How to fit professional development into your busy schedule

If you are stuck in your career and feel as though you are on a treadmill going nowhere, you probably need to undertake some professional development.

Professional development is the process of bettering oneself and giving oneself more opportunities in the workplace. Teachers have been doing it for years through specialised training (teacher training days, anyone?) and education. For professionals in a corporate or agency environment, it basically means the same thing.

Well, almost. You see, the techniques are a little different. Also, as a current or aspiring professional, your time is likely to be very limited. It is important to take advantage of different professional development methods that will enable you to fit it around your busy lifestyle and make the experience enjoyable.

Also, it is imperative to look at professional development as a long-term process. Many people make the mistake of looking at it as a break away from the norm. However, professional development is a continuous process which enables people to improve their performance in their current roles and increases their chances of a career progression.

So, time is short. Work and other commitments are eating up every spare minute you have. You are busy. What to do? First, skip classroom-based development and head online.

  1. Take e-learning courses and exams

Here is the thing – classroom learning is a drag. Those of you who went to university will know this all too well. College is rarely much better either.

The issue is the outdated rigid curriculum, but mainly the concept of co-operative learning, or ‘groupthink’ which is great for extroverts, but terrible for introverts. The classroom learning environment rarely promotes original thought so is not always the best choice for your development.

Then there is the issue of time. You know, attending class.

What you want is a quieter experience where you can get into the nitty and gritty in your own time (and on your own terms). Professional certifications increasingly are being offered via e-learning courses and online exams, which is perfect because they are setup to save you time without sacrificing content. You will learn just as much or even more, but you will actually be able to fit your development and growth around your busy lifestyle. This is in addition to many other benefits that e-learning method presents.

  1. Get networking or setup lunch and learn sessions

It can be all too easy to become comfortable in your role at work. You will always be surrounded by the same people (except for the odd client, or new person) and that means you will typically always communicate on a level. Over time, the conversations usually change from professional to social. Not good for development.

So, get out there and get networking – meet new professionals and discuss subjects with intelligent people. If you can convince your employer that the networking event might benefit the company you work for in some way, your employer might even let you attend it during the working hours. This will ensure it does not eat into your spare time. A win-win.

Lunch and learn is another option. Lunch and learn sessions are setup by businesses to supplement formal training. If your employer does not do these, ask them to look into it. They will not eat up into your working time (so are great for the employer) and optimise your lunch time to fit in some learning and development.

  1. Practise self-directed reading

How many hours a week do you waste watching YouTube? What about browsing the Daily Mail app? You are passing the time, but if you have got spare time you could be using that to grow yourself with self-directed reading.

Self-directed reading is effectively a self-empowered education. Rather than someone teaching you, the role is reversed, and you teach yourself via reading professional articles, magazines and other reputable sources.

It is not a new or innovative concept, but you would be surprised by how much independent reading can benefit your professional development. One article can be all it takes to trigger a cycle where you spend days researching and learning about something. Just make sure you are reading good sources of information.

As mentioned earlier, professional development is a continuous process, therefore, you need to continue repeating the cycle. As soon as you are ready to progress further, go back to our first point about e-learning courses and exams for professional certifications. These will enable you to test yourself, get official accreditation certifying your knowledge and skills in your specialism, and even increase your earning potential, as certified professionals tend to earn by up to 20% more depending on the specialism.

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