*Originally published in December 2018. Updated for 2020.
Henry Ford is credited as once saying: “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” Now, we’re not suggesting that ongoing training and development is some kind of elixir for youth, but it is true that you should never stop learning: professional development should be an ongoing process throughout your career.
As we move into a new year and and a new decade, we look at why you might want to put it in your resolutions for 2020.
Professional development can help advance your career
Let’s start with the most obvious benefit. Professional development can help you to take the next step on the career ladder. Businesses will often look to promote from within if they can. It costs money to recruit, and it can take a long time to find the perfect candidate – particularly for higher-level leadership roles. By plugging any skills gaps you may have, and developing higher-level capabilities, you’ll demonstrate not only your ability to step up when opportunities arise, but also your openness to being promoted. Choose courses aimed at helping you develop higher-level capabilities, and those that will build the skill-set your specific organisation needs. If you want to move to a higher-level job at another organisation, professional development could be what sets your CV apart from other applicants. Undertaking professional development shows potential employers that you are ambitious, forward-thinking, proactive, and committed to developing yourself and the skills that you can offer their business. These are all positive attributes that any business would wish their employees to have.
Professional development can keep you interested in your work
Positive learning is engaging and addictive. If you have found the right professional development course, you should want to do it, and it should be enjoyable. Following a programme of continuous professional development will break up any monotony you may feel in your day-to-day work and energise your creativity. By staying interested in the work you’re doing, you’ll stay interesting to your employer, putting you further on their radar when the time comes for promotions and bonuses.
Professional development can help you be a better employee
Many professional development courses are geared towards helping you to do something better than you had before. You’ll become more effective and more efficient, making you a more valuable member of your team, which is likely to be rewarded with better compensation, flexibility or other perks. If you undertake face-to-face training with other professionals, you’ll also be able to network with and learn from your peers, picking up new ideas and perspectives that can improve the way your organisation does business.
Professional development can build your confidence at work
Even the very best employees have areas that they could work on when it comes to their workplace skills. Investing time and effort in training and development will allow you to root out any weaknesses you may have and address them in a positive way. By enhancing your skills, you’ll feel empowered that you can excel in every area of your work. By worrying less and asking yourself fewer questions about your abilities, you are likely to see improvements in all areas of your work. You will work smarter and more efficiently, and your interpersonal relationships at work may also improve. You may even open up new possibilities, such as a promotion or a sideways career move.
Professional development can make you a better leader
New knowledge, skills and confidence gained will enhance your ability to lead and influence others. You’ll feel more credible to make meaningful contributions, and you’ll have more facts and figures to bring to the table. Professional development can build the foundations that will allow you to manage and mentor others by improving your communication skills and understanding.
Professional development can help you remain current
By enhancing your knowledge and skills, you will not only ensure you keep pace with current standards, but also stay relevant in the marketplace. It is easy to become complacent and maintain the status quo, but as the pace of change continues to quicken, you risk getting left behind if your knowledge and skills become out of date.
Professional development can also benefit your team
By actively sharing your learning with your team, you will not only improve your team's collective knowledge but also encourage a greater sense of camaraderie and reinforce the value of what you've learned in your own mind.
Following a programme of continuous professional development will make you more aware of changing trends in your profession and ensure you keep pace with other professionals in your field as well as continue to deliver a high standard of service to your customers. You’re also likely to gain a deeper understanding of the work you do in its wider context, and its resulting implications and impact.