Professional Development

In the hustle and bustle of modern life, we’re constantly met with competing demands on our time. In fact, we’re often so busy that we don’t take care of all the things we know we should. One of the first priorities to fall off people’s radar is professional development courses. There are projects to complete, meetings to attend and KPI’s to be met at all costs. Who has time to attend training, right?

Well, the people who do make time for continued learning are often the most successful, because they understand there is always more to learn. Professional development can fall into several categories:
  • Work-based learning
  • Professional activity
  • Formal training and education
  • Self-directed learning

Most development activities can fit into one of these boxes. It can be hugely beneficial to participate in some if not all of these during a calendar year. The term ‘professional development’ often scares people because they feel it implies a lack of knowledge. It can also be confused with completely re-training, for example studying an entire university course.

The truth is, you can find many ways to continue your learning, and you don’t always have to look far.

Always look to refresh your learning

Professional development doesn’t need to be about learning whole new skill sets or making drastic career changes. The term really just refers to building on your current skills and knowledge to make you more effective.

There’s a certain mindset you need to take into your learning, and it certainly shouldn’t be negative. You could attend the best professional development courses Australia has to offer, but if you’re not invested in the process you won’t get as much out of it. Always looking to refresh your skills is part of being the best you can be. That could be in leadership, writing, communication or even time management. We’re all prone to falling back into bad habits, so brushing up your skills is a real growth opportunity.

Plus, the business landscape is constantly changing. The methods from 10 years ago simply might not be applicable now. Refreshing your skills with professional development is also an opportunity to learn something completely new. The best professional development courses are updated regularly in line with recent trends, research, and practices; one such example is knowledge business blueprint. This means you can benefit by staying ahead of the curve.

On the other side of the coin, there’s every chance you’re not happy where you currently are. You may love the industry you work in, and likewise, you may be perfectly happy with your employer. But you want opportunities to advance, and until you develop some more skills and knowledge, you may not be able to take that next step.

Use a SWOT analysis to choose professional development courses

What is SWOT?

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats’. It’s a popular process used by businesses and management teams to get an honest snapshot of where they sit. The focus can be a company as a whole, a leadership group, teams, or even just individuals.

By asking questions about your strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats, you’re able to strategically plan a way forward. From a business perspective, you may discover your weakness is un-trained staff, and your threats are more efficient competitors. This tells you that staff training is a priority because you can address both a weakness and a threat.

On a personal level, you can always do some soul searching. Use SWOT to determine what sort of professional development might help you achieve your goals.

SWOT analysis and professional development

Making a list of your strengths and weaknesses can be confronting, but it’s important when it comes to reaching your goals. Let’s say for example you’re a business analyst and you want to move into a business consultancy role. Your SWOT analysis may look something like this:
  • Strengths: Analysing business data.
  • Weaknesses: Communicating with clients.
  • Opportunities: I already work for a business consultancy firm.
  • Threats: Other more skilled staff seeking promotion.

From this, you can determine that while you’re able to analyse business data inside and out, you have difficulty communicating your findings. In order to work closely with clients in a business consultant role, this is a skill-gap that needs to be addressed.

Once you’ve determined your key areas for improvement, you can start thinking of ways to develop those skills and move closer to your goals.

Attend training courses and seminars

You can find professional development courses Australia-wide for almost any skills you want to develop or refresh. Many courses take place over one or two days, so they aren’t even difficult to make time for. If you’re really committed to growth, you’ll block out some time in your schedule and book those courses in.

The beauty of attending such training courses is the interactive nature of them. You can read and keep up with the latest issues affecting your industry, but nothing quite beats getting into a room with like-minded people and being guided by skilled trainers.

The diversity of experiences being shared is another advantage you can gain by attending courses and seminars. Courses are generally quite interactive by nature – it’s not just someone at the front of the room reading from a manual. So, you’ll be able to listen to ideas and philosophies from people across multiple industries. It presents a great way to broaden your horizons and think outside of your bubble – and you’ll likely walk away with plenty of techniques and ideas you had never even considered.

As an added bonus, courses and seminars offer a great networking opportunity. You never know who you might share a room with and the opportunities that could present themselves. The other course participants aren’t likely to all be at the same level – some could even be executives and industry experts looking to brush up on their skills. This leads us to another, completely different form of professional development.

Find mentors

Everybody needs mentorship, whether it’s someone close to you in your own company or an outside professional. We often only look as far as our immediate boss or supervisor for guidance, but that’s not necessarily always the best option.

Mentors are people who have been in your shoes and preferably have achieved the things you want to achieve. In that sense, your boss certainly could be a great option. But, depending on how competitive things are internally at your place of work, you need to be sure your boss really wants to foster your development. It’s an unfortunate fact that many leaders are intimidated by their staff being too well trained. This can be because they fear you’ll leave, or possibly even take their job.

This is one reason you can certainly look outside of your own workplace for mentors. It may even be someone you’ve met during a professional development course. The key thing to remember though, no matter who your mentors are, be sure they’re giving you honest feedback. Also, try to choose mentors who you can meet or talk with regularly. It doesn’t have to be a weekly thing, but regular catch-ups are important to keep you motivated and progressing in the right direction.

Look for online professional development courses

If you’re simply too busy for further education, training courses or even regular development meetings with mentors, there is another way. Online courses can be a real gift for those of us who just feel overwhelmed by the pressures of everyday life.

Online professional development is a great option because you usually have more flexibility over when you complete your tasks. Or, if you prefer the interactive nature of classroom-style learning but don’t have the time to get to training courses, why not consider a virtual classroom session? Many companies offer online alternatives for their courses, which allows you the comfort of participating from your own home or office.

Everywhere you go in life, there are opportunities for learning. From reading industry web-zines to participating in structured professional development courses, there’s always a chance to grow. Make sure you’re taking every chance you get to develop, learn, refresh and keep moving towards your goals.