Did you know that only 17% of employees say their managers are actively involved in their career development? Or that ⅔ of managers fail to actively engage in their own career development (Manpower Group, 2015).

While they’re several reasons why this is the case, some of it is because of money and time. Professional development can be costly and time consuming, but it doesn’t have to be. Spending even 15 minutes a day can enhance skill sets, knowledge and take careers to the next level. And you (or your organization) do not need hundreds or thousands of dollars to provide an opportunity to learn and grow. It’s just a matter of identifying needs and finding cost-effective solutions.

Here is a list of 75 free and inexpensive professional development opportunities to get things started:

  1. Take a LinkedIn Learning course. If you haven’t checked it out, you can get 30 days free of LinkedIn premium. Among other benefits, you also get access to their learning platform that have classes focused on anything from communication skills to how to use Photoshop. You can also now pay per class if there is something specific, you’re looking to learn.
  2. Watch a relevant YouTube video. Professional development is all about learning, and you can learn a lot on YouTube. I typically search “how to…” and find the answer to my questions. I’ve learned how to update website code, edit videos, and so much more. If there is a channel that has a lot of content relevant to your interests, subscribe so you don’t miss when something new is posted.
  3. Watch a Creative Live course. This is a great resource for anything professional from technology to the art of negotiation. They have a schedule of live events so you can watch a course for free and then buy it for a discounted rate for later use and access to the course materials.
  4. Read journal articles. This is especially easy if you either work for an education institution or are currently enrolled at a school. Most colleges/universities have access to scholarly articles through databases like ERIC and JSTOR.
  5. Attend an event at your local library. Our library offers so many events including book signings with Q & A and local experts on specific topics. These free events are a great way to meet people within the community and learn something new along the way.
  6. Attend a networking event. Putting yourself out there and meeting new people will give you the chance to learn something new while expanding your connections. You never know who someone is connected to that can answer your questions and expand your knowledge.
  7. Find a cause you’re passionate about and volunteer. Nonprofits are usually looking for volunteers. Whether it be for an event or to complete certain tasks. Getting that hands-on experience can increase your skill set. You’re not only giving back, but you’re also learning something new in the process.
  8. Use your alumni database. Colleges and universities usually have a database with alumni information that current students are able to access. When I worked in higher education, my students would email alumni in their field of interest and easily get a quick call to “pick their brain.”
  9. Take a Khan Academy course. Depending on where you are in your career, Khan academy may be a great option. This non-profit’s courses are generally geared towards K-12, but they also have classes on growth mindset and prep for standardized tests (LSAT, MCAT, etc.).
  10. Take a course on Udemy. This platform allows the opportunity for anyone to create a course and for anyone to take it. The topics are broad, and you’ll likely find something that you’re interested in.
  11. Ask to present at your next team meeting. If you’re looking for public speaking experience, ask your supervisor if you can present either to your group or be part of the presentation for your clients. We get better at doing things with practice and starting with something you either worked on or people you know, will make it easier.
  12. Join a professional organization. Many organizations offer a monthly meet up, bring in speakers, and even provide online ongoing learning for their members. This is a great way to not only learn new things but to build your network. If you’re not a member, most groups give free guest invitations to individuals that want to learn more about an organization. Reach out to a current member (who you have a relationship with) or a member of the board and ask to attend an upcoming event.
  13. Take a Coursera class. This one the largest MOOC platform with tons of options of courses from top universities. On Coursera, you have the option to take courses for free or pay a fee to earn a certificate.
  14. Make a call. I know this might sound a little “old school,” but if there is something you want to learn or have a question, this is a great route to take. If it’s someone outside of your network, try searching for their contact information on their company’s website or on LinkedIn.
  15. Take a course on General Assembly. If you’re looking to enhance your coding, design, data, business or marketing course; General Assembly may be the way to go. They offer some free options, in-person and virtual courses.
  16. Become an apprentice. If you want to know how something is done or the process behind it; find an opportunity to learn from a colleague. For example, maybe you sit in on the top salespersons cold calls to see what they say and how they say it. This can give you some additional hands-on experience and a solid understanding of how something works.
  17. Attend a webinar. I know some people are sick and tired of the “boring” and “old” format of webinars, but they can be a great resource. The key is to not only find one that is relevant but to also pay attention. It’s easy to zone out (especially if they’re just on the phone). For upcoming webinars, check out industry specific organizations and content experts’ websites.
  18. Join a mastermind group. Being around people with similar interests who also want to up-level their skills and business is invaluable. Mastermind groups triage ideas hold one another accountability, and challenge each other to learn and grow.
  19. Subscribe and listen to relevant podcasts. Podcasts are a great way to learn new things either on your way to work or on your lunch break. There are so many to choose from and you can check out iTunes top picks or ask friends and colleagues for suggestions. One of my favorite ones is WorkLife with Adam Grant. I also host one, Humanize Your Workplace, where we talk about creating spaces where people want to work versus where the feel like they have to work.
  20. Watch a Facebook Live video. Not all Facebook lives would be considered professional development, but many companies do these to provide up-to-date information on their products and to answer any questions their audience might have. Follow the pages you’re interested in to ensure you don’t miss it.
  21. Take a course on Udacity. They are known for their nanodegree programs which include projects, mentors, and career services.
  22. Read company websites. Many companies will have a section labeled “in the news,” “newsroom” or “news” in either their top or bottom menus. If you’re interested to see how a company is doing, this is an easy place to find information and see recent press releases.
  23. Sign up for text alerts. You’re able to sign up for text alerts for either quick tips or links to articles to find out more information. Our school district sends out weekly texts throughout the summer on tips to help your kids learn how to read.
  24. Attend a Chamber of Commerce event. Depending on the Chamber, you may have many events to choose from. These events can range from business card exchanges to panel discussions to mentoring meetings. It’s a great way to meet people in your local area who you might not otherwise get the opportunity to meet.
  25. Attend business networking group meeting. Groups like BNI and LeTip can be a great resource to troubleshoot issues, ask questions, and get to know people in different industries. If your organization is a member, ask to attend one of these events as the company representative.
  26. Take a course on Cognitive Class. Their focus is to address the skills shortage in emerging technologies, including data science, AI, big data, cloud computing and blockchain.
  27. Attend an in-person class at a local school. Enroll in a course at the local two or four year school. You may be surprised on what continuing education or noncredit bearing courses they offer.
  28. Participate in Facebook groups. I’ve been a part of specialized Facebook groups run by small businesses with people that have similar interests. Members are able to ask, and answer questions. The owner of the group also typically does Facebook lives on current topics.
  29. Attend or host a lunch and learn. If your company offers lunch and learns, attend. Topics may range from a mindful meditation course or intro to coding. If your unsure if they’re offered, talk to your supervisor and peers, and review upcoming newsletters.
  30. Watch a relevant documentary or program. There are so many programs to choose from on a variety of networks and streaming services. Brene Brown’s, “The Call to Courage” is just one of your options to up-level your career and life.
  31. Ask Alexa. If my kids can ask Alexa to help them with their homework, we sure can ask professional questions. She can tell us anything from what’s going on in the news to how to change a lightbulb.
  32. Take an EdX course. EdX is another large MOOC platform with courses from top institutions on a variety of subjects.
  33. Download the Skimm app. This app has 10-minute audio breakdowns on big topics and pulls together stories that you’re interested in.
  34. Read professional magazines. With a membership to a professional organization, you usually get exclusive online access to their magazine or a physical copy mailed to you. These magazines are full of relevant content to your industry.
  35. Join a Twitter chat. I love both being a guest and participating in Twitter chats. These live events usually last an hour and have about 10 questions to the audience. The guest expert and audience answer the questions and use the same hashtag so they are easy to track. It’s a great way to get a pulse on what people are thinking, find new resources, and virtually meet some interesting people.
  36. Set up Google alerts. If there is a specific topic that you’re interested in, set a Google alert. You will be sent content each night that has those keywords. This saves you time and can keep you up to date on current trends in your interest area.
  37. Take a Brit & Co course. These inexpensive courses cover anything from Intro to Weaving to Building Your Brand Online. If you’re interested in anything creative there is a course for you.
  38. Future Learn. This platform offers short, in-depth and online degrees as well as a pay per course or yearly payment option.
  39. Find and read relevant books. Whether you’re listening to or reading a book, this is an inexpensive way to learn new information. Most public libraries will carry what you’re looking for both in book and audio format. You just need to download the kindle app.
  40. Download the Pocket app. This app helps you find and save articles for you to read later and they even offer recommendations based on your what you’re looking for.
  41. Download the Blinklist app. This app gives you the cliff notes version of nonfiction books. Topics range from parenting to business and they break it down to 15 minutes of reading or listening. With that said, it does come with a yearly subscription cost (less than $100), but if you were to buy eight books a year it more than pays for itself.
  42. Hire a coach. The price range for this one varies, depending on who you go with, but a coach can be extremely helpful. You can also choose to be part of a group coaching program to lower the cost. Ask your company if they reimburse or provide coaches for employees at your level.
  43. Subscribe to relevant mailing lists. This one really depends on whose mailing list you sign up for and what you’re interested in. But some businesses/people have excellent newsletters with new articles, information, and tips in a condensed format. Dorie Clark always sends emails jam packed with relevant information.
  44. Talk to your mentor. Having a personal connection with someone is invaluable. Take the time to reach out and keep them up to date on what you’re doing and the struggles you might be facing. They may not be able to answer all your questions but will most likely refer you to someone they trust that can.
  45. Watch relevant IGTV videos. On Instagram, you can find longer videos by content experts housed on IGTV. Much like the spirit of the platform, you’ll see everything from how to pick the color for your master bedroom to tips on how to land your next speaking gig.
  46. Read or ask a question on Quora. Not all answers are going to be accurate, but Quora is a great platform where you can ask any question and get a lot of responses. You just need to sort through the answers.
  47. View infographics. Infographics are an easy and digestible way to learn a lot of information about a specific area. They can show workflows, provide accurate data, or share a process. Check out Brian Wallace’s infographics to learn anything from how millennials communicate to the best way to shoot a basketball.
  48. Take an entrepreneur created course. Content creators can create and host courses on sites like Kajabi, Thinkific, Teachable and several other platforms. Some of these courses are free or low cost while others a little more expensive. If the creator has made the course open to the public, you’re able to take it. The courses on this platform also vary and can be anything from how to sell as an influencer to basic drawing skills.
  49. Attend or join an ERG group or SIG. If your organization has ERG (employee resource groups) or SIG (special interest groups), they usually put together programing throughout the year that is open to the entire organization.I have spoken to many of these groups and it’s a great chance for young professionals to also get face time with senior leadership in attendance.
  50. Take a Code Academy class. If you’re looking to learn how to code, this platform has several options. Their topics include Python, HTML, machine learning and much more.
  51. Read a newspaper. It doesn’t have to be the physical newspaper; the online version will do just fine. Papers like the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post can be great sources of information.
  52. Take part in a skip level meeting. These meetings occur between and employee and their bosses’ boss. Many organizations have started to offer this opportunity for employees to get to know and learn from the senior leadership.
  53. Use a search engine. Doing a quick “Google” search can help you find anything from images, video, to published articles.
  54. Attend an industry Conference. Attending an event specific to your industry provides you access to people and information you might not otherwise get. Many conferences also offer a virtual ticket which helps to cut the cost and time of travel.
  55. Attend a drive-in event. Many organizations in addition to hosting a large conference have small, local events called drive ins. They usually have a theme with multiple presenters and can occur either in an “off-year” for their larger conferences or on a seasonal basis.
  56. Check out Pinterest. This platform is a search engine with pictures. You can find content on how to sew, cook a Thanksgiving meal or how to update your resume. There is so much content on there just waiting to be viewed.
  57. Attend or start a book club. Get a group of colleagues together and choose a book or even an article a month to read and discuss. Take turns on who gets to choose and lead the discussion.
  58. Take an inventory or assessment. One of my favorite ways to get to know your strengths is to take an assessment like CliftonStrengths. By knowing what you are good at; you’ll be able to better align professional development opportunities, tasks, and work more efficiently. This particular assessment comes with a book and tons of professional development suggestions based on your specific strengths.
  59. Attend a Women’s conference. Women’s conferences can be some of the largest events and bring in some of the highest of caliber speakers. While many of the attendees may be women, there is so much to learn regardless of your gender. Check to see if your state hosts a yearly conference (i.e PA Conference for Women, Texas Conference for Women)
  60. Schedule a one on one meetings with a supervisor. Regardless of your position, it’s usually a good idea to stay in touch with your supervisor and ask for feedback. If your supervisor is present and sees and knows your work, they will be able to provide you with productive feedback for you to learn and grow in your career.
  61. Watch a TED/TEDx talks. These 18 minute or less talks provide so much value. (and here’s mine on enhancing workplace communication)
  62. Subscribe to RSS feeds of your favorite sites. There is so much great content out there from bloggers and other content creators. To never miss a post, just subscribe to their RSS feed and you’ll be notified every time something new pops up.
  63. Read your LinkedIn newsfeed. You can find articles, video, or long-form posts right in your feed. I’ve learned how to add hashtags to my company page, share SlideShare pdfs, and so many other things just in the newsfeed.
  64. Attend a skill specific workshop or event. If there is a specific skill that you’re trying to enhance, attending an event that both gives you the opportunity to practice and learn from others can be beneficial. Groups like Toastmasters or events that focus on how to get a book published give you the time and space to focus on this craft.
  65. Ask someone out for coffee. Whether it’s someone you currently work with or an individual you want to get to know, coffee chats are a great option. When you ask someone for coffee, provide them with the “why” behind your ask so they can come prepared and ready to answer your questions.
  66. Reach out to HR for company programs or subscriptions. We get so work emails that we’re bound to miss something. But that means you might have missed a new company wide leadership training program or a subscription to an online training platform. Go back through your emails, check your company’s HR page, or reach out to HR directly to see what opportunities are available.
  67. Attend alumni events. Many schools have local alumni groups that offer meet ups. Some of the events are social while others are education. You can reminisce with old friends and learn something new along the way.
  68. Participate in LinkedIn groups. Although not all groups are hyperactive, there are some that are. This typically includes professional organizations that offer an exclusive group to its members to ask and answer question.
  69. Check email signatures. I have seen so many people (including myself) add links to videos and other resources to the bottom of their email signatures. These are usually relevant and interesting content for the people receiving the email.
  70. Attend a fire side chat. Whether virtual or in person, these informal conversations provide an intimate setting to learn something new. They are typically an interview format with a content expert and then the discussion opens up for Q & A.
  71. Conduct a 360 review. Some organizations have access to 360 review platforms with additional coaching. This review is an opportunity for you to ask colleagues, supervisors, and anyone else to provide feedback on your work. From there, you can reflect and learn from your work styles and your interactions with others.
  72. Attend a class at your local school district. In our area, the school district hosts evening and weekend adult classes on a variety of topics. They’re taught by teachers or local content experts and are at a very low cost.
  73. Find a local Meetup. There are a lot of grassroots meetups started by people with an interest in a particular area looking for others with a similar interest. Some have spawned into formal networking groups or even masterminds.
  74. Check out job descriptions. Even if you’re not looking for a job, being in the know of what is out there and what companies are looking for is important. What skills, knowledge and experience are they looking for and where do you fit into the mix? You might even find a certification or platform you should seek training in that is relevant in your field.
  75. Listen to the radio. AM stations or satellite radio have specific stations dedicated to industry related information. These are great to listen to on your commute to/from work or even on a shower radio as you’re getting ready for your day.

Alissa Carpenter

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