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How to Invest in Your Professional Development: A Guide for 2021

by Louise W. Rice
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Professional development never actually ends. Just as surely as the world spins on its axis, so too will society change. Trends, new technologies, and a shifting paradigm will all affect your business, your career, and what you need to learn. Lifelong learning is the single best stance you can take as a human being. It will help your personal and professional life, and with something new to learn every day, you can roll with the punches. Something new comes to light that completely alters what you thought you knew? It’s just another opportunity to learn and grow. Rather than living with steadfast, rigid information models, you can instead adapt and progress.

It’s how you thrive as a human being and how you can really set yourself apart as a business leader.

How do you commit to this lifelong learning? You see it as professional development, and you use this guide.

Through an Online Degree

Earning a degree is always an excellent way to obtain a solid foundation in any topic. This foundation can either be broad or very specific. It can be used to help steer your career in a completely new direction or prepare you for a new role in your field. A lean manufacturing degree, for example, allows you to combine solid engineering concepts with the Lean and Six Sigma Tools. You can even customize it towards global leadership, healthcare management, operations management, or supply chain management.

With this, you can take an existing background in engineering and add to it with fundamentals of management, both on a micro and macro basis.

Through Short Online Courses

There is value in everything you learn, though for most going for a full degree every time is impossible. It costs too much; it’s too much effort; it’s just not the right fit. That is where short courses come into play. Free or paid, these short courses introduce you to new topics. These can be new skills, or they can be an introduction to a new subject matter. Regardless, understanding more about yourself and the world is always good for professional development, and with options, both local and online, you have so many great opportunities available to you.

By Reading

Reading is one of the best ways to absorb knowledge on a regular basis. Though self-help books and professional development books can definitely help, don’t limit yourself to just that. Once again, understanding more about the world, how it works, and of course, about human psychology can help you professionally in so many ways. What this means is that even fiction can help by helping you develop your communication skills and by helping you learn how people function and think, even in fictional settings.

By Listening to Podcasts or Audiobooks

Not everyone has the time to read. If you drive to work, your options are automatically going to be cut in comparison to someone who takes public transport. In these situations, consider podcasts or audiobooks. Podcasts are great for short introductions. Audiobooks are great for a deeper understanding or for fun.

By Attending Talks and Workshops

Social learning is how you can connect and learn, and there are many ways to do this both online and in person. For now, it will be primarily online, but with new tools, it is becoming easier and more intuitive than ever. Workshops and talks can be hosted online with even bigger success rates than in-person options because travel is no longer a barrier. You can hear from experts around the world, right from your home.

By Putting Yourself Out There

Sometimes the only way to learn is to put yourself head-first into something new. This could be done by taking advantage of a new opportunity at work or making yourself opportunities. This is more of a trial by fire, but sometimes that fire is the only way to forge yourself into someone new. It’s the same general thought behind those that go out and travel with nothing more than a backpack on in order to find yourself. Until you immerse yourself in an entirely new situation, you will never truly know what you are capable of.

This is the leap. This is taking what you learn and putting confidence in yourself that you can succeed. Knowing things theoretically is entirely different than putting those words to action. This is the final step, but it is also the step you need to take again and again. It is how you finally cash in on all of that personal development you learned so far, so get out there!

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