Sep 10

Professional Development: Why It’s Important and How You Can Do It

“Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.”

People at Conference

An author dedicated to helping people learn once said the above statement—but you don’t need to be a professor, teacher or education expert to value and understand the significant impact learning can have on your career, your experiences and your life.

While traditional education may come to mind, learning comes in many different shapes and forms. Whether its pursuit of an advanced degree or forming a mentee-mentor relationship, learning offers many different layers to explore—some of which take place without us understanding that it is, in fact, learning.

During my undergraduate days, I really began to understand the importance of learning and the growth it can offer. And as a professional, I’ve aimed to place an emphasis on this growth and have been incredibly intentional to take part in learning, with the objective of continuous improvement. (I can only hope I stumble upon this blog in two-three-five years and think, ‘Decent message, but the writing/delivery/bad jokes could have been improved by X, Y and Z.’)

If you’re like me and want to make sure your professional development game is strong, here are a few things you can do to be a bit more intentional about learning.

Graduate Studies and Advanced Degrees

Perhaps the most obvious (and certainly the most expensive) suggestion would be to pursue an advanced degree. Coming from someone who spent the last two-and-a-half years working full-time and studying for her MBA part-time, this is a major commitment.

Your social life may take a hit, and you may find yourself having more late nights in front of a computer than you anticipated. But you’ll overcome several challenges, while directly taking part in learning new content and gaining new insight and knowledge—and at the end of it, you’ll be better for it.

Depending on the program, its delivery and your current working situation, your journey will be unique to you, but the accomplishment is similar for all: Rewarding and more opportunities to use your new-found knowledge to – you guessed it – learn.

Non-credit or Certification Courses

Interested in design? How about cooking? You love crafts, but don’t know how to sew? There is probably a class for that. Instead of making the commitment to pursue a complete degree, gain new skills by enrolling in a class.

Ranging from free to a couple hundred dollars, classes that result in certification or are not for credit allow you to learn the in-and-outs of a skill or talent you are aiming to develop. For instance, my colleague Bri and I have enrolled in an InDesign class to brush up on our skills, allowing us to better serve our clients and gain new insight we’ve not previously had.

Workshops, Seminars and Conferences

You’ve likely taken part in a workshop, seminar or conference at some point in your career. These types of development opportunities may be as simple as an afternoon session hosted by local experts or as in depth as a weeklong getaway offering a series of sessions and speakers. Regardless, these opportunities vary in cost and structure, which makes it easy to find what may work best for you.

The Internet and Webinars

We are incredibly fortunate to have the Internet. While we may sometimes prefer to spend our time scrolling on social media or watching funny dog videos, the internet has countless resources and free tools available for individuals looking to learn new professional skills.

You can read advice on how to deal with professional issues, research new topics you might be unfamiliar with and watch videos to understand how to use different programs. Not to mention, many companies offer webinars on a wide range of topics. The best part: Much of this content is free – allowing you to determine when and how you learn.

Mentee-Mentor Relationships

Perhaps my favorite type of professional development: Mentee-mentor relationships. I like to think the best type of learning is picking others’ brains, asking for insight and advice, and working through professional challenges with those who have already been there. The best part of having awesome mentors is the fact they will build you up when you need it, put you in your place when you’re headed down the wrong path and help you to solve your problems strategically.

I have been extremely fortunate in my career to have been able to take advantage of all of the suggested types of professional development above. I have fantastic mentors and work for a supportive company that provides the resources and flexibility I need to develop personally and professionally. I’ve recently completed my MBA and have constant access to the Internet, which allows me to research a topic at the drop of a pin.

From methods that are costly to those that are readily available, there are many ways you can work to develop your skills. The take-home point here, however, is that learning is a crucial element to work successfully and live fully. While I’ve set a goal to take ownership over my learning, I will leave you by asking what is your goal; how will you learn intentionally?




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