Professional Development Opportunities: Definition and FAQs

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 27 January 2021 | Published 17 December 2020

Updated 27 January 2021

Published 17 December 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Identifying and participating in professional development opportunities often requires stepping outside your comfort zone. However, working through feelings of uncertainty and self-doubt and making the most of professional opportunities can help you increase your skills, job satisfaction and earnings. In this article, we will examine what professional development opportunities are, discuss how to find and benefit from these opportunities and answer some frequently asked questions about professional development opportunities.

What are professional development opportunities?

Professional development opportunities are prospects for expanding or refining professional knowledge or skills. Professional development opportunities can help people learn something new or deepen their existing knowledge. They can help people learn the information and skills required for their existing job or for a related position. They can also help people secure a different role in an unrelated industry. Some examples of professional development opportunities include:

  • Joining a project without a team leader

  • Receiving a request to lead a client presentation

  • Learning about a new industry conference or networking event

  • Discovering your company is introducing a new non-compulsory training program

  • Receiving news your direct supervisor is leaving your company

All of these opportunities give professionals a choice: they can pursue the opportunities available or not. Declining professional opportunities can often feel more comfortable. However, seizing relevant opportunities is usually the best choice.

The benefits of pursuing professional development opportunities

Pursuing professional development opportunities is always the best thing for your career. The benefits of pursuing professional development opportunities include:

  • Learning information or skills that can help you do your job more efficiently

  • Learning information or skills that can prepare you for a new role

  • Updating your knowledge or skills to keep you relevant in your industry

  • Developing your thinking to help you become more creative and innovative

  • Demonstrating your motivation and interest in self-growth to colleagues

  • Gaining new skills and qualifications for your resume

  • Gaining new skills and qualifications that can help you secure higher wages

  • Breaking your routine and making life more interesting and fulfilling

  • Making new professional contacts that can help you during your career

How to find great professional development opportunities

Sometimes professional development opportunities will find you. However, being proactive will help you maximise your development prospects and make the most of all relevant opportunities. Try these strategies to find more professional development opportunities:

1. Set professional goals

Setting clear professional goals will make identifying the most relevant professional development opportunities easier. Write down what you want to achieve in your career and some strategies that might help you achieve your goals. For example, if you want to transition from being a production assistant to a camera operator, you may need to attend film school. Classes that teach you about camera operation and framing can help you get this promotion. Tracking your progress towards your goals can help you stay motivated.

Read more: How to Write a Professional Development Plan (With Examples)

2. Search online for development opportunities

The internet makes searching for development opportunities easy. Enter terms like the following into a search engine:

  • Your location

  • Your industry

  • A topic area of interest

  • An activity type, such as training, conference or workshop

You could also set up online alerts for your most common search terms and get instant notification of suitable matches.

3. Publicise your plans for professional development

Speak honestly about your desire for professional development in the workplace. Make sure your boss and other senior staff know you would like more responsibility or training opportunities. If these professional development opportunities arise, you may be the first person they think of including.

4. Develop a strong professional network

Focus on connecting with people in your industry offline and online. Introduce yourself to strangers at conferences and industry events and exchange details with people you get along with. Follow up these contacts online to build the connections. Social media also makes it forging connections entirely in the virtual world easy. Join industry-related social media groups and be active in discussions. All these connections can help you learn of professional development opportunities.

Read more: Become a Networking Expert in 7 Steps

5. Get a mentor

A mentor can be a valuable guide through your career. A mentor who has worked within your industry in a similar role can explain the professional development opportunities that helped them and how they found them. You may decide to model your own career on theirs and pursue similar professional development opportunities.

6. Mentor someone else

If you are a mid-level or senior professional, mentoring someone else can also help you develop professionally. Most people think about mentoring as simply passing on their knowledge to someone else. However, most mentoring relationships are mutually beneficial. Mentoring can help you develop soft skills, including communication and empathy. Your mentor may even teach you about recent developments and practices in your industry.

7. Read widely

Read industry news and other materials to develop professionally. Industry publications can alert you to new business practices and professional development events. Reading about current affairs can provide a context for your industry's movements. All reading is beneficial for professional development, though. This activity improves your comprehension and communication, two skills required in most sectors. If you enjoy reading, starting a book club where you can discuss what you read in more detail can help you deepen your comprehension.

8. Write regularly

Writing regularly also improves your communication skills. It can also help you become a more critical thinker and establish you as an expert in your industry. Becoming well known in your sector can lead to more professional development opportunities. Consider submitting articles to industry publications or starting your own blog.

How to make the most of professional development opportunities

When you receive professional development opportunities, the following strategies can help you get the most from your experiences:

1. Have a positive attitude

Keeping a positive attitude during professional development opportunities will make you seem enthusiastic and ready to learn. People will remember these qualities and hopefully recommend you for more development opportunities in the future. A positive attitude will also make you more receptive to learning from your development opportunities.

2. Be social

Professional development opportunities often involve mixing with people outside your department or business. Be social and use the opportunity to network with others. The connections you make could lead to further professional development opportunities.

3. Take notes

Taking notes during professional development can help you retain all the new information you are learning. It can be difficult to retain every piece of new information at the moment. You can review your notes after each professional development session to reinforce what you have just heard.

4. Ask for feedback

Professional development opportunities often involve trying new skills or stepping outside your comfort zone in some way. Whenever you do this, it is a good idea to ask others for their feedback. Ask people about your performance and use their feedback to do better next time.

FAQs about professional development opportunities

Here's a look at some of the frequently asked questions about professional development opportunities:

Will accepting professional development opportunities directly result in a promotion?

Accepting and participating in professional development opportunities can sometimes lead to promotions, but this is not always the case. Getting a promotion may be one of the career goals you set yourself. However, it is a good idea to have several other goals you have more control over achieving. Mastering new skills, learning new information and improving your performance at work are some goals that let you control the outcome. Accepting and participating in professional development opportunities directly leads to achieving these goals.

Accepting and participating in professional development opportunities may also lead to a promotion. However, if it does not and you feel your employer is stifling your career growth, your new skills and knowledge may help you secure a better role with a different business.

What could happen if I decline professional development opportunities?

There are several potential consequences of declining professional development opportunities. You may start feeling stagnated or like your work is becoming routine. When you do the same thing every day, without challenging your routine with professional development, you can even regress and lose skills. You may also gain a reputation in the office as someone unwilling to take part in work activities. This reputation may hamper your opportunities for promotion.

Is professional development different from professional growth?

Professional development and professional growth are two different but related terms. Professional development is the process of learning and training for your career. Professional development leads to professional growth. Professional growth is the expansion of knowledge, skills and competencies used in the workplace.

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