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 care about everything we know we should. Professional development courses are among the first priorities to fall off people’s radar. 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. Participating in some, if not all, can be hugely beneficial during a calendar year. The term ‘professional development’ often scares people because it implies a lack of knowledge. It can also be confused with completely re-training, for example, studying an entire university course.

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 is not about learning new skill sets or making drastic career changes. The term just refers to building on your skills and knowledge to make you more effective.

You need to take a certain mindset into your learning, and it certainly shouldn’t be negative. You could attend the best professional development courses Australia offers, 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 your best. That could be in leadership, writing, communication or even time management. We’re all prone to falling back into bad habits, so brushing up on your skills is a natural growth opportunity.

Plus, the business landscape is constantly changing. The methods from 10 years ago may not be applicable now. Refreshing your skills with professional development is also an opportunity to learn something new. The best professional development courses are updated regularly in line with recent trends, research, and practices; one 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 may be pleased with your employer. But you want opportunities to advance, and until you develop 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, and Threats. It’s a popular process business and management teams use to get an honest snapshot of where they sit. The focus can be a company, a leadership group, teams, or individuals.

You can strategically plan a way forward by asking questions about your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. 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 weaknesses and threats.

On a personal level, you can always do some soul-searching. Use SWOT to determine what 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 reaching your goals is essential. Let’s say, for example, you’re a business analyst and 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 can analyse business data inside and out, you have difficulty communicating your findings. To work closely with clients in a business consultant role is a skill gap that needs to be addressed.

Once you’ve determined your critical 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 challenging to make time for. If you’re committed to growth, you’ll block out some time in your schedule to book those courses.

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 shared experiences 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 improve their skills. This leads us to another entirely different form of professional development.

Find mentors

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

Mentors are people who have been in your shoes and preferably have achieved what you want. 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 even take their job.

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

Look for online professional development courses.

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

Online professional development is an excellent option because you have more flexibility 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 learning opportunities. From reading industry webzines to participating in structured professional development courses, there’s always a chance to grow. Make sure you take every opportunity to develop, learn, refresh and keep moving towards your goals.