Personal development is the process of reflecting on your skills and qualities, considering how they relate to your goals in life, and identifying ways to build the strengths you need to succeed. Engaging in the lifelong process of personal growth can pay dividends in your inner life, your family life, your relationships, and in your professional development.
Think about childhood development as an analogy. As an infant grows from a toddler to a preschooler into childhood and then adolescence, they acquire crucial skills like walking, talking, fine motor skills, reading, and countless others. While we may be finished with the dramatic physical growth of childhood, we must continue to learn the more sophisticated skills we need for success in the adult world: patience and discipline, financial and career planning, listening at the office and at home, finding a sense of inner calm in the midst of a hectic day, and so much more.
The path you take in your personal development is different for everyone. Approaches to achieving personal growth are as different as the individual qualities and goals guiding them. But, as the explosion of interest in this field in recent years attests, personal development is something we can all learn about no matter what stage of life we are in.
While many learners focus their career development efforts on building 'hard skills' in areas like computer science, medicine, accountancy, or finance, almost all careers also rely on the 'soft skills' that are closely intertwined with your personal development. These hard and soft skills are often more closely related than you might think. For example, good communication skills are essential to management positions in any industry, and the inner confidence that comes from mindfulness practices can be a major asset in marketing roles or business negotiations.
many people who become skilled in their own personal development may harness this in their career more directly and become a professional in this field. Careers in personal development can cover a wide spectrum of roles, from occupational therapists to life coaches to personal finance teachers to career planning counselors. Depending on your path in personal development and your own soft skills, you may find that the most rewarding career path is in enabling the personal and professional growth of others.
With the ability to make personal connections virtually, online courses have become a terrific way to learn the interpersonal “'soft skills”' and lessons in personal growth needed to meet your personal development needs. The flexibility of online learning is particularly well-suited to building personal development skills, since you can select individual courses you need instead of pursuing a full degree program. The ability to complete coursework on your schedule is also a huge advantage, - especially if you're working full time or raising a family.
Coursera hosts a number of popular courses and Specializations in personal development, taught by instructors at top universities. For example, you can take classes to help with creative writing, leadership, job interview skills, and more from universities like University of Illinois, and Yale. For a more in-depth education, Specializations in Dynamic Public Speaking from the University of Washington, Career Success from the University of California, Irvine, and Interview Skills and Resume Writing from the University of Maryland, College Park offer opportunities to pursue your personal development goals across a sequence of courses. Coursera offers some of these career development courses for free.