What is Your Number-One Professional Development Tip/Strategy?

What is Your Number-One Professional Development Tip/Strategy?

The business challenges over the last year has brought about a renewed focus on professional development and its ever-evolving place in modern careers. It’s safe to assume that much about the subject has changed, but there are still valuable ideas out there that many professionals can put into practice to boost their careers. We’ve reached out to leaders from several different industries to get their top professional development suggestions.


Jump to a company response:


Tim Cook, CEO & President
Katz, Sapper & Miller

My biggest development tip is to embrace diversity by seeking out mentors who are different from you.

There are so many studies out there talking about how diverse workforces make companies more innovative, more competitive, and more productive. I find all these things are true. Working every day with people who have different backgrounds and life experiences provides a different take, uncovers blind spots, and instills humility and empathy that otherwise might not occur.

I say this from experience. Despite the many amazing male mentors who have counseled me over the years, the person who influenced me the most professionally was a female partner who I worked for earlier in my career. As a working mom who was an exceptional and involved parent, she shaped my ideas on work-life balance, on not working too many hours to the detriment of being a good dad, and making people as important as financials. She expanded my perspective in so many ways – ways that male mentors did not. I am incredibly grateful for her influence and wisdom. Her impact stays with me to this day.

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Sharese Dudley, Director of Career Services
Indiana University Northwest

At Indiana University Northwest, the Office of Career Services works with students to create a four-year Career Plan that can help them move from college to career. Each individualized plan includes short and long-term career goals, based on a throughout assessment of wants and needs. One of the most important components of every plan is the formation of a professional network.

Some ways students can build their network include joining professional organizations, leveraging the IU alumni network, participating in specialized training, finding a professional mentor for career guidance, sharing experiences, volunteering in the community, joining committees, and taking leadership roles. LinkedIn is another great way to stay engaged and make new connections. We teach students that professional development is a lifelong learning opportunity and encourage them to revisit their Career Plan—and nurture their professional network—as they progress in their chosen field.

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Heather C. Ennis, President & CEO
Northwest Indiana Forum

Always find a way to add value and to be helpful. In this day and age, it’s easy to say that’s not my job or I don’t have time for that. When there are things that need to be done, find a way to help move them along. Also, make sure the work you are doing is adding value to the process not just taking up space.

Anyone can be a professional meeting-goer but what are the outcomes of your meetings? What are the action items? Make sure you make great use of your time and the time of those around you and create action.

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Tony Ferracane, Vice President, Human Resources
Community Foundation of Northwest Indiana, Inc.

Knowledge is power! Become a life-long learner and surround yourself with successful people.

Community Healthcare System fosters a supportive environment that allows learners to advance their professional goals. As one of the area’s largest employers, we are committed to developing the workforce by enhancing the skills of area residents. We also offer programs to help our employees advance their education and discover new career opportunities.

There is a reason why “learners” are successful. They have trained, studied, and continue to increase their knowledge so they are prepared to respond to any situation that may arise in business and in life.

Most successful people are willing to share their knowledge to help others reach their goals. Consider meeting with people outside of your field. You will be surprised that the elements of success are very similar if not the same, regardless of the type of work.

Learning experiences can help you discover or rediscover who you are and where you are going. It’s up to you! Knowledge won’t come looking for you. You have to search for it. Start today!

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Louie Gonzalez, Chancellor, Lake County Campus
Ivy Tech Community College

Surprisingly, whenever I asked someone to serve as my mentor, I never heard the word no. They were all busy people, but they always carved out time for me. These mentors were like a “personal GPS” for my career, never hesitating to tell me to make a “legal U-turn” whenever I took the wrong road. I could not have done it without them.

Ask for feedback. Early on, I began to ask my direct supervisors and colleagues how they viewed me. Everyone shared that I was meant to do more, and one planted the seed of going back to school.

Don’t be afraid to make a decision that takes you out of your comfort zone. I tend to be cautious and prudent but slowly, I began to change. I am still a “situational introvert,” meaning whenever I am around people, especially young people, I become an extrovert. I can connect more readily to students because of this skill set. By truly listening to myself, I believe I made smarter career decisions.

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Blair Milo, Secretary for Career Connections and Talent
State of Indiana

Follow up and follow through thoughtfully. While today’s technology can make networking easier than ever, it can also make transactional networking less meaningful. Taking the time to truly listen to a new contact, learning what they’re passionate about, what challenges they’re wrestling with, and/or what opportunities they’re excited to pursue, then following up with that individual is a great way to build meaningful relationships that may lead to important opportunities at a future date, for a future opportunity you’re not even aware of yet. Equally important is following through on whatever task or opportunity is before you to the best of your ability, which will create the right opportunities. A mentor once shared great advice that I regularly draw upon: “If you do the best job you can in the job you have right now, the right opportunity(-ies) will come along at the right time.”

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Lorne Oke, Associate Vice President, The Talent Ladder
Indiana Wesleyan University – National & Global

Knowledge is no longer the power some once claimed it to be. Now most forms of knowledge are widely available to any user with a network capable device. However, the ability to learn, unlearn, relearn, and imagine new forms of work will lead the way into the future. We will not gain or prosper by perfecting the performance of a certain skill over thousands of hours of painstaking practice, but by using imagination, creativity, growth mindset, and relearning to discover or design new perspectives and/or strategies.

That’s why we created the Talent Ladder (theTalentLadder.com). We wanted to find a way to connect learning at every level to degrees and promotional opportunities. Our strategy is to embrace learning in all forms at every level and connect training experiences to college credit because we believe that skills get jobs, and degrees get promotions.

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Category Features, Pro Voices