By Sharine Sample

They say that you should learn something new every day. Whether you are happy with your current role or you are looking for a new job, you may not realize how important professional development could be for you. Professional development can help you improve how you do your current job and can make you a more valued candidate if you are searching for another job or career.

Today we’re going to answer a few questions on professional development.

First things first – what is professional development? Professional development can include any form of continuing education or training that you complete after you have started your career. It is different from the formal education that you may have needed in order to begin your career (such as a college degree). Professional development can help you learn new skills, develop skills that you already have, or stay on top of current trends in your field. We’re going to be looking at professional development from the standpoint of how it can advance your career by making you a more marketable and valued employee.

Why is professional development important? Many fields require you to participate in continuing education courses to maintain your license or certifications. But even if your field does not require continuing education, you should still consider professional development opportunities. No matter how much you enjoy what you do, most people have the tendency to get bored with parts of their jobs. It doesn’t mean we’re lazy; it just means we’re human. A new challenge can help you stay motivated and engaged, which will make you more productive. So, not only can professional development help you gain knowledge and skills that will set you apart from your coworkers and other potential candidates, you will also feel more motivated and purposeful in your career.

How can professional development benefit me? It isn’t enough to merely sit through a class or training session. True professional development only happens if you actively engage and participate in the opportunities. Those who put more effort into learning will get the most out of an opportunity.

Benefits of professional development can include:

  • Introductions to future career opportunities
  • Increased hiring and earning potential at your current or future job
  • Updating your knowledge of trends in your industry
  • Opening the door to new networking opportunities or professional groups
  • Earning continuing education credits for your current licensure or certification

What are some examples of professional development?  There are many different types of professional development opportunities. The specific options available to you will depend on your industry and career. A good place to get started is by attending local, regional, or national conferences related to your field. Find out the professional associations to which your organization may already belong, and then research the workshops and trainings that they offer. Your local Chamber of Commerce or business development group may offer low-cost workshops in skills that are applicable in any field. And our excellent community college system is an incredible resource, offering a range of in-person and virtual training options each year. All the resources above are also good places to find mentors who can help point you in the right direction. You can also seek out informal development opportunities such as podcasts or literature related to your field. These will not offer you a formal continuing education credit, but they can still be valuable for expanding your knowledge and helping you get started.

Who pays for my professional development? If the professional development is related to your job, 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!

Be the best professional version of yourself and continue learning as much as you can while you have the chance. You’re already a valuable member of your team and the workforce, and we can all strive to be better. Knowledge is endless!

Sharine Sample is the Regional Workforce Development Manager at Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina.


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