Professionals who anticipate changes are more likely to act and transition with the least amount of disruption to their lives. In fact, the ability to be anticipatory is gaining attention as a competency desired of employees. No doubt, being anticipatory in your role for your employer is valuable but it’s also valuable to you as a professional and may help you survive and possibly thrive given the dynamics of today’s economic climate. We are increasingly reminded of the need to proactively own our professional development for the life of our careers.

Being responsible for your professional development involves partnering with your employer to achieve professional development goals to support your performance in your current role but it also involves proactively developing professionally for the life of your career. This may involve you assuming the cost for developmental activities and participating in activities unrelated to your current role.

Low Cost Professional Development

There are numerous unconventional and low cost activities that have the potential to contribute to both your current and future roles. Low cost ways to continue your professional development include viewing webinars, participating in book clubs or serving in associations or on boards. Each of these provides the opportunity for learning and growth. Roles that enable you to serve offer even greater benefits, often for you, the organization and your community. You may be active in associations or organizations unrelated to your employer or current role and may only need to support organizational fundraisers or other activities.

Reflect upon your service and identify ways in which you can develop professionally and then set goals to help guide your growth. For example, by day, you may be an accountant with no supervisory responsibilities at your place of employment but you volunteer after work as the treasurer of a local charity. You may be interested in advancing into a management role at your place of employment but lack management experience. You could identify ways that you could gain supervisory experience in your voluntary role and use this experience to pursue greater responsibilities or promotional opportunities at your place of employment.

No Cost Professional Development                                                           (Okay, technically there are opportunity costs)

There are various ways in which you can develop professionally with no financial investment by using what you already have (okay, technically there are opportunity costs). Consider meet-ups with like minded professionals. These are opportunities to connect with professionals in your local community based upon mutual interests. You may also want to consider mentoring to support your professional development goals. Mentoring offers opportunities for you to add value to others while also continuing your development. Leadership, communication and coaching are only a few of the areas in which you can grow your skills while supporting others. You could also serve as an instructor at your alma mater.

Perhaps one of the most accessible and convenient ways of continuing your development involves reading, engaging with other professionals and applying what you’re learning.

The Internet and numerous social media channels make this easier than ever by giving individuals access to thought leaders such as James Caan, Ron Thomas, Daniel Burrus, Christina Lattimer and countless others. Join conversations and share others’ insight with your networks – in the process you can grow and support the growth of others as well. Lastly, there are webinars and courses by outstanding leaders and scholars such as John Kotter, Bob Sutton and Huggy Rao available at no cost online.

Are you taking responsibility for your professional development? If not, consider how owning your professional development can impact your current role and future plans. Then set goals for the next twelve months and decide how you will achieve your goals. Establish objectives and the steps you will take and then set your plan in motion.

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Photo by Thomas Hawk, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license.

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