How to Excel at Work and Make the Most of Development Opportunities

Dr. Ryan Giffen

As the world recovers from the aftermaths of the pandemic, new expectations, opportunities, and skills will arise. Most companies strive to attract candidates with high-tech abilities and create programs that grow talents that can navigate the post-COVID realm. But they’re not going to be the only ones that expect better standards. Job seekers could also be likelier to look for vacancies that promise professional development, learning platforms, and chances to progress. After all, career opportunities are the number one reason why people change jobs.

Over 75 percent of employees want growth opportunities, and 59 percent of millennials say learning and progress are beyond significant to them when applying for a job. The youngest workplace cohort, Generation Z, seeks professional development and 64 percent sees it as a priority. Even though these two young generations often struggle with the label of being entitled, they’re driven and believe that tenure shouldn’t be the only condition for career progress. Instead, these employees are eager to expand their knowledge and sharpen their skills. It’s no surprise that 43 percent of companies want to increase the talent learning ecosystem, focusing on upskilling or reskilling. However, employees should also learn how to make the most of career opportunities and advance in the workplace.

5 Tips on How to Advance at Work

Nowadays, employees no longer want to work for a paycheck only. Instead, they want to find meaning in their jobs and feel that they’re making a difference. As a result, workers don’t want to show up only and finish their assignments. They hope to enjoy what they do, learn something new every day, and get better opportunities. But as an employee, you need to be proactive and learn how to use the options your workplace offers. In a nutshell, you should strive to excel at work without waiting for external incentives and promotions.

Here’s what you can do to speed up your professional development.

1. Understand the Company’s Mission

To enjoy your work and find meaning in your assignments, you should know the company goals. Become one with its mission to nurture a sense of belonging. Thanks to that, you’ll also foster intrinsic motivation that inspires you to go the extra mile in your tasks. Understanding the values your employer stands for can help you connect with your job on a higher level and come up with inventive solutions.

Sadly, 61 percent of workers don’t know what their employer stands for and their principal objectives. That can make people feel lost, aimless, and indifferent about the time they spend at work.

If you want to feel the passion for what you do, make it your goal to inform yourself better about your workplace. Pay attention to updates, news, and trends in your industry. As a result, you’ll know how your role contributes to a bigger picture and how you can improve your input.

2. Establish Specific Goals

To succeed at work, you should ensure you know what you perceive as success. More specifically, you should be well aware of what you want to achieve and how you’ll know when you make it. Think about your professional objectives and where you want to be in the future. Set specific, measurable, and relevant goals that will get you closer to your ideal position or job role.

Consider what strategies you’ll use to accomplish your target and whether you’ll need particular tools or support during the process. It’s also advisable to have a timeline you’ll use as a guide. Deadlines should remind you to stick to the plan and follow actions that can help you turn your objectives into reality. Also, remember to track your progress and evaluate your work regularly.

3. Be Courageous and Take the Initiative

Progress comes to those who go toward it. It’s not about waiting or hoping for an opportunity to appear. If you want to excel at work, you should be bold, seek, and create projects, assignments, and initiatives.  Be ready to go beyond your regular responsibilities and take the initiative. Moving up the ladder often involves showing your ability to take on large undertakings and be a tenacious professional.

Avoid waiting for instructions or solutions, and show your solution-oriented mindset. Suggest what can be done to improve processes and how you can contribute to the company’s goals. Think about the possibilities and issues others don’t see and identify how you can enhance them or introduce novelties. That will be a clear indicator of your interest, passion, and determination to succeed.

4. Sharpen your Team-player Skills

Independency shows that an employee can handle a project on their own and deliver stellar results. However, the ability to work in a team is just as significant. It shows that a worker has stellar communicational skills, tolerance, and cooperativeness.

Teamwork is among the essential elements of any successful business because it allows idea sharing, collaboration, and diversity. To excel in your career, you must work on your team-player side of personality as it will help you cooperate with people from your department, group, or team. That’s also significant for fostering workplace productivity and doing more together.

Ensure you don’t perceive feedback as a personal attack and that you know how to help your coworkers improve without making them feel incompetent. As a result, you’ll develop the ability to work with people from different backgrounds and share success with your teammates.

5. Never Stop Learning

Many employees wait for relevant workplace opportunities to acquire new skills or learn something industry-related. Those who strive for success know that one should also expand their knowledge outside of work.

Make yourself indispensable by regularly updating your abilities, improving your capacities, and obtaining information that could be helpful in your industry. Keep in touch with new technologies, pay attention to the latest trends, and seek learning opportunities outside work.

Show your dedication to growing on a personal and professional level. Empower yourself by finding relevant courses and platforms that could help you streamline your assignments and become more efficient.  

How can I Leverage Growth and Learning Opportunities in the Workplace?

The efficiency of learning and development programs can only reach their full potential if employees show their interest in making the most out of them.  Here’s how you can use professional growth opportunities in your workplace to empower yourself and accomplish your career goals.

Inform Yourself About Available Options

Most companies advertise their learning programs and ensure employees know how to participate. However, if that’s not the case in your workplace, turn to your HR manager and ask for information. Find out how you can improve your skills, learn new things, and what kinds of options are available to you. HR will appreciate your interest and point you to the most compatible opportunities.

Ensure you pay attention to workplace news, updates, and programs to keep in touch with the latest courses and initiatives. Apply for what sparks your interest and avoid rejecting participation because each new skill could enhance your expertise.

Be a Proactive Participant

It’s not enough to show up and be physically (or virtually) in the learning and development programs. You should invest in your own professional growth and be a proactive participant as that’s the best way to adopt new knowledge and abilities. Express your opinion, and don’t be afraid to speak your mind. Collaborate with other participants and use these opportunities in a way that helps you acquire relevant abilities and information.

Show your commitment to improving yourself and leveraging available tools and platforms. That is the way to proactively work on your professional development and drive your career success.

Provide your Feedback and Ideas

Learning and development programs might not always meet your individual needs. You might need more personalized content or a different approach. But the only way HR professionals can improve these initiatives is if employees let them know what they can tweak to make them more efficient. It’s why you should provide your feedback when possible and help the program creators with your ideas and suggestions.

If you believe the number of available opportunities isn’t enough, let them know. Or, if you think creators should rely more on high tech, it’s also advisable to express that opinion. That way, they can answer employee needs and provide them with the most compatible learning and development program.

Be Diligent and Consistent

If you want to see the results of the learning and development programs, participate until you complete all available courses or lessons. Be present every day and spend some time reflecting on your progress and checking how much you have learned.  It’s how you’ll foster continuous learning and imprint new knowledge and skills into your expertise. Professional growth opportunities require the consistency of its creators and participants equally to materialize its purpose.


Training, learning, and development are invaluable elements of employee experience that boost performance and intrinsic motivation. However, the sole existence of growth programs isn’t enough. Employees must foster a commitment to continuous progress and be diligent throughout the process. Having the right tools and platforms on disposal can only be effective if they’re passionate to leverage them and be consistent.  Workers should know what they want to achieve and how that connects with the mission and values of their workplaces. As a result, they’ll understand how growth opportunities benefit their career development and what’s the most compatible with their goals.

About Dr. Ryan Giffen

With over 20 years of experience, Dr. Ryan Giffen is an expert in human relations and business culture. His career began in hospitality, leading operations and human resource departments for Fortune 500 companies and the like. Not long after, Ryan found his passion for teaching and consulting. He earned a Ph.D. in Hospitality Management with a Human Resources focus from Iowa State University and now works as an assistant professor at California State University, Long Beach. For over a decade, he continues to research and speak on organizational culture, relationship intelligence, and leadership effectiveness. Ryan is also the founder of Inospire, a company helping bosses and employees build stronger relationships with one another. Lastly, Dr. Giffen is producer and host of the Corporate Shadow Podcast, a show helping everyday employees build stronger relationships with their bosses and organizations.