How to Improve Your Professional Skills
and Build a Successful Career

See also: Continuous Professional Development

Learning doesn’t stop once you enter the workforce or when you land a job. If anything, this is when you realize that, if you want to enhance your professional life, learning has to become a constant.

The things you’ve learned in school can serve as a solid foundation on which you can build your career, but they’re not enough to ensure success in the long term.

Regardless of the job you choose or your field of activity, career success largely depends on the skills you bring to the table and your ability to improve them over time.

Since industries continue to change, powered by tech advancements, and the job market is constantly evolving, it’s only natural for you to evolve with it. Improving and expanding your skillset will not only make it easier for you to get the job of your dreams, but it will also help you become better at what you do, boost motivation and job performance, and improve your chances of getting promoted, and further your career.

But the one thing that might not be as obvious is how to go about improving your skills and knowledge. Considering that professional skills encompass a variety of abilities, qualities, and talents that allow you to perform a wide range of jobs and tasks, there is any number of ways in which you can sharpen or expand them. Here we’ve selected a few of these strategies that hopefully will make the process easier for you and pave the way for career success.

'SKILLS' written in chalk on a blackboard.

Assess your strengths and weaknesses

If you’ve been to a few job interviews already, you’ve surely noticed that employers tend to ask you about the attributes that would make you a good fit for the position you’re applying for or the things that you want to improve about yourself. They’re asking you these questions in order to assess your strengths and weaknesses, and that’s what you should do too.

Knowing where your strong suits lie and what areas of your professional life could use some improvement will help you decide which skills you need to focus on. Once you know what you need to work on, you can set clear and relevant goals in this direction.

Develop a career roadmap

Worried that your formal education left you with some major gaps that could affect your career development? Creating a career development plan can expand your skills and knowledge, filling the void in areas you need to grow.

There are a plethora of courses you can join that can help you continue your education and even earn a degree in your field. Many of these courses provide flexibility or remote learning opportunities, allowing you to fit your studies around your work schedule or other commitments. Also, if your company offers training programs that you could benefit from, it would be a shame not to take advantage of them.

Be open to feedback

It can be very hard, if not impossible, to assess your own skills objectively. That’s why, at times, you need someone from the outside to give us an unbiased opinion regarding your professional abilities. That someone can be your friends, family, co-workers, or your employer.

Ask for feedback from people who will be honest with you no matter what and learn to accept constructive criticism. You’ll be able to gain valuable insight into your own strengths and weaknesses and identify flaws that might have escaped your subjective perception.

Be a good communicator

Being a good communicator is a skill in itself, and one that can lead to the improvement of so many others. If you’ve been neglecting this area of your professional life, you might want to reconsider your priorities and brush up on your communication skills.

No matter the type of work you’re doing and what position you hold, the ability to communicate efficiently with your co-workers, superiors or staff is essential for workplace success. The best way to improve this soft skill is by practicing as often as possible and using all the channels you have at your disposal in this respect. Effective communication is key to any successful leadership transformation within an organization. By clearly conveying goals, providing feedback, and engaging employees at all levels, leaders can drive positive change.

Honing communication abilities through active listening, public speaking training, and learning new technologies allows managers to connect with their teams and spearhead organizational growth.

Build strong relationships and connections

Teamwork makes the dream work. This well-known phrase is as true as ever, and it’s not just business success that can be achieved through effective collaboration, but your own professional success as well.

If you can work well with others, you can also learn from them and expand your knowledge in areas that might go beyond your direct sphere of responsibilities or interests, but that could be of great use to you in certain situations. You can find a lot of useful information from your more seasoned co-workers, from how they’ve approached their own career advancement to coping with stress at work, calculating compensation for a work accident, or how to avoid career stagnation.

Step out of your comfort zone

When you set out to improve your skills or develop new ones, you’ll inevitably open the door to a lot of fears and insecurities. Keep in mind that growth is never a comfortable process. It happens when you finally decide to step out of your comfort zone and do something new and different for a change.

That’s why you might experience setbacks or feel like quitting most of the time. However, you have to push yourself to move forward and find the motivation to keep going, despite the challenges that come your way.

Find a mentor

Yes, change can be scary, and developing your professional skills is often a daunting process, but no one said you have to do it on your own. Apart from surrounding yourself with like-minded people who are interested in growing and advancing their careers, you can also look for a mentor who can guide you and provide support on your professional development journey.

Whether it’s one of your superiors or a professional whom you respect and admire, a mentor can give you valuable advice and share their wisdom with you, helping you achieve your career goals.

The Skills You Need Guide to Personal Development

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide to Personal Development

Learn how to set yourself effective personal goals and find the motivation you need to achieve them. This is the essence of personal development, a set of skills designed to help you reach your full potential, at work, in study and in your personal life.

The second edition of or bestselling eBook is ideal for anyone who wants to improve their skills and learning potential, and it is full of easy-to-follow, practical information.

About the Author

Cynthia Madison is an experienced blogger who loves writing about a wide variety of topics, from marketing and finance to travel and healthcare. When she’s not in front of her computer working on her next article, she enjoys reading a good book or exploring new hiking trails and backpacking routes across the country.