Project Management

Are You Neglecting Your Professional Development?

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By Conrado Morlan

“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” ―Benjamin Franklin

I’ve heard from colleagues in project management that they don’t have access to professional development opportunities to help them improve and increase their capabilities. That led me to do some research. I found Training magazine's Training Industry Report, which is recognized as the training industry’s most trusted source of data on budgets, staffing and programs in the United States. It found that U.S. companies spent over US$90 billion on training and development activities in 2017, which represents a year-over-year increase of 32.5 percent. 

With that information on hand, I took the opportunity to ask my colleagues if the companies they work for are among the organizations spending money on training and professional development.

Some of them were fortunate to work for companies with professional development budgets, but they didn’t take the training due to their workload or personal reasons. In other words, the opportunity was there but it was neglected.

For those who worked for companies without professional development dollars, their main complaint was that the company did not appreciate them and the opportunities to develop more capabilities were so limited.

I asked them: Who takes charge of your professional development? You, or the company you work for? Many of them responded that the responsibility fell to the company they work for, because training would help create a more competitive workforce, increased employee retention and higher employee engagement. I agree on all the benefits the company would get, but ultimately the individual is responsible for their professional development.

I have worked for both types of companies. In the ones with development budgets, I saw former colleagues neglecting opportunities because “they did not have time,” they did not like to travel or simply because they felt it was not needed. In the ones without budgets, I heard the same claims mentioned above.

While working for the latter type of company, I took ownership of my professional development. Instead of seeing roadblocks, I saw opportunities, which led me to do the following:

  • Attend conferences. When I found out the company wouldn’t pay for the conferences I wanted to attend, I explored three options:
  1. Submit a paper. In many cases guest speakers do not have to pay the registration fee, or the fee might be reduced. This has to be done ahead of time during the call-for-papers period
  2. Volunteer to support the event. Volunteers are assigned to different tasks before, during or after the event, but they are allowed to attend the conference while they are not on duty.
  3. Find other ways to save. If options one and two did not work and I saw the value of attending the conference, I looked for early-bird registration or contacted sponsors to see if they would share a discount code to avoid paying the full registration fee.
  • Get stretch assignments. I was looking to learn more about the company and expand my knowledge outside project management, so I looked for an assignment on the business side that would challenge me.
  • Be a volunteer. This gave me the opportunity to give back to my community and support local chapters of professional organizations like PMI. I was able to attend chapter events, such as professional development days or chapter dinners, free of charge, and they helped me discover how to improve my project management capabilities. 

So do not solely hold the company you work for responsible for your growth. Take charge of your professional development. After all, if you do not invest in yourself, nobody will.

How do you take charge of your own professional development?

Posted by Conrado Morlan on: February 20, 2019 09:44 AM | Permalink

Comments (15)

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Thanks for sharing valuable tips about professional development. It is one of area professional generally depends on others. Rightly said that we should take lead for our professional development and always there is way where there is will. Only one should explore the possible help to go further. Very helpful insights - Thanks a lot !!

Very interesting post Conrado. I hear you loud and clear - I've worked for both types of organizations as well and I also worked with organizations where they match what you are willing to spend to Professional Development up to a certain limit. I you can share a link for the report you referred to "Training Industry Report", that would be great and I will check if there i a similar one in Canada.

I am a believer and supporter of Professional Development. While working with companies with no PD Budget, I used to find learning opportunities and used to put a budget as part of my salary to educate myself, even if it was minimal, it was beneficial. On the other hand, while workign with companies who supported PD, I used to and still take every opportunity to learn and grow. Time management is important and when you do it right, you will find out that there is time for everything so work load should not be an obstacle for people not to take advantage of the PD opportunities offered.

Our industry is very competitive and I assume this is the case for other industries so you need to stay up to speed, educate yourself in new areas, be creative and proactive by planning for the future because being reactive might not work these days.

Nice article, Conrado!!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts in this article.

It is crystal clear that individual is responsible for his/her own Professional development.

Some companies may provide platforms for your Professional development but it is you that how much you gain from it.
I have seen people feeling sleepy in a day long training, or coming late or leaving early or busy with laptop or phone, while any presentation or speech is going on.
In fact they are wasting the opportunity of their own Professional development.

While on the other hand, in the companies where no such Professional development(PD)budget for employees is there, employees are looking for such PD opportunity passionately & ready to sacrifice their holidays/weekend or after-work hours for PD.

After all, one himself/herself is responsible for his/her own career path thru' his/her own PD.

Thank you Conrado for the great article with valuable information on professional development. We need to stretch ourselves beyond our comfort zone to contribute and gain valuable exposure learning.

Absolutely. The responsibility of professional development belongs to ourselves, independent of the organization. These are skills and experiences that we carry with us throughout our career and empower us to have options and opportunities. If able to take advantage of a budget or contribution, all the better!

Thank you Conrodo..My current company believes in professional development however it is up to me to research, suggest and justify the options. I also take advantage of the many webinars and free events from PMI and PM.Com. There are plenty of options available!!!

That was an excellent post. Investing in yourself should be the topmost priority of each and every professional not only for the personal professional growth but also to contribute to the professional world out there with enhanced skill set.

Thanks for sharing, some very useful tips.

Thanks for sharing. Indeed an individual has to invest in self to enhance skills and knowledge.

it depends on the circumstances

Very practical ideas. And yes I totally agree professional development is your own responsibility. You should never wait to "be developed" by your employer. Look for courses you are interested in, read subject matter books & magazines, attend conferences and if it needs money, then plan for how to save the money. It is not that hard.You will always somehow find the money for what is important to you.
I paid for my distance learning degree, while earning $800.- a month and in my 40s. I just figured out a way I could afford it.

These ideas are incredibly useful. I enjoy reading these sorts of texts, and I continue to employ the techniques listed here.

I have not, however, seen any advancement in my company, salary, or otherwise as a result of doing - quite literally - everything suggested in this article. Reaching out to the PMI organization also produces few results. I'm interested in knowing who I can connect with to make every effort to advance.

Thanks for sharing such incredible ideas that can help the professionals like me.

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