in nearly every industry.

How Career Development Benefits Employees and Employers

Setting career development goals benefits you and prospective employers. By making a conscious effort to join organizations that align with your career goals and seeking out internship opportunities, you will be able to develop the skills you need for your career path. Employers may find hiring candidates who have prioritized career development means they can enjoy a more valuable return on their hiring investment by reducing the time and resources required for on-the-job training.

Steps To Kickstart Your Career Development

Whether you are just beginning your degree program or your graduation date is looming, now is the best time to kickstart your career development plan.

These are the steps that you can take to create a realistic and effective career development strategy:

Identify Personal and Professional Goals

Before selecting courses to help you build the skills required for your career or applying for internship opportunities, you should identify your personal and professional goals.

A few questions you should ask yourself as you consider your career goals include:

  • What are my strengths and existing skills?
  • What steps do I need to take to earn an entry-level job in this field?
  • What is the job outlook for the field I am considering?
  • What does work-life balance look like to me?

Discover Your Interests and Skills

As you set short- and long-term goals for your career, you should also explore opportunities to learn new skills and develop fresh interests. You may find that college is the perfect time to try new activities and explore organizations that may interest you, as they could open your eyes to fresh possibilities.

Research the Necessary Skills for Your Career Path

As you begin to settle on a career path, research the skills required in that field. Not only do most organizations require you to have an advanced set of technical skills, but they also want to hire employees with well-developed interpersonal skills.

Creating a Robust Career Development Plan

After some self-reflection and evaluation, you can begin to develop a robust career development plan that will put you on the path toward success in your professional endeavors.

Set Long-Term and Short-Term Goals

Your plan should be anchored by both long- and short-term goals. A good way to outline your career goals is to choose a few long-term goals and a deadline by which you want to reach them. Within your long-term goals, identify the short-term steps you need to take to achieve those goals. The SMART method is considered the premier way to identify and establish career development goals.

Develop Essential Skills for Career Advancement

Knowledge acquisition is an important part of your college education, but skill-building may prove more worthwhile for your overall career trajectory. According to LinkedIn, these are some of the most critical skills required for career advancement — regardless of your chosen career path:

  • Communication
  • Critical thinking
  • Empathy
  • Change management
  • Adaptability

Utilize Career Development Resources Effectively

The career goals you choose are personal to you, and you may feel a certain sense of independence is required to achieve them. While self-confidence and independence will go a long way, it is important to remember some resources can give you a boost as you begin to develop your career. At Post University, for example, our Center for Career and Professional Development works to provide students with the assistance they need to accomplish their career goals.

Enhancing Career Development With Professional Networking

Although you will need to take an inward glance to fine-tune your career development plan, you will also have to extend outward with your professional network. Connections within your community and across your field will allow you to expand your reach.

The Role of Networking in Career Development

Regardless of your field or area of expertise, you will find that there are many job postings online for available positions. In reality, many professionals find out about job opportunities through networking. 31 percent of professionals found their jobs through professional connections, highlighting the vital role of networking within your career development plan.

Strategies for Effective Networking

According to Indeed, these are some of the most effective networking strategies for professionals:

  • Leverage the power of social media. Create profiles on professional networking sites and connect with individuals across a broad range of industries to help expand your reach.
  • Join professional groups and industry organizations. Participation helps familiarize you with thought leaders in your industry and keeps you informed of trends shaping your field.
  • Participate in informational interviews. These can be incredibly beneficial during your college career, as they can allow you to learn more about the professionals currently working in your field while simultaneously making critical connections.

Exploring Leadership Opportunities for Career Growth

Taking advantage of leadership opportunities throughout your college career can give you a competitive advantage once you enter the job market. By exploring these opportunities, you can begin to fine-tune your interests while honing your leadership skills.

The Impact of Leadership Roles On Career Development

Acquiring leadership positions, both on a professional and personal level, can significantly impact your career development. Leadership positions allow you to:

  • Better understand yourself and your leadership style.
  • Develop your managerial skills and learn how to delegate effectively.
  • Become more self-assured and confident.

Leadership roles can stand out on a resume, and they could help differentiate you from other candidates applying for the same position.

Ways to Assume Leadership Responsibilities

Leadership opportunities are worth pursuing no matter what point you are in your career development plan. Some ways you can assume leadership responsibilities include:

  • Volunteer for a local charitable organization.
  • Seek a position on a local board or organization.
  • Take on a leadership role as part of a multi-faceted group project.
  • Participate in extracurricular activities and consider leadership opportunities within those organizations.

Continual Learning for Career Development

Earning your degree is often the first step toward entering the field of your choosing, but your education does not end on graduation day. Continuing education is a critical component of career development since the industry landscape will continue to shift and change throughout your career.

Importance of Constant Skill Upgrades

In the rapidly changing digital era, constant skill development and upgrades are necessary for all professionals, regardless of their field. By prioritizing professional development throughout your career, you can ensure that you will remain relevant and have the skills required to advance.

Learning From Mentors and Industry Leaders

Mentors and industry thought leaders can be excellent examples of leadership. As you build your professional network and pursue leadership opportunities for yourself, you should consider participating in a mentorship program in which you can receive constructive feedback and actionable advice that will help you hone your leadership style and approach.

Maintaining Work-Life Balance for Sustainable Career Development

Thoughts of your professional goals and aspirations can easily become all-consuming, particularly during your college career when every decision you make seems to be related to your professional goals. However, work-life balance is essential, and being mindful of your personal needs can help you create a sustainable career development strategy.

The Role of Work-Life Balance in Career Sustainability

Striking a balance between your personal life and career can ensure you have a long and rewarding career path. Achieving work-life balance can prevent burnout and help you feel motivated to continue pursuing advancement opportunities. Companies that prioritize work-life balance find their turnover rates reduced by more than 25 percent and healthcare costs drop by more than 50 percent.

Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Work-Life Balance

Achieving and sustaining work-life balance requires you to continually evaluate your schedule and priorities. These tips can help you maintain a healthy sense of work-life balance:

  • Take scheduled breaks throughout the day to prevent daily burnout and fatigue.
  • Plan days off in advance and know that it is okay to step away and take time for yourself.
  • Prioritize giving yourself time to do what you want, as a flexible schedule can help you be more productive while you are working.

Nurturing Professional Relationships for Career Advancement

Throughout your career, you will meet new people who can help you grow within your professional role. Nurturing professional relationships can be a key component of career advancement.

The Significance of Strong Professional Relationships

Strong professional relationships can and should exist between you and the people you work with. Not only can your coworkers become mentors who help you on your career path, but they can also become trusted friends. Strong professional relationships can foster collaboration, boost workplace morale, and improve productivity.

Building and Maintaining Professional Relationships

You can build and maintain professional relationships by:

  • Setting up casual meetings, such as discussions over lunch, that provide you with an opportunity to get to know your colleagues better.
  • Offering help to those around you.
  • Showing your appreciation for your coworkers and supervisors who help you in your professional role.

Improving Communication Skills for Career Development

Being a clear and effective communicator is essential for any professional, regardless of the career that you want to pursue. By constantly working to improve your communication skills, you will naturally progress in your career.

The Role of Communication in Career Success

Communication plays a critical role in career success. Effective communication improves the workplace by:

  • Increasing engagement levels.
  • Improving collaboration.
  • Reducing conflicts or misunderstandings within the workplace.
  • Increasing motivation.

Strategies to Enhance Communication Skills

As you seek to accomplish your short- and long-term career development goals, you can use these strategies to improve and enhance your communication skills:

  • Develop a communications framework that allows you to relay information in a way that is concise, strategic, and informative.
  • Consider the timeline before you send an email or draft a social media post. Try to schedule any communications at a time that is convenient for the recipient.
  • Simplify your wording as much as possible. Always review and revise communications before sending them out.

Is Changing Roles Within an Organization a Good Career Move?

Once you have secured a position at a company within your field, you may find yourself presented with an opportunity to change roles within that organization. This can be an advantageous career move, depending on your short- and long-term career goals.

The Pros and Cons of Job Hopping in the Same Organization

Before you take on a new position at the same organization, you will want to consider the benefits and disadvantages of this professional move.

On the plus side, taking a new position within the same organization will allow you to improve your skillset and develop an advanced understanding of the organization. On the other hand, you may find that this type of mobility shifts your career path in a way that may not align with your personal or professional goals. Ultimately, you should carefully consider the decision and determine what is best for your career path.

Learn More About Post University’s Center for Career and Professional Development

At Post University, we are dedicated to providing our students with educational opportunities that allow them to pursue their passions and strengthen their skill sets. We provide career support through our Center for Career and Professional Development, where students can receive assistance as they navigate career-related decisions as well as focus on soft skill development that will help them achieve their career development goals.

Thank you for reading! The views and information provided in this post do not reflect Post University programs and/or outcomes directly. If you are interested in learning more about our programs, you can find a complete list of our programs on our website or reach out directly!

Please note jobs and/or career outcomes highlighted in this blog do not reflect jobs or career outcomes expected from any Post program. To learn more about Post’s programs and their outcomes, please fill out a form to speak with an admissions advisor.