Even if you’re not aspiring for a spot in the C-suite, professional development is likely a major value in your career. It’s how you prove yourself worthy of promotion, of salary raises, and of increased responsibility. It’s also how you stay mentally stimulated and adaptive to the rapid pace of technical evolution.
And if you’re a Millennial, this is especially true. Studies show that one of the key motivators in a Millennial’s career is professional development; they want continuous learning and growth opportunities, and, furthermore, they believe their employers should be providing that.
Does that sound like you? If so, you can imagine how frustrating it would be to find that your employer doesn’t offer professional development opportunities. If that’s all too familiar of a situation, here’s what you can do.
Communicate with the Boss
With the population of Millennials surpassing every other generation in the workplace, it’s vital that employers understand the significance of their needs and values. Attracting top talent within the Millennial generation is going to take new strategy, and that includes establishing programs for professional development.
Presenting the business case for such a program may be tricky depending on how open your employer is to feedback and communication. Opening their eyes to statistics – such as the fact that most Millennials prefer development and work-life balance over financial reward – may be helpful. After all, Millennials will soon be the ones to take on the evolving role of tech leadership.
But an even more impactful strategy may be to simply take initiative. Ask your boss about industry seminars, conferences and tradeshows. Make sure they listen to your goals and your plan to achieve them via classes, training or mentorship. Ask for opportunities to learn new skills or get involved in new projects. These tactics will help proactively build a culture of learning and professional development without putting a major burden on your employer.
Look Outside Your Employer for Opportunities
The workplace isn’t the only opportunity to develop yourself professionally. You can find many online classes, seminars, webinars, and more online. And many of them are free.
- Look for MOOCs.
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are offered by many high-level universities and educational companies. Stanford Online, Coursera, Udacity, and University of California, Berkeley, are just a few of the more well-known ones.
Many of these courses are offered at no charge, requiring only that you have the time and ambition to complete them. You can even earn advanced degrees, and while many programs charge tuition fees, at least one – a master’s degree in computer science from Georgia Tech via Udacity – is free.
- Volunteer your tech skills where they’re needed.
If you have web development skills, for example, you could use them to help a local non-profit of your choice build a better website. Even though you may be using existing skills, it’s likely you’ll encounter challenges and situations that will give you new insight.
And while the things you learn may not be directly related to your skills, experience and career goals, volunteering brings more people into your network and it improves your non-tech skills. In short, volunteering can be a great way to develop yourself professionally.
- Seek out industry associations.
If you’re not currently a member of any professional IT associations, you should take a look at ones that might interest you and explore the requirements for membership. Doing so not only expands your career network, many associations also provide their members with professional development opportunities and often at a fairly affordable/discounted rate. Many are online seminars, webinars and courses; others are one- or two-day conferences. Regardless, you’re sure to discover extensive learning and professional development opportunities as a member of an industry association.
What This Means for You
No matter what your career goals look like, professional development is a door-opener that will help you grow as an IT professional. If your current employer is unable to provide you with those learning opportunities, it’s clear that there are many other avenues to take.