School cannot prepare you for everything, so you will likely discover a skill you are lacking or another area in which you need to grow—even if you are well-established in your career. One way to facilitate further personal, educational, and professional growth is to participate in a professional development program. Whether you are a student seeking an internship or someone with an established career hoping to enhance your skills further, you don’t need to enroll in another multi-year program to learn what you want to.
Instead, professional development programs can last as little as a few days and as long as several months. They can offer you a learning experience more catered to your particular needs, as if you were taking an individual class. Student Eric Cody Moxam, for example, participated in a two-week backpacking program lead by graduate students at Stanford University to learn more about leadership, communication, team building, and more. Professional development programs can help fill the gaps left by your prior education, so here are a few reasons to consider partaking in one:
Enhance your skills
One of the key purposes of a professional development program is to enhance your skills. Think of some areas in your professional life where you could improve. Time management? Communicating and working with others? Understanding when to delegate projects, and when to do them yourself? It will cause you and your colleagues headaches if you are slow to hone these skills by your lonesome, so you could benefit from having an expert provide you with advice, guidance, and ways to practice.
If you are a student or freshly graduated, a professional development program can help prepare you for life in the professional world. You may have all the “hard” knowledge you need, but the “soft” knowledge is what will make you successful when working with other people.
If you are fell into your career, it never hurts to refresh your memory about particular subjects. The world is changing, so it doesn’t hurt to stay on top of shifting trends and advancing technology. Plus, soft skills are things everyone of every age needs to be adept at, so an extra push can ensure you’re going in the right direction.
Some programs are abroad
You can find a professional program that enables you to learn in any setting that works for you. Do you want to take a class in your town? That’s probably an option. Would you prefer to stay at home? Then online programs are available.
International professional development programs exist, too. By traveling abroad, you can broaden your horizons and learn lessons that no classroom could teach you. You’ll come back a more experienced person, hopefully with a new approach or two to various aspects of your life. Even if you choose to stay closer to home, the purpose of a development program is not about becoming a better worker for your employer’s sake—it’s about learning how to handle problems, be more confident in your own abilities, and sure of your own value.
Boost your resume
Your resume will also look extra impressive with a professional development program included. Even if the program is short, earning a certificate upon completion suggests to employers that you have practical skills that make you a better coworker.
Things to look for in a program
Professional development programs are wide-ranging, so pay attention to certain elements when deciding which one is right for you.
Length: How long does the program last? You don’t want anything that interferes with work or other aspects of your life too much. Simple two-week programs can still teach you a great deal, so don’t assume that programs that last for months are inherently better. If the program is abroad, consider how long you are willing to be out of the country.
Courses: What is the curriculum like? How is the information conveyed? You want something that matches your learning style and communicates information clearly and concisely.
Be sure to read testimonials from past users. You don’t want to waste your time or money participating in a program that ultimately does not serve you.
Volunteer opportunities: Some programs also offer volunteer opportunities, or are entirely volunteer-based. Such opportunities are an excellent way to broaden your horizons, learn lessons you could not otherwise, and make a difference.
Affordability: How much does the program cost? Don’t feel pressured to spend more than you are comfortable with. You can still glean much of the same knowledge from a shorter, less-intensive program as a longer one; it all depends on how well the courses are taught and what the activities are like.
A professional development program can help improve your skills in ways your traditional school experience didn’t. If you are an employer, though, it is also in your best interests to offer professional development programs for your employees. It’s a worthy investment that will help you retain staff and improve your business’s reputation, and you won’t force your employees to search elsewhere to sharpen their abilities. What is a skill you would like to improve?