By Sharine Sample

When you think about your current role within your organization or company, would you say that you do your job exactly the same way today that you did, say, five years ago? Odds are, you’ve had to pick up new skills, learn new technology (Zoom, anyone?), or even develop management skills if you’ve moved into a leadership role. Whether or not you realize it, all of those changes required you to undergo professional development. Regardless of your role, professional development is a critical part of your career path. If you are satisfied with your position, professional development can improve how you do your job and make you a better team member. If you’re thinking about another job or career, learning more will make you a more competitive candidate.

Today we’re going to answer a few of the most common questions on professional development.

First – what is professional development? “Professional development” is any continuing education or training that you pursue after you’ve entered the workforce. Professional development can include so-called “hard skills,” such as using a software program or getting a trade skill certification. It also includes developing “soft skills” like strategic planning or managing others. Regardless, professional development can help advance your career by making you a more qualified and marketable employee.

How can professional development benefit me? Many fields require you to participate in continuing education courses to maintain your license or certifications. Even if your field does not require this, I would encourage you to seek out and actively participate in development opportunities. First off, this shows your current or future employer that you’re eager to learn and develop, rather than just coasting in your current role. Classes, conferences or professional groups are chances to network with others in your field. This helps you stay on top of industry trends and could potentially lead to other career opportunities down the road.

Where can I find professional development opportunities? The specific professional development opportunities available to you will depend on your field, industry and career. Those may include conferences, in-person or virtual training, or even mentorship at your organization or elsewhere within your field. How do you learn about those opportunities? On LinkedIn, join groups and follow speakers, authors and other expert leaders in your field. Subscribe to newsletters related to your industry. Check out free resources like podcasts or TED Talk videos about issues and trends in your professional area.

How does professional development benefit others? While the biggest impact will be on you, your professional development also affects your employer and your team. Your skills, understanding of industry trends, and expanded professional network will make your team and organization more efficient and effective. There is also a less tangible benefit. If you’ve been in your role for some time, it’s only natural to get bored with some aspects of the job. This doesn’t mean you’re lazy; it just means you’re human. To stay motivated, we have to be challenged. Good employers understand that professional development not only helps their employees do their jobs better – those growth opportunities also make employees feel valued and keep them engaged.

Who pays for my professional development? If the professional development is related to your job or career path, your employer will most likely cover the cost because it benefits them and the organization.  It’s best to double check with your employer in advance before assuming they will cover the expense. Some trainings, conferences and workshops can be expensive!

You’re already a valuable member of your team and the workforce. Strive to be the best professional version of yourself by continuing to learn as much as you can whenever you have the chance. As we’ve all learned over the past few years, the only constant is change. It’s more important than ever to be flexible and open to learning new things. Knowledge is endless!


Sharine Sample is the Regional Workforce Development Manager at Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina. Learn more about Goodwill’s employment services here.


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