No matter which field you find yourself working in, it’s likely you’ll encounter at least one opportunity for professional development. Whether it comes in the form of a conference, a workshop or just a round table discussion among colleagues over free lunch, odds are that its significance has become lost among the typical workplace vocab of buzzwords like “enrichment seminars” and “training workshops.” So if these supposedly career-building activities are so insignificant, why have they continued to persist in workplace environments ranging from corporate suites to medical schools to the food service industry? Here are a few reasons why the practice of professional development hasn’t waned but why it can also sometimes give employers headaches.
It revamps employee morale.
When the day-to-day of your job has eventually sucked out your passion and energy and has left you feeling less and less excited to come to work each day, it can be difficult to keep the big picture in mind and remember what first sparked your interest in this field in the first place. Workshops that help you learn new skills, hone old ones and be re-educated about the current status of your field can bring the aura of a fresh start to the workplace and can improve your attitude toward the daily grind.
It promotes adaptability.
Whether you’re in the erratic world of finance or the ever-advancing branches of tech and medicine, staying up to date on all the fast-paced changes can be easier said than done after a long 9-5. Professional development events offer opportunities not only to be caught up on the most salient changes in your field, but also offer spaces for dialogue with others and can prepare you for the slew of unpredictable challenges relevant to your career. They can also make you more appealing and marketable to future potential employers. For this reason, some employers fear that the more skilled their employees become, the less they’ll want to remain in the same position or under the same management. It’s important to seek out these opportunities if they’re not readily presented in your workplace, and this type of initiative will also relay to your employers that you’re driven and, thus, more valuable and less disposable.
It introduces you to others.
Networking is the name of the game when it comes to these types of conferences and seminars. Sometimes, they are useful for sussing out the competition, but primarily they are just great collaborative exercises that can be humbling and educational and can garner future connections that might not seem as obvious right now.
It shouldn’t hurt your wallet.
To be fair, it seems a bit counterintuitive to have to use even a small percentage of the money you’re earning just to register for yet another work-related activity. But here’s the thing – paying that $50 registration fee can be an investment toward your own greater earning potential. Also, plenty of professional development programs are run online for free, and many workplaces will reimburse all or most expenses for employees who attend conferences to lead workshops and seminars, present research, or to just promote the company.
The best way to get the most out of any professional development opportunity is to first assess your strengths and weaknesses, seek out programs that will help you capitalize on the former and improve the latter, and find ways to be an active participant in the programs so you can help yourself now and in the future.