Why is Professional Development Important?

Creative thinkers and leaders read books. They develop more innovative solutions compared to their peers who don’t grow themselves.

I’m not always talking about reading. It’s just one of the more natural things to do to better ourselves. We can attend conferences, seminars, set up lunch appointments, and the list continues. Unfortunately, mounting priorities provide little space for professional development.

Although this is true, on the job training will only solve some of our issues. People need to reflect on their work and how to be effective. That mostly happens within the pages of books, the words of mentors, and lectures by professionals.

Here’s my take: professional development should be a high priority. Here’s why.

You solve problems creatively

I listened to a book that changed my entire perspective on leadership. The book Extreme Ownership by Leif Babin and Jocko Willink presented the idea that leaders must have total accountability for all actions and non-actions within a team.

This idea struck me. I was early in my Army career and had made several mistakes that I felt it wasn’t my fault. Although these were garrison staff errors easily corrected by my superiors and peers, I felt justified in my actions and non-actions for the issues I couldn’t solve.

Then, I read this book.

From then on, I knew that the Army wasn’t going to give me a handout. I had to become responsible for what I did or failed to do because it was my job. If my boss needed something and I was late, then I was required to rectify the situation.

I started doing things differently. I asked leaders, peers, and subordinates for advice on how to take responsibility. When I arrived at meetings, I made sure I prepared myself. If I had an issue in my platoon or staff section, I took care of it and accepted the consequences of my actions or inactions. There were several times I missed deadlines as a platoon leader, and I paid the price for it. However, I have no regrets about the accountability I took in the face of an unfortunate situation.

Spread ideas and teach other

I had an inspired sergeant major talk to me about leadership following a unit conference. With a beer in one hand and a notebook in the other, he broke down leadership for me. As a young lieutenant, he taught me about how I can better lead the sergeants and soldiers in my charge.

He talked about barracks inspections, uniform inspections, good order and discipline, and tactical level leadership between officers and sergeants. Non-commissioned officers are well-trained on these tasks and execute them frequently. However, this sergeant major told me that it’s more meaningful when the officer, especially the tactical level officer, is involved because it shows the soldiers that the officer cares enough for the well-being of the soldier.

Soldiers build trust with officers who train them to be their best. Similarly, your employees will respect you for patiently grooming them for success.

When you have subordinates, it isn’t enough to send demands down through email, a phone call, or a chat by your desk. A leader’s job is to know the people they lead. People are not expendable, although many corporate leaders think so.

Think of it this way; people are not expendable because if they were, the Army wouldn’t pay thousands of dollars to send our fallen heroes back home in flag-draped caskets, some of which are barely recognizable. Less grievous, companies have vacation policies, emergency leave, and other methods to take care of their people. How leaders use those programs is their prerogative.

I would have never known these things had it not been for that sergeant major who took an hour of his time to mentor me in a bar after a leadership conference. I am forever grateful for his advice.

Expands your horizons

Are you thinking about being in your job until you retire? Now, it’s rare to see someone in their current positions long-term. Opportunities are abundant when you’re able to see them coming. That doesn’t happen until you make it happen.

develop a work network even if you’re “at the bottom.” There’s no better way to start than at the beginning of your career or new to a company. Meeting people can assist you in getting to places where you want to be.

Leverage connections when opportunities arise. Volunteer to take on jobs you wouldn’t normally do but aren’t too tricky. These tasks add up, and you’ll be able to call those people down the road for help as well. Inevitably, we’ll all be looking for jobs. Plant seeds for the future by networking. Let them blossom when you need them.

Conclusion

If there’s one thing I want you to know, it’s this: whatever you do, develop yourself. However that looks for you, just go and do it. That might mean volunteering for that business seminar, or setting up a lunch appointment, or talking with a boss after-hours.

It also might mean shelling out some cash for audio or hardcover books. The price you pay there is a lifetime of use, and that investment is far better than any coffee you can buy at your favorite coffee shop.

I mentioned Extreme Ownership in this article. If you want to read a review about it, click here.

Why do you think professional development is significant? Or is it? What are some ways you develop yourselves? Write them in the comments section down below. Thanks for reading!

10 thoughts on “Why is Professional Development Important?”

  1. Laura TenPas says:

    Hi Robert!
    As a teacher by trade, this article totally hits home. It requires a lot of professional development as the variables are constantly changing. We are constantly trying to keep up with best practices. You gave some great advice! Thanks! Laura

    1. Robert says:

      Laura,
      Best practices change often. Thank you for teaching! I always value good teachers, and especially those who dedicate time to ensure the success of their students. Yes, professional development is critical to making sure you’re ahead of the curve of any practice. Thank you for your comment.
      Robert

  2. C.N. says:

    Thank you so much for this highly informative article, Robert! As a member of the legal field, I completely agree that professional development is crucial to your long-term success. We all bring different strengths, skillsets, and new ideas to the table, and when we’re willing to learn, step outside of the box, step outside of our comfort zones, and work together, the results are incredible. No one comes into a professional setting knowing everything, and when we realize that we need help, and that there are people in place to help us along the way, we must not allow that opportunity to pass us by (lack of interaction and intellectual progression=poor company morale). Great read! God bless you!

    1. Robert says:

      I appreciate your comment! Professional development is critical to all career fields. More importantly, we need to learn about other topics other than our chosen professions to create connections and creatively solve problems. Thanks for commenting!

      Robert

  3. Jeff says:

    Why is professional development important is an awesome article to motivate all of us to put more effort into our personal development to experience more success in our career. Do you have any personal development resources you could share with your readers, I am interested in learning where you spend your time

    Jeff

    1. Robert says:

      Jeff,
      I spend a lot of time listening to audiobooks especially in the car travelling to work or doing household chores. It clears my mind. Also, I’ll briefly read a book before going to bed. Usually, that’s when I get inspiration for improving my leadership style or posts. I have several book reviews that are in the works right now, so stay tuned! Thank you for your comment.
      Robert

  4. Ferra says:

    Robert,

    This is a well-written article that people who seek to better their career should read. I do think that professional development is an important topic that every businesses should pay attention to. I agree with you, some companies think that their employees are expendables. I just hope that businesses should not see their employees like that. Nurturing them by supporting them with great leadership, equip them with regular training, etc would be a better practice that will later bring back great impacts for the company itself.
    As for myself, I do seek to improve my skills and knowledge all the time. Challenging myself to learn new things that are outside my comfort zones is another thing. Even though I am a stay-home-mom now, but I try to fill in these gap years by taking online courses, volunteering, etc. I would like to make sure that my resume or CV will still look good when it is time for me to go back to work later.
    Once again thank you for sharing the story of that sergeant. I’ll bookmark your site for future reference. 🙂

    1. Robert says:

      Ferra,
      I appreciate your kind words! Employees are a company’s best asset, and it’s important to develop them in a meaningful way. I’m glad you appreciated my personal experience. It seems like you do a great job with self-development especially being so busy! Thank you for your comment!
      Robert

  5. Sharon says:

    Really inspirational post, thank you.

    Accountability is everything. It’s so easy to blame someone else for your own failures and omissions, but at the end of the day, you need to own your own mistakes.

    As for the professional development and learning, books are a great asset, throw away the TV!

    1. Robert says:

      Sharon,
      You’re absolutely right! I have loved listening and reading books as I have gotten older. To your point, you can’t blame others for your own failures. Thanks for your comment!
      Robert

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