Top 5 Professional Development Skills to Enhance Your Career

Professional development must continue long after you land your first job if you want to remain relevant and valuable to your employer, as well as have opportunities to advance. Here are the top professional development skills that can enhance your career.

1. Communication skills.

How you communicate with co-workers and supervisors has everything to do with how you are perceived in the workplace and your ability to get the job done. Communication skills is a broad category that includes listening, speaking, writing, and leadership or management abilities, all of which employers value and look for as they promote from within. A good deal of communication is non-verbal, and researchers now have lots of information about how body language can often say more than your words and can impact how others respond to you.

2. Problem-solving skills.

There are always problems to solve in a professional career, and being able to do so effectively takes critical thinking skills, flexibility, and the emotional intelligence to consider others’ viewpoints in addition to your own. Professionals with good problem-solving skills will be seen as effective in their jobs and good team players who can make even the most impossible-seeming situations work out well.

3. Organization and planning skills.

If you want to get a lot done at work and demonstrate that you are highly productive, you need good organization and planning skills to help you maximize productivity and avoid doing things the long and inefficient way. Organization is more than just keeping a calendar or planning out your day; there is much to learn about how to be organized in the workplace.

4. Management skills.

Even if you aren’t in management, learning management skills can allow you to take leadership positions within your position and be a pathway to advancement. Learning how to manage people also teaches you about yourself and can be a boost to other skills like communication and emotional intelligence, and improve your value to an employer even if no advancement opportunity presents itself right away.

5. Having a positive attitude and service mindset.

A positive attitude not only makes you someone people want to be around, it can also help you perform better at your job. Looking to serve others, from customers to co-workers, helps maintain a good attitude and is also highly effective, preventing many problems (such as the “that’s not my job” mentality). Even leaders can have a serving attitude and are usually highly respected when they do.

While it may seem like many of the skills you need for professional development are not ones you can learn in a course, there are actually many continuing education courses that teach these skills and help you to develop them. CCSU offers many courses on both technical and soft skills that can foster professional development and growth as you progress in your career.  View all our open courses to see what we can offer you as a professional.

Yes, You Can Integrate Continuing Education into Your Busy Life!

One of the biggest concerns people have about taking continuing education courses is the time it takes. Most people’s lives are already stuffed full with work, family, maybe a hobby, and social time with friends. Who has time to take classes on top of all of that?

And yet, the benefits of continuing education courses are clear and plentiful: advancement at work, better brain function, and even better relationships in your personal life. Even better, it is possible to integrate continuing education into even the busiest schedule with a minimum of disruption to your other activities.

Continuing Ed: Fast and Flexible

You may think you have no downtime or wasted time, but ask yourself a few questions. How much time do you spend watching television, Netflix, or goofy cat videos? How much time do you spend Facebooking your life or posting your dinner on Instagram? How do you wind down at the end of the day?

These and many other activities could give you the opportunity to attend a course or complete coursework, if you choose to reap the benefits of continuing your education. Continuing education now includes evening, weekend, online and hybrid courses that fit into any schedule, no matter how busy. Some courses may only be an hour per week, and you can study during that wasted time sitting in front of a large or tiny screen.

And a commitment to continuing education doesn’t have to steal months or years of your free time. Many courses only run for a few weeks or months, and they often have breaks in between courses so you can catch your breath and resume your normal Netflix binging until the next course starts.

You may find that having interactions with fellow professionals and stimulating your mind is far preferrable to whatever you would have been doing, normally, and decide to take even more continuing education courses. Maybe you can even take courses with a friend in lieu of other social activities that you normally do, and learn a little more about each other as you learn professional skills.

And if your family life is just too crazy to allow you to attend classes in person, many online courses allow you to complete coursework any time you do find a few minutes to yourself–even at 11 p.m. after everyone else goes to bed.

Most time management experts have debunked the “I don’t have time” excuse when it comes to important life activities like exercising, eating healthy and–yes–continuing your education. People make time for the things that are important to them, and you will make time for continuing education if it is a priority for you to keep your professional skills up to date, take steps to learn more advanced skills, and improve yourself as a person overall.

CCSU offers a large variety of continuing education courses including professional certifications, enrichment courses, and courses on soft skills like communication and emotional intelligence in the workplace.  View all our open courses to see what we offer.

Continuing Education Makes Both Work and Non-Work Life Better

Continuing education can help a person advance their career or learn new skills, but it is also good for minds and bodies. A recent study showed that even seniors 80 years old and older who stayed cognitively active were more than twice as unlikely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or dementia as those who didn’t exercise their brains as lifelong learners.

Mental stimulation in the form of continuing education can be part of the cognitive activity that staves off dementia, and it starts with a lifelong commitment to continue learning which becomes such a strong habit, it isn’t broken later in life.

Non-Work Benefits of Continuing Education

The brain really is a “use it or lose it” organ. Brain studies show that certain parts of the brain shrink without regular usage, including the parts that deal with memory and problem-solving. When you stop learning, the blood flow to your brain eventually lessens, and inflammation and plaque buildup can occur.

When you’re learning new things, the benefits will spill over from better hard and soft skills at work into your non-work life as your brain responds better to all of life’s demands, from working out an optimal budget to improving your relationships to pursuing an interesting hobby. All of these non-work activities and aspects of life are enhanced by the brain exercise continuing education gives.

Formal Education vs. Informal

While it isn’t impossible to get the same brain-boosting benefits from informal education as it is from taking courses, formal continuing education courses are structured in such a way that brain benefits are nearly guaranteed, as long as students participate and engage with the material. Many people also have good intentions about self-teaching but fail to follow through the way they would in a course that takes place at certain times and places.

It’s also much less likely that you would teach yourself the same valuable skills as a continuing education course taught by an instructor who often has decades of experience in the skills you need, as well as valuable workplace experience that they use to determine which skills will have the most benefit for the workplace.

A mix of formal courses and informal educational activities like discussions with colleagues, reading books and doing research online may give the greatest benefit by strengthening the brain in different ways and meeting different educational needs. Not only could you advance in your career, but you could also reap benefits in your personal life that may be even better. And educational activities also offer the benefits of social interaction, something that also contributes to sustained overall well-being.

Continuing education courses can be a great way to continue learning new skills as well as socially interacting with people who have similar interests. CCSU offers continuing education courses in many careers as well as soft skills and recreational interests.  View open courses to see what you might enjoy learning about.


Ability to Work Alongside Difficult People: An Underrated Job Skill

Just about every workplace has at least one or two people who are difficult to get along with, and if you don’t have hiring and firing power, you’ll have to learn how to work effectively with them. Dealing with difficult coworkers is probably one of the most difficult skills to master, but it can be done with some patience and practice.

Walk a Mile

The first thing to do when you realize you dislike or have conflict with a coworker is to try to see the world through their eyes–to walk a mile in their shoes, as they saying goes. Try to learn more about them and what makes them tick–not for any nefarious purpose, but to see what’s behind their behavior. Maybe that extremely negative person has lost someone near and dear to them or struggles with divorce and custody issues, or suffers from chronic pain.

It may not make you like the person any better, but it may increase your patience with them and make it easier for you to treat them well despite their own behavior. Which brings you to the next main principle of dealing with difficult people.

Be the Bigger Person

No matter how someone else treats you, you need to treat them with respect and be professional in your dealings with them. It’s not about whether they “get away” with treating you badly, it’s about making sure you aren’t going to deal with any fallout from your treatment of them. You can even “stand up” to them and confront them about their behavior if you can do it politely and professionally. Being a doormat and “taking it” isn’t necessary or even advisable in many cases.

Documenting any incidents in which they treat you badly or unfairly isn’t a bad idea, because it will give you something concrete to share with your superiors if and when the timing is right. Sometimes it becomes evident to others that there’s a problem, or they cross a line that demands some action on your part to prevent harm to your career, and it helps to have documentation that it’s more than a one-time problem.

You can still handle the situation positively and with respect to everyone involved, making it clear that you’re not trying to get anyone in trouble but just want the situation to be rectified.

Be Willing to Move Forward

If you’re stuck in the last thing a difficult person did that made you upset or bothered you in some way, you won’t be as effective in your work. Being able to let things go and give people more chances to do better in the future is the best course of action and will reflect well on you in the workplace.

Sometimes it isn’t a matter of the other person being wrong and you being right, it’s just a case of different personalities or work methods. Being able to put aside your own preferences at least some of the time and compromise with others are good skills to have and will help the team function better.

If you can calmly explain your difficulty with the coworker to your supervisor or team leader without saying derogatory things against the coworker, you may be able to get some advice on what to do moving forward and how you can better deal with the situation.

CCSU offers continuing education courses in soft skills, including communicating with coworkers and interacting positively.  View open courses to see what we have to offer that may help you in your career.

6 ‘Soft’ Skills That Help You Move Ahead in Your Career

Soft skills are increasingly important in today’s workplaces–especially for those who want to advance in their careers. A recent survey of recruiters found that 94 percent thought soft skills were actually more important than technical skills in getting a promotion. Here are some soft skills that will help you move ahead in your career.

1. Adaptability.

A 2017 survey by LinkedIn found that the soft skill most valued by hiring managers was adaptability. As workplaces continue to change rapidly, the ability to adapt to those changing conditions can lead to very real differences in productivity as well as contributions to a positive work environment, which doesn’t always happen in times of great change.

2. Communication.

One of the most-often mentioned soft skills for employees, especially those who supervise others, is the ability to communicate with superiors, colleagues and subordinates. Clear communication with others in the workplace brings about order and certainty about duties, expectations, and boundaries, while unclear communication leads to chaos and confusion about what is expected.

3. Collaboration.

This soft skill takes communication to another level and is essential for project managers and team leaders because it shows that they can get a group to work together effectively. Showing that you have the skill of collaboration even before you attain a leadership position can show your potential to do so, and the LinkedIn survey ranked this skill highly in the minds of hiring managers for this reason.

4. Presentation Skills.

Public speaking scares a lot of people, but leaders need to be able to do it well, often in many different situations and circumstances. Fortunately, this is one of the most teachable soft skills, and many courses teach the skills needed to make effective presentations.

5. Time Management.

Without this soft skill, your technical skills will not be as useful as they could be and you run the very real risk of not getting your work done the way your superiors want you to. It’s very difficult to advance in your career if you can’t show that you can get your current job done in a satisfactory way. Courses and many other resources can show you how to manage your time better and maximize your productivity.

6. Problem Solving/Critical Thinking.

For some jobs, particularly technology jobs that require constant troubleshooting and upgrades, problem solving and critical thinking are part of what you will do every day, but these skills can improve your performance in just about any job by helping you do high-quality work in the best possible way and discern the best way to approach situations and tasks.

While some people think soft skills are mostly innate–you either have them or you don’t–soft skills can be taught through courses that break down the skills and show you how to build and strengthen them. CCSU offers many courses that teach and grow soft skills, which can allow you to get a promotion at your current job or even move on to another, more advanced position.  View all our open courses to see how we can help you grow your soft skills.