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Unlocking professional growth skill development

By Katie LoFaso

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  1. What is professional growth, and why does it matter?
  2. Top skills to improve for professional growth
  3. Skill development for professional growth: How to get started
  4. Considerations for achieving professional growth sustainably
  5. Develop future-proof skills for career growth

According to a 2023 DeVry University study(opens new window), 84% of American workers believe it’s their responsibility to keep up with the latest developments and trends in their fields. Additionally, 73% want to take the initiative to upskill, even if their employer doesn’t offer learning opportunities.

Investing in your professional growth opens new career opportunities and increases your earning potential. Learning new skills will also help you adapt to a rapidly changing job market. Below, we discuss the top skills to develop and strategies to meet your professional growth goals.

What is professional growth, and why does it matter?

Professional growth is a dynamic journey. It’s not just about stacking up qualifications and skills — it’s about evolving and expanding your horizons to unlock new levels of career achievement. Think of it like climbing a mountain where each new skill or responsibility is a higher ledge offering a better view and more possibilities. This process is essential for nurturing career longevity and deepening your professional expertise.

While closely related, professional growth and professional development serve different purposes. Think of professional growth as preparing for a marathon — building endurance and versatility for the long haul. You might learn skills that don't seem relevant now but are crucial for reaching future career peaks. On the other hand, professional development is like training for a sprint, with a focus on immediate goals and quick gains — perfect for addressing the here and now.

Examples of professional growth could include:

  1. Achieving an advanced certification that sets you apart in your field.
  2. Diving deep into a new programming language, expanding your toolkit.
  3. Guiding the next generation by mentoring new colleagues.

Conversely, professional development might look like:

  1. Attending a workshop on project management.
  2. Adopting a new time management strategy to boost daily productivity.
  3. Networking at industry events to forge valuable connections.

Professional growth is a cornerstone for not just meeting, but exceeding, the demands of your current job and climbing to new heights. It enriches your work life, fuels your self-confidence, and makes your career path more fulfilling.

Moreover, this journey empowers you to set personal milestones. While the corporate world focuses on quarterly results, professional growth lets you chart a path filled with your own aspirations, helping you discover opportunities that transcend your current role.

In today’s rapidly changing professional landscape, staying updated with cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) is non-negotiable. Upskilling is a powerful strategy to widen your professional scope and enhance both personal and career growth.

Reflecting on findings from The American Upskilling Study, we see tangible rewards—professionals who embrace learning boast an average salary increase of $8,000(opens new window), a hefty 8.6% bump. Moreover, 30% of these learners step up to higher-paying or more advanced roles post-upskilling, showcasing the direct benefits of investing in your own professional development.

Top skills to improve for professional growth

Here are some of the top, in-demand skills that employees seek across industries. Mastering these can accelerate your career development and help you achieve long-term professional goals.

1. AI skills

Across industries, companies use artificial intelligence (AI) to drive innovation and improve workflows. For example, many financial institutions use machine learning algorithms to detect money laundering(opens new window) and fraud. In the agriculture industry, farmers have implemented AI systems to monitor and improve crop health(opens new window).

The widespread adoption of AI has led to a surge in demand for AI experts. In February 2024, 2% of all job postings were AI-related(opens new window). Developing AI skills can prepare you for one of these roles or help you apply this transformative technology in your current job.

These skills and tools will help you use AI effectively:

  1. Programming languages - AI professionals use languages like Julia, Python, or R to write the code for AI applications
  2. Machine learning - Write algorithms and train them to process large datasets
  3. Natural language processing - Develop AI models that interpret human speech or writing, analyze its context and sentiment, and respond
  4. AI frameworks - Build AI applications and machine learning models using TensorFlow, Keras, and other popular frameworks

Multiverse’s AI Jumpstart module provides in-depth training in AI fundamentals and skills, and is available to all Multiverse apprentices. Apprentices learn to use AI and machine learning to enhance their daily job responsibilities. This module also teaches AI ethics and legal considerations.

2. Data analytics skills

Data analytics ranks sixth on LinkedIn’s list of the most in-demand skills for 2024(opens new window). This specialization involves analyzing raw data to discover new insights and patterns. Business leaders use these findings to answer questions and drive strategic decision-making.

These skills will help you gather and interpret data effectively:

  1. Data collection - Use data mining software, surveys, sensor technologies, and other tools to gather relevant data
  2. Data preparation - Process, clean, and organize data into a usable format
  3. Statistical analysis - Interpret data using regression analysis, time series analysis, and other mathematical techniques
  4. Data visualization - Convert data into visually appealing graphics using Microsoft BI, Tableau, and other platforms

You can develop sophisticated data analysis competencies with Multiverse’s Advanced Analytics Apprenticeship. This 12-month program teaches the specific skills needed to make predictions and solve problems with data. Apprentices study machine learning, predictive analytics, and data visualization techniques.

3. Project management

According to LinkedIn's top skills list, project management is the fourth most in-demand ability(opens new window) for 2024. Employers in all sectors need capable managers to plan, execute, and oversee complex projects.

In technical environments, learning Agile methodologies can help you manage projects more effectively. These frameworks use cross-functional collaboration and iterative development cycles to complete projects.

You can also take online courses and seminars related to project administration. These professional development initiatives will prepare you to take on leadership roles in your current and future roles.

4. Coding skills

People often assume that only tech workers need to understand how to code. But workers in all industries use programming languages to improve workflows and complete tasks.

For example, a Content Marketer could use JavaScript to build interactive quizzes that give personalized product recommendations. A Human Resources Specialist can analyze employee attendance data using Python.

According to a 2023 Github study(opens new window), the most popular programming languages include:

  1. JavaScript
  2. Python
  3. TypeScript
  4. Java
  5. C#
  6. C++
  7. PHP
  8. C

5. UX/UI design skills

Forbes listed user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design(opens new window) as among the top high-income skills to gain in 2024.

UX/UI Designers focus on developing accessible products that end users can intuitively interact with. For instance, they add navigation menus and site maps to websites to help visitors find relevant content.

Gain practical knowledge in this area by studying foundational UX/UI principles, such as:

  1. Conduct user testing throughout the design process to identify areas of improvement
  2. Develop a visual hierarchy with headers, section breaks, and white space
  3. Simplify interactions between the user and the product as much as possible
  4. Use consistent fonts, colors, logos, and other visual elements to build familiarity
  5. Follow Web Content Accessibility Guidelines(opens new window) to make your content accessible for people with disabilities

You should also learn popular UX/UI design tools. You can also use InVision and Sketch to develop product prototypes.

6. Communication skills

The 2023 Devry University survey(opens new window) found that 50% of employers highly value communication, public speaking, and writing.

Effective communication skills improve your interactions with clients, managers, and stakeholders. They’ll also strengthen your personal and professional relationships by allowing you to listen actively and express yourself clearly.

Many professional organizations offer free or affordable communication training courses. For example, the American Management Association(opens new window) offers over 80 classes on emotional intelligence, speaking with authority, and other soft skills.

You can also improve your communication skills by volunteering for public speaking opportunities. Offer to deliver the next client presentation for your team or join your local Toastmasters club(opens new window). These experiences will push you outside your comfort zone and develop your confidence.

Skill development for professional growth: How to get started

Professional growth doesn’t happen overnight. To reach your full potential, you’ll need to create a structured, long-term development plan.

These steps will help you embrace a growth mindset and accelerate your career development.

Assess your baseline

Start by benchmarking your existing skills and areas of expertise. You should also rate your level of proficiency in each competency.  This process will allow you to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses.

Set clear goals

Next, decide where you want to go from here. Use the SMART framework(opens new window) to establish short- and long-term career goals. These objectives should be:

  1. Specific
  2. Measurable
  3. Achievable
  4. Relevant
  5. Time-bound

Here are a few examples of effective professional development goals:

  1. Become proficient in Julia in one year
  2. Attend three professional development workshops on AI by September
  3. Publish one thought piece per month on emerging AI trends

Determine the competencies needed to accomplish each SMART goal and compare them to your current abilities to identify skill gaps.

Build a professional development plan

A professional development plan outlines the actionable steps you’ll take to accomplish your future goals. Include milestones and deadlines to help you stay on track.

Let’s say you want to gain foundational AI skills and pursue a new career path as a Machine Learning Engineer. Here’s a sample professional development plan broken down by timeframe and key result:

  1. All year: Spend at least 15 minutes daily studying Python
  2. January: Take professional development courses on foundational machine learning concepts
  3. February: Learn how to build basic machine learning algorithms
  4. March: Ask current Machine Learning Engineers for informational interviews to get professional development tips
  5. April: Practice collecting and processing raw data with free datasets from new window)
  6. May: Study data visualization techniques and learn how to use Tableau

Breaking your goals down into small steps will help you stay motivated and keep moving forward.

Learn new skills

Once you’ve outlined your plan, it’s time to buckle down and gain new abilities. There are many learning opportunities to help you get started.

A Multiverse apprenticeship is one of the best ways to expand your knowledge. These free training programs give apprentices a comprehensive foundation in their chosen career path. They also gain practical, paid experience while working for top employers.

Your current employer may offer professional development programs. Some companies offer leadership training and time management workshops. Others have formal or informal mentorship programs. These learning opportunities can help you demonstrate your initiative while upskilling and reskilling.

Seek out opportunities to advance at work

As you develop new skills, seek opportunities for career advancement with your current employer. For instance, you can volunteer to lead a new project or apply for a promotion. These opportunities enable you to take on more responsibilities without switching companies.

Considerations for achieving professional growth sustainably

Professional growth can feel empowering and exciting, but it’s easy to burn out if you try to accomplish too much at once. Develop a realistic professional development plan and stick to your timeline.

Prioritize a healthy work life balance as you pursue your professional and personal goals. Set aside time for hobbies, self-care, and your loved ones. You should also check in with yourself regularly to assess your energy levels and mental health.

Remember that professional growth is an ongoing process, not an overnight transformation. Commit to lifelong learning, but don’t be afraid to adjust your goals as needed.

Develop future-proof skills for career growth

Continuous learning allows you to grow professionally throughout your career. As you gain new skills, you’ll become a more valuable employee and prepare yourself for new responsibilities.

Professional growth can also lead to immense personal fulfillment. In the American Upskilling Study, 71% of workers said that their overall job satisfaction increased after upskilling. Additionally, 66% reported feeling empowered to change things at work, compared to 42% of non-upskillers.

Take control of your career trajectory with a Multiverse apprenticeship. You’ll gain hands-on experience and receive one-on-one career coaching to support your professional development. Apprentices learn in-demand skills like advanced analytics, software engineering, and AI and machine learning.

Get started by filling out our easy application(opens new window). You’ll answer a few questions about your experience, qualifications, and career goals. The Multiverse team will contact you to discuss the next steps.

Katie LoFaso

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21 November 2023

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