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Actions to Ramp Up Your Professional Growth

Female colleagues talking in lobby


When you are thinking about ideas for career development, it’s a natural inclination to first turn to exploring available training courses or checking out the latest book. However, if we limit our actions to these tactics alone, we may end up missing a significant chunk of development opportunity. As it turns out, development is likely to occur when you think of it as a three-part process: Experience, Exposure and Education.

According, Jeanette Lindsay, a talent portfolio manager in University Human Resources, it is estimated that 70 percent of development occurs through on-the-job experiences, and 20 percent of development comes from feedback or relationships. Education, through things like courses and reading, represents the missing 10 percent. This philosophy of career development and growth, is sometimes referred to as the 70-20-10 model or the 3E Model.

Acquainting yourself with the 3E Model may help you can spot and apply Experience and Exposure opportunities to take your development efforts to the next level.

3 overlapping circles labeled Education (10%), Experience (70%) and Exposure (20%)Development is more likely to occur when you follow the 3E model: Experience, Exposure and Education.


Experience, known as learning by doing, is acquired through practice in real-world situations that allow you to “stretch” and grow as you refine knowledge, skills and behavior.

To acquire valuable experience, consider actively applying these methods:

  • Take on a stretch task. Tackle a new task that calls for you to learn and grow new skills or knowledge while you are completing the task.
  • Consider a special assignment or a cross-functional project where you work with your manager to define an activity outside of your current job responsibilities that will provide an opportunity to enhance your skills.
  • Teach back or coach others; the process of sharing your knowledge cements and enhances your own development. Deliver a presentation, do 1:1 instruction, develop instructions or procedures to help others learn, or teach a class.
  • Be proactive.  A good time to discuss growth opportunities is during your annual review, and when setting goals for the year ahead. Take the lead with your development by sharing your ideas with your manager.


Including Exposure opportunities—where you learn by observation—into your development activities is an essential component. Exposure allows development to occur through feedback and connections with others that produce insights and a broadening of your perspective.

Consider these common Exposure development activities:

  • Seek out a mentor, someone who is willing to share career guidance within the bounds of a trusted relationship.
  • Shadow a person through a day on the job to learn more about a particular job or function.
  • Conduct informational interviews to explore a job, career path, or area of focus, completed when you are not an active candidate in a job search. This approach can be very helpful in providing new information and setting your future direction.
  • Request feedback, whether informally or through a more formal tool such as a 360-degree feedback survey, can provide useful insight s to help you target specific development areas.

Join or start up a community of practice to learn and share best practices with colleagues across campus. There are a variety of collaborative communities you can join. From content strategy to information technology and development practices and more.  Or, consider creating and moderating your own collaborative community.


Coming full circle, Education, in the form of learning through training classes and courses, a professional conference, reading articles, journals or books, or pursuing a degree program is the final piece of the development puzzle.

Make a commitment to action for your professional development by incorporating Experience, Exposure and Education into your plans. To learn more about the 3E model, visit the Learning at Stanford section of the Cardinal at Work website.


Learning at Stanford, Manager Toolkit