Personal vs. Professional Development. What's the Difference? (2022)

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It's never too late to be your best self


Defining Personal and Professional Development

Personal vs. Professional Development. What's the Difference? (1)

I recently wrote about seven personal development goals for 2019. I realized the I never really defined what this means and if personal goals are any different from professional goals.

If you read that article, you noticed that I divide personal development into seven different buckets: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, financial, career and relationships. As you can see, career is listed as a personal development goal.

Personal development means growing different areas that will help you to be your best self. This means learning different subjects or buckets that can help you in all areas of life. Sometimes, we need work in more areas than others.

To me, professional development falls under the categories of personal development. Hence, the career category. But it’s much more than that.

Professional development means growing different areas of yourself that will help you be a better employee. As I mentioned in the previous article, there is a lot of connection between the seven buckets.

What will help you in your personal growth will certainly also carry over to your professional life. Your knowledge and skills don’t necessarily change when you are working 9 to 5 versus all other hours of the day. After all, you are still you. There are a few subtle differences to note, though.

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(Video) Personal and professional development - what's the difference
Personal vs. Professional Development. What's the Difference? (2)

Key differences in Personal and Professional Development

I like the idea of the seven buckets because I’m a very visual person. By categorizing goals, I can see what areas need more help than others.

When we’re talking about comparing personal versus professional development, I think it’s probably easy to see that there is a connection. While I’m sure you act slightly different at the office than at home, your overall aptitude is the same.

Yet breaking down the seven buckets, we can compare personal versus professional goals. Take, for instance, physical goals. I wouldn’t say that something like running a half marathon would affect your abilities as an accountant. You don’t necessarily need the same cardiovascular and muscular fitness to perform your job as you do to run a distance.

But do the benefits of running translate into better sleep at night, more energy during the day and more confidence overall? I would say yes. And those benefits certainly translate into a better performing employee.

What about mental goals? This one seems like there’s an obvious connection. Growing your mind will certainly help you at work. But with this one, I think you definitely need to consider what you are learning. Taking up a personal hobby, like painting, probably won’t help you at work. But if it’s relaxing and makes you happy, it can be a stress reliever outside of your 9 to 5.

As you can see from these examples, personal development might not have a direct translation to your job, but in building skills, confidence and happiness, you will have more balance between life and work.

Choosing Personal and Professional Development Goals

When choosing your development goals, it’s best to think about where you want to be in given set of time. Are you looking to get promoted in the next six months? Do you want to buy a house in the next year? Is your dream to move to a different state in the next five years?

All of these goals have different time frames and different buckets to help you get there. I recommend working backward from your “due date” and figure out your action items from there.

Since we’re talking about personal versus professional goals here, it’s important to take action steps that are relevant to your end goal. If your goal is to get promoted in the next six months, what can you do to help you get there? If your action list includes something time-consuming like taking a class or certificate program, you might not have time for other goals, such as training for a marathon.

Like I said earlier, personal development goals can be interconnected, but you must prioritize what’s most important to you in a given timeframe. From there, you can decide how many different goals you want to put on your plate.

(Video) Difference between Personal and Professional development

If your goal is to buy a house in the next year, it would be nice to get a promotion or a raise, but you might be working more on your financial bucket instead of just career development. You must look at the end goal and decide your action items from there.

Examples of Professional Development Plans

Personal vs. Professional Development. What's the Difference? (3)

Choosing your professional development goal might sound easy, but deciding your actions items might sound daunting. How do you get from point A to point B? This might look different for everyone, but here are a few examples.

Getting a promotion

I think many working professionals would like to get promoted. It shows that your hard work is getting noticed and has paid off. You can also say that you are learning and building your skills and you might want to take these skills to the next level. So how do you break down getting a promotion into action steps? This will probably look different for everyone, but here’s a sample plan:

  1. Decide what getting promoted means to your situation. Promotions have different meanings for different organizations. Is there a new job title you want? Is this an upward move (more responsibility)? Or is it a lateral move (working in the same or similar title, but for a different department)?
  2. Talk to your supervisor. I think it’s most important to speak with your boss to let them know you are ready for a different role. Once you decide what type of promotion you want, you should start an open dialogue. This is both important for transparency and for you to get their support right away.
  3. Determine new skills or experience you will need for the new role. If there are any specific requirements for the promotion which you do not already possess, take note of what you need to learn. Can you take on more responsibility in your current role to gain these skills? Do you need to take a class or earn a certificate? Are there books or online articles you should read? This is also an important place to speak with your supervisor to help guide your course of action.
  4. Speak with a mentor or someone in the position you want. Learning more about the position or promotion you want from someone who is already doing it is invaluable. Use their knowledge and expertise to learn everything you will need to perform well in the new role.
  5. Update your resume. As you’re going through the process of acquiring new skills and experience, it’s important to write down all your accomplishments in your current role. Make sure to shine light on all the good you’ve done in your current position and sell yourself for the next step.
  6. Apply for the position. Once you’ve completed the first five steps and the position is open, it’s time to apply. You should feel very confident in all you have done to get yourself to this point.
  7. Interview or start the promotion discussion. Depending on your company and how the process works, you may need to interview for a promotion or it might just be an open discussion. Either way, it’s important to prepare yourself to talk about all your accomplishments, professional skills and future goals. Remember, it never hurts to practice for an interview, so call up a friend or ask your mentor to do a few practice runs.
  8. Accept your promotion and celebrate. You should be set up for success since you’ve taken all the necessary steps to get to your promotion. Enjoy the achievement and be proud of your hard work!

Becoming a better leader

This one might sound a little ambiguous. What makes a good leader? Who is a leader – is it a boss or can anyone be a leader? I think leadership is a highly desirable skill in most workplaces, whether you’re a supervisor or not. You can lead a team or a project without being the boss. So, becoming a better leader is important to everyone. Here’s a sample action plan:

  1. Speak with your supervisor or mentor. Your first step is to talk to someone who is already a leader in your eyes. What qualities do they possess? How does their experience differ from yours? What resources do they use to learn more about leadership?
  2. Decide which resources you want to use. Do you like to read books about leadership? Are blogs more your speed? Is there an online or local in-person course you can take? There are a lot of resources out there, you just need to do some research to find out what will work best for you.
  3. Ask your team what will help them. It’s important to ask the people you work with how you can improve the team through your leadership. Do they need more support? Are there resources they need? Do you have skills that you can teach them?
  4. Schedule time in your calendar to work on building out these needs. Mark time for your learning and for helping with the needs of your team.
  5. Take on roles or opportunities that position you as a leader. Is there a project or task force you can lead? Can you provide a presentation or training at a team meeting? Look for opportunities that help others in your organization.
  6. Set time for evaluation. Decide a time when you can sit back down with your supervisor and team to evaluate how you’re doing. Are the action steps working? Do you still have areas that can improve? Evaluating along the way can help you achieve your leadership goals. Remember, this one is an ongoing process.

Final Thoughts

Personal and professional goals are extremely important to help you be your best self. They have a lot of overlap because what helps you personally can also help you professionally and vice versa.

For any goals, it’s important to start with the end goal and work backward to formulate your action plan. Breaking your goal into small, manageable steps will help make the process easier and more practical.

It’s also important to remember that you should stick with a few personal and professional goals to work on at any given time. Taking on too many goals will cause overwhelm and will ultimately hinder you from accomplishing any goals. Once you check one or two off your list, you can start to add another one or two.

Remember, it’s never too late to be your best self. Start determining which goals you want to accomplish in 2019, write down your action plan and get to work.

What personal or professional goals do you have for 2019? Let me know in the comments below.

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(Video) Personal and Professional Development- What's the Difference?
Personal vs. Professional Development. What's the Difference? (4)
by Erin | 8 Comments

8 Comments on Personal vs. Professional Development. What’s the Difference?

  1. I like how you outline the difference between professional vs personal development. I find it where professional development helps the company overall, in addition to yourself. It is important that we work on both appropriately, but professional if you want to get further in the workplace. You make such a great point on all of these items. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    Nancy ♥


    • Thank you so much, Nancy! I’m glad you found this helpful! Thanks for reading 🙂


  2. I enjoy reading about self development; no matter that is personal or professional! In my opinion, mental goals are very important and they can help you to plan better your future! We become what we think about…

    • Oh, I love that! ‘We become what we think about…” so true! Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts!


  3. Love this! Thank you for sharing such an insightful article!


    • Awesome! Thanks for stopping by 🙂


  4. really beautiful article. I love the way you explained the difference between personal and professional development. sometimes these things make sense but they are hard to put into words. You have nailed it!!!
    thank you so so so much


    • Thank you for your kind words, Lucie! I’m glad you found this article helpful!

      (Video) Personal Transformation- What's The Difference with Personal and Professional Development?


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What is professional versus personal? ›

Personal ethics refers to the ethics that a person identifies with in respect to people and situations that they deal with in everyday life. Professional ethics refers to the ethics that a person must adhere to in respect of their interactions and business dealings in their professional life.

What is considered as personal development? ›

Personal development or self improvement consists of activities that develop a person's capabilities and potential, build human capital, facilitate employability, and enhance quality of life and the realization of dreams and aspirations.

What is the difference between personal and personal development? ›

Personality development refers to the process of enhancing and improving one's personality through deliberate study and practice. Personality refers to our unique patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving. People differ in personality types, styles, and traits.

What is difference between personal learning and professional learning? ›

Personal Professional Learning Plans

Personal learning involves the goals we have for ourselves to create a meaningful and fulfilling life. Professional learning involves the skills we need to be successful in our job or career. Teachers can set goals that provide a personal connection to their professional learning.

What are examples of professional development? ›

Professional Development Examples
  • Continuing Education.
  • Participation in professional organizations.
  • Research.
  • Improve job performance.
  • Increased duties and responsibilities.
  • Approaches to professional development:
  • Skill Based Training.
  • Job Assignments.

What's the difference between personal and professional goals? ›

Professional goals are related to what you want to accomplish with your education and your career. While personal goals are generally more connected with your health, happiness, relationships, and well-being.

What are the 5 main areas of personal development? ›

Several topics fall under the "personal development" umbrella, but there are five basic categories. There are five categories: mental, social, spiritual, physical, and emotional. Let's take a closer look at each category today.

What is another word for personal development? ›

What is another word for personal development?
progresspersonal growth
awakening the giant withinself-guided improvement
9 more rows

What are the 3 aspects of personal development? ›

Let me give you those:
  • Spiritual. I know when you talk spiritual you can get in an argument most anywhere, but I have a single belief that says humans are not just animals. ...
  • Physical. The mind and the body work together, so we've got to give some attention to both, mind and body. Development of mind and body. ...
  • Mental.
19 Jun 2016

What is the relationship between personal growth and professional development? ›

Professional growth is all about gaining new skills and experience. That means your development is either related to your current role or the role you want to do next. Personal development fits alongside professional growth — so if you want to progress in your career, you'll need to develop personally first.

Why is personal development so important? ›

As discussed above, personal development can help you embrace your full potential and improve your quality of life. As a result of personal development, your life's biggest dreams and aspirations can come true, and you'll have the skills to thrive in any scenario.

What is professional and personal development plan? ›

A professional development plan documents the goals, required skill and competency development, and objectives a staff member will need to accomplish in order to support continuous improvement and career development.

What are the benefits of personal and professional development? ›

Below are just five of the many benefits professional development can provide for your business.
  • Increase Retention. ...
  • Build confidence and credibility. ...
  • Make succession planning easier. ...
  • Re-energize your staff. ...
  • Improved efficiency.

What are three types of professional development? ›

Common areas of professional development.
  • Technical Training. Developing technical, quantitative, and analytical skills can help you analyze student-performance data and then use the findings to make modifications to your curriculum or teaching techniques.
  • Specialized Training. ...
  • Leadership Development. ...
  • Classroom Management.
26 Feb 2021

What is professional development in simple words? ›

Professional development refers to all training, certification and education that a worker needs to succeed in his or her career. It's no secret that different jobs require different skills. Even if a worker currently has the necessary skills, he or she may need additional skills in the future.

Who is responsible for professional development? ›

Career development is the responsibility of both the employee and the manager: it must be a collaborative effort because it cannot be done unilaterally. The employee is responsible, ultimately, for career management and development—and reading The Start-up of You is an excellent guide.

What is the difference between professional and personal relationship? ›

Still, this type of relationship is about helping the other person get ahead in their career. Our professional relationships are forged in service of our professional goals, whereas our personal relationships arise out of our basic human need for love, connection and belonging.

What is the difference between personal and professional communication? ›

Professional communication is more clear and concise than personal communication. Personal communication is intended for a wider audience than professional communication. Personal communication is more formal than professional communication.

How do you balance between personal and professional life? ›

Finding a balance between our personal and professional lives is not as easy as it sounds.
  1. Don't distance yourself. As a responsible individual, it's important to have a personal and professional life. ...
  2. Make a schedule. ...
  3. Communicate. ...
  4. Prioritise what's important at the moment. ...
  5. Manage finance.
12 Feb 2022

What are the 3 most important areas of development for you professionally? ›

The following are several areas of growth examples to consider pursuing in your professional life:
  • Communication skills. Nearly every professional can benefit from having strong communication skills. ...
  • Setting goals. ...
  • Adaptability. ...
  • Productivity. ...
  • Stress management. ...
  • Integrity. ...
  • Giving and receiving feedback. ...
  • Conflict resolution.
29 Jun 2021

What are the three other terms for personal development plan? ›

The PDP (personal development plan), also called an IDP (individual development plan) or a PEP (personal enterprise plan), usually includes a statement of one's aspirations, strengths or competencies, education and training, and stages or steps to indicate how the plan is to be realized.

What do you call improving yourself? ›

The process of making yourself a better or more knowledgable person can be called self-improvement. Doing sit-ups every night and learning to speak Mandarin might be part of your new self-improvement routine. Anything you do in an attempt to improve yourself is self-improvement.

What's another way to say working on myself? ›

What is another word for working for oneself?
3 more rows

What is personal development at work? ›

Personal development is the continuous act of assessing your life values and goals and building your qualities and skills to reach your potential. Employees consider it imperative to their job and future, while employers cite personal development as a way to advance company abilities.

What are the 4 stage process of self-development? ›

In addition, Mead said that children go through certain stages as they develop a sense of self. The stages of self are imitation, play, game, and generalized other.

Why is it important to identify personal and professional development needs? ›

Personal and professional development gives you a competitive edge in a crowded workforce, helping differentiate yourself and stand out to future employers. It can also help you realise any leadership qualities and capability you may have, and potentially widening your job search and opportunities available.

What is continuous personal and professional development? ›

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is a combination of approaches, ideas and techniques that will help you manage your own learning and growth. The focus of CPD is firmly on results – the benefits that professional development can bring you in the real world.

Why do we need to study personal and professional development? ›

"Actively pursuing professional development ensures that knowledge and skills stay relevant and up-to-date. It also allows employees to be more aware of changing trends and directions in their industry."

Why are the five aspects of personal development important? ›

Understanding the areas of personal growth is important because it can help you explore where to make improvements in your life, which may increase your job satisfaction and help you advance your career. It can also allow you to determine your strengths and develop in areas that might need improvement.

What are professional goals examples? ›

10 examples of professional goals
  • Learn how to use new technology.
  • Get better at your core skills.
  • Add more people to your professional network.
  • Become a manager or leader.
  • Make time to read professional books.
  • Master time management.
  • Start your own business.
  • Win an industry award.
6 May 2022

How do you write a personal development SMART goal? ›

In summary, follow these 5 simple steps when learning how to set smart goals:
  1. Specific: Determine what you want.
  2. Measurable: Identify what success is.
  3. Achievable: Make sure your goal is reasonable.
  4. Relevant: Ensure your goal aligns with your overarching goals.
  5. Time-bound: Set a deadline and create a schedule.
22 Mar 2021

What is the difference between a personal relationship and a professional relationship? ›

Second, there are two types of work relationships: professional and personal. Professional relationships are solely for the purpose of getting your work done. They help you advance your career and would not exist if not for your job. Personal relationships at work are those you have in the workplace for social reasons.

What is the difference between personal and professional communication? ›

Professional communication is more clear and concise than personal communication. Personal communication is intended for a wider audience than professional communication. Personal communication is more formal than professional communication.

Whats the difference between a personal and professional Instagram account? ›

What is a Professional Account on Instagram? An Instagram account for business enables brands to track their engagement and interactions. Instagram business profiles offer more analytical tools than personal accounts. These tools can help you better understand your customer and improve your business' reach.

What is the difference between personal morality and professional ethics? ›

Personal morality refers to the principles and rules that individuals personally live by and believe to be morally right and sound. Professional ethics, on the other hand, are the guiding principles followed by or expected to be followed by the people in a certain profession.

How do you separate personal and professional relationships? ›

How to Separate Your Personal Life from Business
  1. Define Your Boundaries.
  2. Set a Specific Time of Hours for Work.
  3. Establish Job Descriptions.
  4. Have Distinct Social Media Accounts.
  5. Learn the Art of Delegation.
  6. Conclusion.
26 Dec 2016

What is considered a personal relationship? ›

Personal relationship means an ongoing romantic or intimate personal relationship that can include, but is not limited to, dating, living together or being a partner or significant other. This definition applies regardless of gender, gender identification, or sexual orientation of the individuals in the relationship.

What is considered a professional relationship? ›

A professional relationship is an interpersonal connection between two or more people in a place of business. Professional relationships are usually more formal than relationships that exist outside of work.

What is the difference between a professional relationship and a personal relationship in health and social care? ›

The key difference between working and personal relationships is the environment in which the relationship begins. The relationships between family members are personal relationships while relationships between colleagues and boss and employees are working relationships.

What are examples of professional communication? ›

Professional Communication Examples

Any written message exchanged between two or more people. Reports, proposals, emails, letters, and memos are examples of written communication in a professional setting. Written communication is generally considered more formal than other types of communication.

Is it important in both personal and professional communication Why? ›

Good communication also improves relationships, both with employees and in your personal life with friends and family members. Listening carefully and offering quality feedback helps people to feel heard and understood. This, in turn, nurtures mutual respect.

Can I have a personal and professional Instagram? ›

On Instagram, you can convert your personal profile to a business account to access features that can help you grow your business. Note: you may only have 5 Instagram accounts at a time.

Can you switch from professional to personal Instagram? ›

Tap Settings. Tap Account. Tap Switch Account Type. Tap Switch to Personal Account, then tap Switch to Personal to confirm.

What happens when I switch my Instagram account to professional? ›

An Instagram business profile gives you access to promoted posts and Instagram ads, providing you with tools to grow your reach and engagement. Instagram ads use the same powerful advertising tools as Facebook, so you can set up, run, and track campaigns the same way you do with Facebook ads.

How do you separate personal and professional ethics? ›

How to Keep Personal & Professional Ethics Separate
  1. Review the law. ...
  2. Consult with a superior at your job if you have an ethical dilemma. ...
  3. Speak honestly about the issue both with coworkers and with customers. ...
  4. Determine the likely outcome of your actions from both a business and a personal perspective.
26 Sept 2017

Why is it necessary to keep personal and professional ethics separate? ›

Personal and professional ethics must be kept separate so that patients can make their own decisions regarding their healthcare.

What are the various characteristics of personal and professional ethics? ›

Personal needs are satisfied by following personal ethics. Professional needs are satisfied by following professional ethics. Example : Openess, Honesty, Friendliness, Respect for Others, Loyalty, Honesty, Integrity. Example : Abiding by the law, Industry Standards, Worker Treatment, Confidentiality, Worker Safety.


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