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5 Tips To Boost Your Professional Development As a Student

Grab your future by the… tail 😉 If being just a “normal student” is not enough to you, here are 5 short tips on how to become a professional development superstar. Tried and tested!

 

1. Set a SMART goal, and stick to it

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(read this with a basketball coach voice in your head): “If you want to succeed, you need to set goals. Without goals you lack focus and direction. Goal setting not only allows you to take full control of your life’s direction; it also provides a benchmark for determining whether you are actually succeeding.”

Really, as you come back to reality, think about it: having millions in your bank account only shows success if your goal was to get rich. When your goal is a constant professional development, money plays no issue most of the time!

Goal setting is a process that starts with careful consideration on what you want to achieve, followed by 100% hard work. Making a SMART goal can lead you to success, and here is how you set one:

The goal has to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, & Time-bound.

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Specific:

  • Your goal has to be clear and well-defined. It needs to show you the way towards future: if it is vague or too general, it won’t give a clear direction. Simply said, your goal should state exactly what you want to achieve. For example: I will submit my BA thesis on 4th August.

Measurable:

  • Make sure you can measure your degree of success. This can be done by setting precise amounts or dates for your goal. For example, if your goal is simply defined as “to pass the exam with good score”, then you do not know when you have been successful, because you can pass with a vaguely bad score of 51%. But if you put it as “I will pass the exam with 90% score minimum” – that’s a real challenge which you can verify!

Attainable:

  • Make sure that it is possible to achieve the goal you set. If the goal is too far out of reach you will lose motivation and confidence of succeeding. Completing your studies in a month, for example, is a non-realistic goal. However, make sure your goal is not too easy neither. Having a goal that you do not have to work hard for to achieve might fulfill a feeling of achievement without developing yourself professionally.

Relevant

  • Goals you set should be relevant to the direction of the life and career you want to take. Keeping aligned with this ensures that you are working on what you want to be the end result of your development. So if you want to become a dentist, you might want to set up goals for your medical exams, rather than physical education grades 🙂

Time-bound

  • You have to set a deadline for your goals. Again, to know when you can celebrate success. Having a deadline helps you plan towards it and makes your goal more realistic to achieve.

2. Build on existing expertise

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To become successful, you don’t need to know everything. When you’re planning, consider how to surface the expertise in the room and built on it. Everyone around you knows something. Use this to put multiple brains to a task, learn how to connect new learning and content that already exists. Build on what people are bringing with them and make it a part of yourself. A great idea is to join a discussion group online, or a student club, and hang out with people you meet there.

3. Talk the talk and walk the walk

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The impression you give to people comes from communication with them. Make sure you come off strong the first time so people position you as important. It is easier to shape the way people see you the first time you meet than try to change an already created image.

The following tips should help you out:

Express confidence – even experienced professionals get nervous. The best antidote is to be prepared and seem confident. Imagine yourself looking like Bruce Willis. Feeling the confidence already?

Be polished – Speak clearly, use proper grammar, and avoid text-speak. When you are at work or even as you work in a uni project, you are a reflection of your best features.

Pick up the phone – Virtual communication is important, but physical communication is more effective. Emphasize on direct communication. Talk to as many people as possible and it is even better when you are seen doing it. And yeah, Whatsapp or Line communication is a great example on how NOT to communicate with your teammates if you want to complete the project on time. Just meet up for a coffee and discuss things face-to-face, you’ll save 50% of time!

Put your best foot forward – Dress and act for the job you want. But of course, it doesn’t mean wearing a suit for your classes! Rather, making sure your tshirt has no stains and the shoes match the rest of the outfit.

4. Advancement

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Seek extra responsibility – Your personal importance to the company is measured by the responsibility you have. Seek ways to get more responsibility in the field you like – whether it’s an extra assignment, or helping the professor to carry materials to the class.

Keep networking – This point cannot be stressed enough. Wherever your studies and future career take you, there is one thing that stays important, NETWORKING. Make sure you reach out to as many people as possible and learn to recognize people’s skills. When you need to get important things done you’ll know exactly who to ask.

Plan for advancement – Opportunities may arise when you least expect  it. Be ready for it, but be patient. Your best bet is to keep your eye on the long view, while planning for it. Try not to say no 🙂

5. Work-life balance as you study

Make your health a priority – Make time to exercise, and keep a balanced diet. How you feel effects how you perform. In addition your physical and mental health are aligned, and if they both coexist and function well, professional development becomes an even easier task!

Zuzanna Ch
World traveller, but with the heart stuck in Malaysia.

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