Let’s talk about professional development! Did you just cringe? Sometimes I do, too, especially when I’m thinking about all the time away from my day job that professional development will take.
But there’s another side of the equation: the benefits of professional development in the workplace. Although investing in yourself and your career takes time, effort, and sometimes money, too, there are many benefits that come along with it.
Below, these 10 benefits of professional development will hopefully take away the cringe and inspire you to start investing in your biggest asset: you.
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Importance of Professional Development in the Workplace
Every job you have is one step or chapter in the longer journey of a career. But to create a true career, we must be thoughtful and intentional in our work. Careers are not just created by happenstance or luck, but on the contrary, through hard work.
Part of building a career is acquiring new skills, sharpening your existing skill set, and pursuing personal growth. All of these aspects are captured in professional development.
Professional development goes hand in hand with career advancement and reaching your long-term career goals. Though you may have left the days of formal education behind you, professional growth still requires continuous learning.
Industries change, career fields change, science and knowledge changes and grows, and even the workforce itself changes.
By investing in professional development in the workplace, you’re committing to investing in yourself. As an employee and part of the labor force, your biggest asset is yourself.
So the importance of professional development comes from ensuring you remain the best investment that an employer or client can make. Additionally, here are 10 more important benefits of professional development.
- Gain New Knowledge
- Define a Strong Career Path
- Earn New Qualifications
- Engage in Valuable Networking
- Case Study Learning in a Safe Environment
- Employee Satisfaction and Retention
- Higher Productivity
- Stay Up to Date on Latest Trends
- Cultivate a Growth Mindset
- Succeed in Stretch Assignments
1. Gain New Knowledge
Learning is a part of any type of professional development that you engage in. And continual learning is what sets people apart for new challenges and new career opportunities.
As mentioned above, industries are always changing and there is always new research being added to the existing knowledge base in every area. That is why some ongoing education is required for certain professions, such as medical licensures. It ensures that doctors, physicians, nurses, athletic trainers, EMTs, and other healthcare professionals stay up to date on the latest research.
In the same way, it’s important that workers stay up to date on the best practices in their industries and field. New ideas, new technologies, and other innovations are always being added to the workplace.
Ensuring that you can adapt to those changes and work with them is a huge benefit to your employer and future opportunities for you.
2. Define a Strong Career Path
Many people graduate from high school or college without certainty on what their career path will be. Further professional development courses can help you figure out what type of work you enjoy doing and what you don’t like.
It is extremely costly to switch jobs several times in a year to get a taste of different industries and careers. Yet, online courses and professional development programs can give you valuable insight into a career field before you commit to it completely.
Many fellowships and other professional development programs will target students and young professionals to give them exposure to certain aspects of an industry. These fellowships may also close skill gaps among new hires and potential employees.
Together, exposure to a career and the closing of skills gaps could help you define your career path because you’ll know where you want to go and have the skills to get there.
3. Earn New Qualifications
Sometimes the key to a promotion is demonstrated knowledge, expertise, and strong employee performance. However, depending on the institution and industry, sometimes what leads to a promotion or a higher salary is a new qualification.
For example, in some public school systems, a masters is required in the first few years of teaching to get a pay bump and achieve the school system’s employee development plans.
In my career, having a technology certification was valuable to getting me placed on projects in that technology space. The certification ensured I had the necessary technical knowledge to understand the project goals and work directly with the development team.
For job seekers, a new qualification provides a way for you to pivot out of a career into another. For instance, a friend of mine who works in insurance is currently looking at jobs in technology. He’s considering getting a coding bootcamp certification to become more desirable to potential employers in the tech space.
Sometimes, new qualifications mean getting another degree or formal education. Other times, professional development may be as simple as online courses or training programs through your employer.
4. Engage in Valuable Networking
Some professional development courses offer excellent networking opportunities, too. In person training sessions and industry conferences allow you to meet new people and learn more about their career progression.
Networking could help you learn more about a potential career path, find a new position or job opportunity, identify someone or an organization to collaborate with on a project.
Furthermore, networking may help you find a mentor who can assist you with career development plans and suggest other professional growth opportunities.
Many professional development opportunities include mentorship programs. Additionally, you could find a mentor in your career field or current employer.
Learn more about how to effectively network here.
5. Learn from Case Studies in a Safe Environment
Case studies are detailed studies of an event, problem, or incident in an industry that is further discussed by participants in a learning environment. Studying a case study promotes skill development, exposes participants to new knowledge, and refines critical thinking skills.
In business, we often use case studies that present a business’ problem and then develop plans and strategies to solve the business’ problem. While this is just an exercise, the more closely it resembles conditions in a real business transaction the better.
For example, in consulting, a business creates a detailed description of their problem and then sends it out to many firms and invites them to respond with a solution. Then, the company with the problem reads the responses and, in some cases, listens to presentations, then selects a firm to provide that solution.
Going through a simulation of this process with a real business problem (case study) provides learning experiences in a safe, low-risk environment. People can hear feedback on their solutions and develop their soft skills by working in groups.
I’m most familiar with case studies in business, but they are used in a wide variety of fields.
6. Employee Engagement and Employee Retention
If you’re on the employer side of this equation, you may be wondering why you should offer professional development opportunities.
First of all, knowing that the employer is invested in development efforts creates a culture of learning. This invites employees to innovate and take on new challenges. A leadership development program will also instill leadership skills in your workforce and show that you’re committed to their career growth.
Secondly, employee training can show that an employer is committed to helping their workers grow in the company and wants them to succeed. Some examples of career planning are helping employees create a professional development plan, map their current role to future positions, and determine ways they can achieve their professional goals within the company.
When employees know that their leadership team cares about their career goals, it may also boost employee morale and improve employee satisfaction.
Lastly, by helping employees reach their professional development goals, an organization is investing in their future leaders by providing opportunities for ongoing learning, job training, and mentorship.
Allowing employees to take on new challenges and stretch assignments will upskill your workforce and bring inherent benefits to your organization.
7. Higher Productivity
One of the benefits of training and professional development is helping you achieve your productivity goals. It may seem counterintuitive as professional development and online courses often take time away from your day job.
However, by investing in yourself with professional development, you gain exposure to new methods of doing your job. Some of this knowledge you may have to stow away for a later job position. But some of it, you should be able to use in your current role.
One example is on the job training. By shadowing someone in your department or in your current role, you can learn more effective ways of doing your job or collaborating across teams.
Understanding the company’s full process could lead you to prioritize differently or cut unnecessary tasks from your workload.
8. Stay Up to Date on the Latest Trends
While this benefit of professional development in the workplace touches #3, it bears repeating as a separate point. Professional development is extremely important for staying in the know about the latest industry trends.
As the world changes, we must be willing to change and learn with it. Ongoing learning complements a growth mindset, which leads to the next benefit of professional development.
9. Cultivate a growth mindset
The opposite of a growth mindset is a fixed mindset. Individuals with a fixed mindset are complacent. Instead of seeking out personal development, they prefer to stay where they are.
When new technologies or best practices are introduced, they revert back to doing things they way “it’s always been done.” Resistant to change and refusing to follow the latest industry trends, those with a fixed mindset will be left behind in their career.
Those with a growth mindset desire lifelong learning and aren’t afraid to go out of their comfort zone. They understand that professional development is an ongoing process and they see their current position as a stepping stone to future success.
They seek out new experiences and keep their long- and short-term goals in mind to motivate them. When someone with a growth mindset experiences failure, they adjust and reassess instead of giving up.
In addition to professional development, developing resiliency and being willing to step outside your comfort zones are two other ways to cultivate a growth mindset.
Leadership positions are more likely to go to those with a growth mindset because they are more in tune to current industry trends and they can better adapt to the constant change our world is in. Many of the leadership qualities that managers look for in their direct reports are those of a growth mindset.
As one of my favorite motivating career quotes says:
“I learned to always take on things I’d never done before. Growth and comfort do not coexist.”
– Virginia Rometty
10. Succeed in Stretch Assignments
A stretch assignment is a project, task, or position that someone obtains when they don’t necessarily have all the formal qualifications required for the job or when it’s a new role that includes something they have never done before.
In other words, a stretch assignment is a very clear challenge with a steep learning curve.
Sometimes stretch assignments come from the nature of the job (such as a promotion to manager when one has never been a manager) or the circumstances around the position (such as moving from a people manager in North America to managing teams around the world).
No matter how an assignment may seem like a stretch, professional development comes beside you to help you (quickly!) develop the new skills you need to succeed.
Also, in these situations, don’t be afraid to rely on your mentor, team members, and leadership team for support and guidance.
At this point, I hope these 10 benefits of professional development in the workplace have piqued your interest in finding development opportunities at your company and in your field. As you’re perusing possible learning opportunities, remember to ask yourself: what is the best investment you can make in yourself today?
Don’t miss this! More posts about Working and the Young Professional Lifestyle:
- 7 Practical Tips to Set Better Work Life Boundaries
- How to Ask for Help at Work the Right Way
- How to Deal with Difficult Coworkers: 9 Steps
- Waiting and Feeling Stuck at Work: What are You Waiting for?
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