Professional development on a dime
Everyone says you need it. You’re expected to do it regularly to stay on top of your, like everything else these days, ever-evolving career field. It can be to benefit the industry; it can be to better yourself; or it can be a combination of both. What is it? I’m talking about the concept of professional development, which the MacMillan Dictionary defines as “the process of obtaining the skills, qualifications, and experience that allow you to make progress in your career.”
These skills, qualifications and experiences can get pricey, though, when you consider conference costs, course fees, journal subscriptions, travel expenses and membership dues. On a freelancer’s salary and with student loan debt looming, I’ve had to be creative in coming up with affordable ways to stay current in Public Relations. So, if your wallet needs a break, here are my top four tips for obtaining professional development on a tight budget.
1. Scour blogs
I love the movie Good Will Hunting. The best scene is where the main character is completely showing this arrogant Harvard grad up at a bar. Basically, it comes down to the one line “You dropped 150 grand on a !*#$ education you could have got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the public library.” Now, I’m not saying college degrees aren’t worth their merit (Why else would I be in a master’s program?), but there are lots of ways to gain knowledge.
Blogs are one of the best methods I know. There are experts out there in every field sharing wisdom they’ve taken years to build and paid the price for. Yes, lots of blogs use the bikini concept to give away almost all knowledge but hold back just enough to get you to buy. Many blogs, however, give you the whole show. Search out reputable blogs in your industry, and become a regular reader. You’ll learn so much for free.
2. Look for open college courses
So let me make up to any Harvard grads I offended with my earlier favorite movie scene by giving the college props for its Open Learning Initiative. Many top universities are taking great lengths in community outreach and offering courses for free online. With these non-credit courses, you watch class lectures and follow along with course readings. You’re receiving instruction and information from college professors at no cost.
3. Attend webinars
Many companies offer free webinars as a sales tactic, and you can find so many topics to learn about. Vocus offers webinars on social media, Pixability has experts who give tips for video, inspiration comes in every shape and size from the non-profit TED Talks, and the list goes on. You’ll have to give some personal information, like name and email address, before you attend, but for the information you’re gleaning, it’s a small price to pay.
4. Do some inside research
If you are lucky enough to work for a company that offers professional development or belong to a professional organization, seek out what opportunities already lie within. As a member of the Public Relations Society of America, free professional development webinars are offered each month that I take advantage of plus I receive a professional journal and newsletter packed with valuable information. At companies and chambers of commerce, brown bag lunch presentations are frequently offered on a variety of topics.
If you don’t have the money to join, follow these organizations on social media platforms. They consistently share white papers and other research with their followers. Use what is at your disposal to the fullest.
Budget professional development opportunities abound if you keep on the lookout for them. What affordable ways have you found to stay up-to-date in your field?