As I was scrolling through Tumblr last night, I paused when I read this quote, “Great things never come from comfort zones.” I thought to myself, this rings true in all aspects of life, but most importantly in one’s career. If we safely wait for connections to be made, enlightenment to be achieved and goals to be realized… we will never stretch to our true potential. I wondered what have I learned in my career–both good and bad, that lead me to where I am today? Here are a few of my do’s and don’ts that can help your professional development.

Professional Development

Do join a professional association or become a volunteer. Networking, whether in a professional or volunteer setting, is one of the best ways you can develop additional insight and cultivate new abilities.

Don’t overlook the value of a mentor or shadowing a colleague. Is there someone in your business whose expertise you admire? Is there an industry professional who motivates you? Seeking a mentor can help you assess your professional strengths and weaknesses and help you develop skills for a more successful and fulfilling career.

Do assess opportunities inside your company. There may be training opportunities right under your nose. Check with your boss or with your HR department about training programs within the company. If your company does not offer in-house education, ask for tuition reimbursement options.

Don’t ignore external options like online courses, webinars and books. They’re an inexpensive way to expand your knowledge base, often with the most up-to-date information.

Do take on new challenges and responsibilities. Step outside your comfort zone and stretch your skill set. Ask your boss to be placed on a new project or volunteer to be a part of a new strategic team.

Don’t shoot too high or set the bar too low. Set SMART goals. Make sure they’re Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-focused and Time-bound.

Do set goals and track your progress. Create a professional development plan (PDP) with first year, five year and ten year goals.