Take Charge of Your Professional Development

Professional Ask the Expert Blog June 29, 2020 By: Barbara Mitchell

You don’t need to go to an expensive event or have a big travel budget to continue your professional development, even in a pandemic. Here are a few low-cost ways to invest in building your own skills and knowledge.

Q: My employer used to pay for things like conferences and training programs for me to continue to develop my professional learning. I can’t afford to pay for those programs out of my own pocket. Do you have tips for continuing my learning without financial help from my employer?

A: Many employers are experiencing financial challenges as a result of COVID-19, and funding for professional development is often one of the first items to be reduced or removed from the budget. But even if your organization cuts back on training or other educational opportunities, there are many ways for you to continue to build your skill set. 

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). These are free courses offered by universities, including big names like Harvard and Stanford, that provide opportunities to learn on your own schedule. Take advantage of these classes to enhance your resume and build your skills.

Podcasts. Another free way for you to learn from experts is to listen to podcasts related to your work responsibilities or career goals. There is a podcast on virtually any subject, and you can listen whenever it’s convenient.

The advantage of participating in a live webinar is that you can usually ask the presenter questions. This is a good way to gain specific knowledge or learn a skill that makes you more valuable to your employer.

Webinars. Many experts offer webinars, and most are free. Many webinars are recorded, so if one you’re interested in is offered at a time when you aren’t available, you can listen to the recording later. The advantage of participating in a live webinar is that you can usually ask the presenter questions. This is a good way to gain specific knowledge or learn a skill that makes you more valuable to your employer.

TED Talks. This may be the most famous brand of inspirational and educational presentations in the world today. Experts speak on education, business, technology, health, innovation, and their own inspiring experiences. The TED organization also offers a variety of podcasts.

Mentors. Good mentors can help you think through your career goals, develop your talents, and help you make useful career connections. Seek out mentors who can encourage you and teach you new skills.

And don’t overlook learning opportunities available on the job. Take advantage of chances to participate in task forces or cross-train in another department. These activities will provide you with visibility as well as skill development.

Although these are challenging times and resources may be limited, don’t give up on your own professional development. Take charge of it. The effort will be worth your time.

Barbara Mitchell

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Do you have a question you'd like her to answer in "Ask the Expert"? Send it to [email protected]