No matter how long you’ve been in the working world, there is one thing that will never change- it’s always essential to participate in professional development.  Even if you have been in the field for as long as you can remember things are constantly changing and evolving. Everything from technology to personnel to industry trends. If you’re not able keep up, guess what… you might be out of the job or potentially stuck in a job you hate because you don’t have the skill set to move on.

So, what is professional development?

Professional development is anything that can enhance your skill set, knowledge, experience, or competence.  Some fields require it to keep your credentials (CPA, CFA, medical field, human resources, etc.) while for others it’s optional.  I mean do you want to a surgeon to perform a procedure that hasn’t been keeping up with new concepts for the last 30 years?

But, just because your position doesn’t require it does NOT mean you shouldn’t be actively seeking opportunities.  The area you choose to build on also does not have to directly relate to your job at hand but can be an area you are looking to expand.  For example, if you have a fear of public speaking and one day down the road you might be asked to give a presentation; being able to practice this:

  • in a course
  • at a small conference
  • with a group of colleagues

can be beneficial. Many companies also have a separate budget line for professional development to give their employees the opportunity to build on their skill set.  They don’t want you giving a presentation unprepared either!

If your company does not have the funds, you’re in between jobs, or what you’re looking to do is not covered by their budget; you’re in luck.  There are still a lot of free and inexpensive options to enhance our skills.

Brit and Co

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 and they tend to have flash sales, bundle discounts and email codes making them even more affordable.  They are FREE to about $39.


This FREE option is something people tend to forget about.  Yes, it’s not a formal training but does provide you the opportunity to learn something new, ask questions and gain experience.  Look through your LinkedIn connections, professionals in an area you want to learn about, and your supervisor and invite them to lunch.  Take this opportunity to get to know them better and ask questions about their professional experience and skills they wish they knew earlier on in their career.  This can help you decide on a professional development plan.

Creative Live

Creative Live 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.  During that time you can buy it at a discounted rate for later use and access to the course materials.  Even if you don’t invest in buying the course, you can gain valuable information during the live sessions so you want to make sure you’re on top of the schedule.


Are you already involved in an organization or is there one you’re passionate about?  This is a great time to get on a committee, plan an event, or help enhance their website.  What is something you have wanted to learn more about and then use this an opportunity to do so.

Lynda is a wealth of options and is a subscription service.  You can find a tutorial for pretty much everything computer related and they are very thorough.  They offer a free 30 day trial to check out teaching styles and see if it fits with your needs. Many companies have a subscription so reach out and ask before you spend your own cash.


Udemy has courses to choose from in all different areas from enhancing your productivity to IT to health and fitness. These short courses help you hone in on a specific skill and taught by professionals in that area.  They are often highly discounted and you can find many courses for $10 or $15.

General Assembly 

If you’re looking to enhance your coding, design, data, business or marketing course; this is a great option.  They offer some free options, in-person and virtual courses.  This one is a steeper price point but is worth considering.

Not having the funds or time should not be the default answer for professional development.  Many of these courses can be taken in under an hour or listened to on your way to/from work.  If you’re serious about your career- it’s important to think about the skill set(s) you want to enhance.

What’s one professional development opportunity you took advantage of that changed your career?

Alissa Carpenter
Latest posts by Alissa Carpenter (see all)