Your Professional Development Road Map

April 01, 2016

By Ellen H. Badger and Shawna Szabo

For those of you who are looking to advance your career or start a career, it’s helpful to think about the skills and training you already possess and what you still need to acquire. Add some time and relevant experience to the equation, and you can create your very own professional development road map.

You may have a specific career destination in mind and see a clear road ahead to get there. But do be careful of the debris that is out of sight and around the curve. Or, you may not be sure of your destination yet, so the road may have a few turns and a bit of fog. What about that detour that looks so interesting. Is it worth investigating? How do you feel about taking this journey? Was it your decision or did circumstances force it upon you?

Whether your road map is clear and direct or still a work in progress, it is yours to shape. Your skills, training, and experience are all part of your professional development umbrella and can help you achieve your career goals. So where should you start?

First, figure out what you want to learn. Perhaps you want to acquire new skills, or explore a position in a different or related field, or expand your knowledge in your current field. You may want to discover more about the institution or organization where you work, especially if you hope to stay there.

Such knowledge can be acquired in a variety of ways. It can be informal, such as networking with colleagues. It may include serving on a committee or task force. It can comprise courses, workshops, or seminars offered at your institution or organization. It may involve auditing a graduate course, taking an adult education class, or enrolling in a degree program. It may require you to attend workshops or conference sessions offered by your professional association or by a completely unrelated organization. You may be able to acquire the training online. You can also read pertinent publications or do research in a subject area that is of interest to you and relevant to your career. Gathering this knowledge can help you determine the next stop on your professional development road map.

Here’s a strategy to consider for the upcoming NAFSA annual conference in Denver, Colorado. Attend a session on a topic you know nothing about, that’s completely outside of your professional expertise but sounds interesting. What you learn during that session can lead you to new avenues or reaffirm your interest in a specific direction.

Regardless of where you are, there are strategies for expanding and exploring the professional development opportunities available to you. There’s still time to redraw the road map.


Interested in learning more? Join us on Tuesday, May 31 from 3:00 pm–3:45 pm for our presentation, “Strategies for Your Career Advancement as an International Educator,” in the Career Center located in Four Seasons Ballroom 4.


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