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Stop Waiting for Permission to Grow. Create Your Professional Development Plan

create your professional developent plan Red Cape Revolution

“We’ve cut back on our professional development —nothing I can do about that.”

“Our training budgets have been cut, so it’ll be hard for me to stay current.”

“My manager has nothing left to teach me—how am I going to grow?”

Heard those comments in your workplace lately? If so, you’re not alone.

If you’re like most high-performing professionals, you want to continue to learn, grow, and increase your professional contribution—not sit there like a lump. You want to feel you’re making a difference, using all of your abilities, talents, and superpowers. You want to be prepared for the future world of work—whatever that will be.

Growth is important to you.

So why would you delegate that responsibility to your company, waiting for external permission to grow and learn?

In today’s environment,  many companies provide more learning and professional development offerings than ever. But they’re often costly, targeted only to senior leaders, or have mixed or unproven return on investment.

Waiting will only put you behind. Why not start creating your professional development plan right now?

Three simple actions to create your professional development plan

Try one and create dramatic changes in your career and your overall growth.

1. Learn from Your Colleagues

The richest source of fresh information and insights is often the one most overlooked—your coworkers.

What does someone else know or do well that you also want to learn?

An expertise exchange is an easy way to put that person’s knowledge into your own toolbox. It’s a great way to enhance your working relationships, since everyone likes to know they matter.

Here’s how to get started:

  • First, decide what you want to learn.
  • Then pay attention to who comes to mind as a great example of that talent.
    • Not sure? Ask a few colleagues this question: “Who comes to mind when you think of X [X=the skill or concept you want to learn].”
  • Now, invite them to connect:
    • “Amy, I’d like to strengthen my ability to deal with conflict, and I’ve noticed you do this really well. Would you be open to having lunch with me and letting me ask you some questions about your thought processes and preparation steps?”
    • “Greg, your presentations are always impressive, and I’d love to improve my own. Could we schedule a call and talk about what you do behind the scenes to make these work so well?”

Once you get started, you might notice that others also want to learn the same thing. So do yourself and others a favor—organize a lunch, Zoom video hangout, or conference call on the subject.

  • “Here in marketing, we keep wondering about the real, everyday challenges of our colleagues in the customer service department. Let’s have lunch with a couple of CS people and hear their perspectives. I’ll invite Sarah—who do you want to include?”
  • “Looks like we’re not having the all-hands meeting this year. Let’s do a mini-version with a few of us over a brown bag lunch and hear what’s hot in each group.”

Remember, people are typically flattered to be asked to offer their expertise or ideas. A specific invitation makes it easy for them to share and for you to learn.

Your colleagues have loads to share—and you may learn something, too.

2. Learn from the Freebies

When budgets are tight, the tight get creative.

We live in a unique time when there are millions of ways to accelerate our knowledge, all for free. Here are a few of my favorites:


Remember them?

It’s a myth to say that no one reads books anymore. Smart people still do. In fact, the old saying goes that “readers are leaders.”

But you don’t have to constantly buy books and create a guilt stack on your bedside (or hanging out in your Kindle). Why not revisit your public library?

The library isn’t a relic; most in the US have online catalogs where you search for the book you want, request it online, and have it delivered to your local branch or download the ebook directly to your reader.

It’s a free way to access different ideas—without the financial investment and the bedside clutter.

(Need ideas? Find some of my favorite business books here.)

Trade magazines

What periodicals cover your industry or profession? Many offer free subscriptions just for signing up and providing your demographic information. This helps the magazine show higher value to advertisers, and gets you access to the publication at no charge.

What’s more, if you’re interested in learning a new profession, reading its trade publication can help you absorb insider language, trends, and current info.

Search [industry name]+”trade publication” and you’ll likely come up with the top choices. Or, you can also search on Amazon–they carry thousands of magazines across all industry niches.

Podcasts & YouTube

If you’re not yet listening to podcasts on your commute or when you’re running errands, you’re missing out of a valuable learning experience. Podcasts are hot, hot, hot–and you can find one that helps you learn more, faster.

If you’ve ever struggled to figure something out and haven’t consulted the almighty YouTube, stop right there. YouTube (owned by Google) is the largest search engine in the world.

Just consider the source carefully as you evaluate its advice.

Your Company

Finally, don’t overlook the free resources within your own organization.

  • What online learning tools live in a learning management system (LMS), database, or corporate intranet?
  • What tuition reimbursement or corporate memberships to professional groups are already in place?
  • What magazines, newspapers, industry newsletters or other items are already flowing into your office that you can borrow?

Not sure what your company has to offer? If you have an HR representative or talent management team, ask them. Or, in larger companies, you may have a library or knowledge management department.

It can never hurt to ask.

Self-driven learning tools may already exist but often lack promotion to let you know they’re out there. (And when you discover something great, tell others!)

(psst: if you’re new here, check out all the free resources we have for you on this page, too.)

3. Learn to Invest in Yourself

Not getting enough growth from these sources? Need to make a giant leap?

Then it’s time to invest in the hottest asset around—you.

Now is the time to invest in your own knowledge, your confidence, your talents, and your character.

Now is the time to change your expectations about who is responsible for your growth and learning (and psst—it’s not your boss, your department, or your company.) It’s no longer smart to be penny-wise and pound-foolish when it comes to building your own professional assets.

Still not sure? Think you can’t afford your own development? Think about it this way.

  • Let’s say you spend $90 a month on TV services. That’s over $1000/year, not to mention the time you spend watching shows that don’t change your life. So why would you balk at paying $47 to attend a professional luncheon that yields valuable contacts and up-to-date insights? Or why would you resist paying $1000 to take an online course or attend a conference?

Those who invest in themselves will find it pay off not only now, but throughout their life. Like any investment, professional development compounds—it doesn’t depreciate, and no one can take your learning away from you. 

The investments you make in yourself create returns much larger than any spreadsheet can ever hold.

If you think you need permission to grow, consider it now granted.

Red Cape Rescue by Coach Darcy Eikenberg

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