The words professional development are bandied around workplaces frequently, but what does professional development actually mean? A true professional development program provides training, formal education, or professional learning that helps to improve your professional knowledge, capability, skills, and efficiency in the workplace. There are many forms of professional development, including online courses, mentoring programs, workshops, voluntary work and online learning forums.

If you commit to professional development, you’ll go further in your career. It doesn’t have to be expensive, in fact, there are many free professional development opportunities. So, there’s no excuse for not continuing to grow and develop in your career.

The following five professional development ideas could be the key to a promotion or pay rise this year.

A Mentoring Program

How to find a mentor? It depends on your industry, but if you have a supervisor or manager who could teach you more about your profession or industry you could ask them to be your mentor. This is an investment in their time, and they may be too busy to take on a mentorship, but it’s worth asking the question – what do you have to lose?

If you don’t have a willing manager, look outside your organisation for a mentor.

You can seek a mentor on social media platforms, like LinkedIn. Simply use keywords to find professionals that match your criteria and vet them for reputation and willingness to help and interact with others. It’s probably best not to outright request a mentorship, but to introduce yourself and offer them something of value first until you build the relationship.

Workshops and Conferences

There are many conferences and workshops on a variety of topics to help in your professional development. A simple Google search of your industry, profession or subject of interest, plus workshops and conferences will bring up results you can explore. These events provide valuable knowledge and opportunity to meet like-minded professionals. You may even find your mentor!


You can gain valuable experience and extend your professional development by volunteering. Choose a charity you feel passionate about and find out how you can help. If you work in marketing, perhaps you could volunteer a digital marketing plan to a community group that needs your help? This is excellent professional development, as you are extending your knowledge base and learning about a new industry. You may even be offered training opportunities that help expand your skillset. Sound appealing? If so, register with Go Volunteer to be alerted to voluntary positions in your area.

Join an Online Community

There are many online communities offering information, advice and networking opportunities. When you join an industry-specific community, you meet likeminded professionals that enable you to network, share experiences, advice, and knowledge to succeed in your profession. Again, keep a lookout for that mentor! If you can’t find an online community that meets your needs, perhaps you’re in a niche industry, consider starting one.

Enrol in an Online Course

One of the most common limitations to explore professional development opportunities is time – or lack thereof! This makes a flexible, online learning environment extremely attractive. Whether you’re a professional juggling family and work priorities or are transitioning to a new career or starting a business, studying online is an excellent way to achieve your goals.

Keep Your Career Moving 

If you don’t invest in professional development, you may find your career comes to a halt. If you feel like time is of the essence, an online, self-paced and flexible course may be the best option. If you don’t have the financial means to invest in professional development, look for lower cost and free options, such as workshops, conference and online communities. There are many ways to gain new skills and knowledge that help advance your career. So, make a plan today and keep your career progression in motion.