5 Signs you need professional development

The right PD can make a world of difference in your career, allowing you to work more effectively and tackle new challenges. There’s just one problem: How do you know that you actually need PD?

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Post by: Angie Knowles, ECO Canada

The right PD can make a world of difference in your career, allowing you to work more effectively, identify best practices ahead of time, and tackle new challenges.
There’s just one problem: How do you know that you actually need Professional Development?

Check out these 5 key signs that PD makes sense for where you’re at in your career right now:

Sign 1: Your role is changing, and you can see challenging new projects on the horizon. Sure, you’re up for the challenge, but you want to be prepared.

If you’re reading this, the chances are high that you’re a keener with excellent planning skills and a strong awareness of how your industry is trending.

You already know that the environmental sector goes through rapid changes in policy and technology, making it essential for you to have up-to-date skills.

For you, the main challenge is zeroing in on the key skills that will help you get the furthest ahead.

There’s a wealth of different PD options out there, and as nice as it would be to build a wide variety of different skills, you simply don’t have the time.

To help narrow down your choices, consider that a growing number of green employers want professionals who have combined business and environmental expertise. In our recent study, The Green Jobs Map, nearly a third of green job ads listed one of these “fusion” skills: Corporate Environmental Program Planning and Implementation.

Sign 2: Your role isn’t changing. You’ve been in charge of the same stuff for a while, and you want to take on new responsibilities so that you can move your career forward.

A career rut can be a frustrating situation, but if it’s any consolation, most of us have experienced this at least once. Taking a few PD courses can be a great way to break out of this career trap.

For one reason, many HR managers view staff who take PD favourably – it’s a sign of employee initiative and effort, two key factors in the decision to promote a candidate.

PD courses also involve this frequently overlooked benefit: networking. Attending a PD course is your chance to meet fellow professionals who perform similar work to your own and learn about important news and opportunities in your industry.

As an added bonus, you get to skip some of the awkward conversation openers that go along with more traditional networking events, since being a student in the same course means that you already have something in common with these contacts.

Sign 3: You’re on the job hunt and you’ve noticed a lot of ads that keep mentioning the same skill, which unfortunately, you don’t have.

If this is your current situation, you’re probably thinking that you don’t have time to take PD. After all, many courses take at least a few months to complete and you don’t want to wait that long to land a job.

Even if time is of the essence for you right now, PD can still make a difference. The fact that you’re enrolled in a relevant PD course can actually go a long way.

It’s tangible evidence that you take your career seriously and are willing to learn the exact skills that companies are looking for.

There’s also the fact that a growing number of PD courses are specifically designed to be fast and convenient, especially online training options.

When do employers need to make the choice between you, a candidate who doesn’t have the skills currently but is taking a PD course to build them, versus someone else who also doesn’t have the skills and simply states a willingness to learn, guess who’s going to come out on top?

Sign 4: You want to move up and this means standing out with a skill that no one currently has on your team.

One of the best advantages of taking PD is the opportunity to learn something unique that isn’t available through your current on-the-job training. If your goal is to set yourself apart as an indispensable, key contributor at work, targeted PD courses can be a great option.

The main challenge is figuring out which skills or knowledge areas you want to focus on since these should be both relevant to the work you do and currently lacking amongst your existing team members.

Not sure where to start? We looked at the required competencies for 14 different environmental specialization areas.

Sign 5: You’ve learned multiple (and often contradictory) ways to perform key tasks in your role. Things would be a lot easier if you had a single best approach.

Similar to the PD advantages that we looked at for Sign 4, PD courses make a lot of sense when you want a different training option outside of what is currently available at work.

Pursuing this form of external training helps you learn best practices from experienced experts, stay abreast of industry changes, and even “unlearn” some of the not-so-great practices that you might have been following simply out of company legacy.

If one or more of these 5 signs is true for you,

PD is one strategy that will help you effectively grow your career. There are innumerable different PD options out there, so it helps to consider courses that are:

  • Digestible: When your day is jam-packed, taking the time to work on a PD course can be overwhelming. Look for learning formats that make the course content “digestible” in which you can tackle small sections of topics during lunch or breaks.
  • Immediately relevant: PD is a major personal and professional investment that you want to pay off! Here’s one test that can help you assess a PD course’s relevance: When you look at the course topics, how many of these are things that you could start applying to your day-to-day tasks right now?
  • Convenient: When you factor in travel time, missed work time for weekday PD, or missed personal time for weekend PD, PD courses that are only available in a traditional classroom can add up to a major time investment. This is one of the reasons that online courses are a personal favourite. Choose course formats that allow you to maximize your time.

Are there any additional signs that you would add to this list? What advice would you give to new professionals eager to build the skills that will get them ahead in the environmental sector? 

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