It’s easy to let professional development take a back seat to our day-to-day responsibilities. But as an accounting and finance professional, you need to continuously increase your job skills to succeed in your role, maintain professional certifications and ultimately advance your career.

There are many ways to expand your skills, and we all have different preferences for how we like to learn. Here are seven professional development tips to help you get started.

1. Assess available resources

Find out what types of training opportunities are available within your company and whether tuition reimbursement is offered for external courses. Find resources that maintain calendars of upcoming conferences and events for accounting and finance professionals. Don’t overlook low-cost options, such as online programs and resources, recorded webinars and books.

2. Join professional associations

Industry groups, like the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), the American Payroll Association and Financial Executives International often conduct workshops and educational sessions where members can update their business knowledge and abilities. These events, whether in-person or online, also provide an avenue for professional networking and sharing ideas with others in the accounting and finance profession.

3. Take on new challenges

Talk to your manager about getting involved in projects outside of your normal responsibilities. Volunteer for assignments that stretch your skills. Consider if there are professional accounting certifications that can advance your career in accounting. /p>

4. Find a mentor inside or outside your company

If your employer doesn't have an in-house mentoring program, look for someone in other parts of your company or even outside it whose expertise you admire, and ask if he or she will assist you as a mentor. There are many benefits of having a mentor, such as learning firsthand from someone in a role you aspire to, and getting help navigating office politics.

5. Shadow a colleague to learn

Identify colleagues in your company who do something you’d like to learn, and observe their actions and ask them questions. Many people enjoy teaching.

6. Help others and develop skills

Volunteer on committees or for leadership roles at organizations where you can develop skills that not only benefit the group but also are applicable to your job. Learn to develop collaboration skills and hone your interpersonal skills.

7. Create a professional development plan

Monitor your progress by setting one-, three- and five-year goals for the job skills you’d like to obtain. This will keep you accountable. During your performance reviews, you can highlight the new skills you’ve developed.

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