Carlson Executive Education Blog

Don't Wait -- Focus On Your Professional Development This Year

Posted by Nora Anderson on Feb 26, 2019 10:50:00 AM

Did you include professional development as part of your New Year’s resolutions?

It’s the end of February, and though you’ve probably settled into a routine, that’s no reason to push off your career goals.

Due to the rapid pace at which business is changing and evolving, it is more important than ever for each one of us to be focused on developing new knowledge and skills in order to stay relevant in our professions. As part of the Executive Education unit at the Carlson School of Management, professional development is at the center of our work and every day I speak with individuals who are committed to advancing their careers and leaders who are focused on talent development for their organizations.

With so many options available for professional development, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Should you take an online course, develop a reading list of the most popular new business books, or further your studies with a Master’s degree? Before you think about what to do, it can be helpful to first consider the question of why you want to focus on professional development. What is your objective? Once this is clear, it becomes easier to decide on which option or options to pursue. Here are a few questions to consider:

  • Are you looking to become more knowledgeable on current trends and new developments in your industry or field of work?
  • Would you like to expand your professional network and possibly explore new career options?
  • Have you decided you are ready to learn new skills, develop deeper knowledge, and obtain credentials to propel your career to the next level?

The answers to these questions narrow your options down to the course of action most beneficial to your career.

If you are looking to stay current with new trends in your field

…there are a wealth of resources in terms of books, articles and podcasts to help you stay current. Think about a few colleagues whose work you admire. Ask them how they stay up to date on current trends. Ask them what they are reading and listening to. Also, take a look at what thought leaders in your field are writing about. This can help you pull together a list of a few books and articles you’d like to read and perhaps a list of videos and podcasts you’d like to follow. If you are looking for a bit of a deeper dive, an online course might be something to consider. Coursera and Udemy are two platforms that have excellent courses on business topics, often from top universities, at a reasonable cost.

If you are looking to grow your professional network

…whether you are just starting your professional career or you have spent decades in your field, many of us would like to expand our professional networks. It can be difficult to venture out of our familiar circles of trusted colleagues, however, industry events and professional associations are a great way to expand your network. Many employers will cover registration fees for relevant industry events. Attending these events provides an infusion of new ideas and perspectives and also gives you the chance to network with professionals from many different organizations. If you are looking for more involvement, joining a professional association is an excellent option and you could even consider serving as a board member.

If you are focused obtaining relevant credentials may be considering a Master’s degree. Specialized Master’s degrees and MBA programs are an excellent option for early to mid career professionals who are looking to deepen their business acumen, develop management skills and increase earning potential. Part-time and online programs can be flexible for a working professional.

If you are focused on taking your career to the next level

...if you already have a Master’s degree or you have significant professional experience, Executive Education courses and certificates are great options for career development. These short, 2-4 day courses and certificate programs focus on business acumen, leadership, and leading edge topics and provide executives with new knowledge and skills which they can immediately apply back at work and create impact.

Executive Education combines the benefits of all the previous options: a direct line to thought leaders, a variety of topics to choose from, networking opportunities with peers across industries, the ability to achieve credentials in your area of expertise, and most significantly of all, delivery of immediate value to your organization and your career.

No matter what your career goals are, it is more important than ever to have a focus on continuous learning throughout our careers and throughout our lives. As one of Albert Einstein’s famous quote states, “Once you stop learning, you start dying.”


To learn more about Carlson Executive Education's full roster of 2- to 5-day open enrollment courses, download our catalog here. To develop a custom solution tailored to your organization, please reach out to me at or by phone at(612) 624-2545.


Nora Anderson

Executive Director, Carlson School of Management Executive Education

Connect with me on LinkedIn.

Topics: Professional Development, MBA, New Years Resolutions