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A lot of people assume that learning ends when their job or career begins. They’ve taken the necessary courses, attended the training, earned the licenses or certificates, etc., and have proved they’re fully prepared to enter the workforce, so they think, Why spend additional time and money on learning something new that has nothing to do with my job, right?


Learning should be a lifelong process that doesn’t end with a job offer. In fact, research shows that employees who demonstrate a love for and willingness to expand their learning are more often considered for advancement and leadership roles than those who prefer to “stay in their own comfort zone.” Comfort zones can be dangerous places!

There are many professions that require employees to take additional coursework to maintain their licenses or certifications – medicine, counseling, and teaching being just a few examples. It’s understandable that people in these positions do what they need to do to remain relevant and up-to-date. However there are many positions that don’t demand regular license renewals, and this is where you may not want to stay in your comfort zone.

If you want to advance or move forward in your career, you’ll need to be proactive and take responsibility for your actions (or inactions). It’s great you go to work every day, work hard and put in extra hours, but other people are doing this, too.

When you’re competing with others for a new position that just opened up, you need to do something that sets you apart from your competition, something that makes your future supervisor say, “We chose YOU because of _______”.

So, how can you be unique? Professional development.

Now, before you start to panic and say to yourself, But I can’t afford to go back to college! I’m still trying to pay off my old student loans, listen up.

Professional development doesn’t only mean “expensive college credits.” Not at all. Professional development just means “you’re developing and diving deeper,” moving further along in your understanding of your position and role in the organization. See the difference?

There are many pathways to professional development. Here are several ways to enhance your learning and, ultimately, make yourself more of a “rock star” than you already are:

  • Online Workshops and Webinars. There are so many to choose from, it’s insane! All it takes is a quick web search to find whatever you need or want to learn. Plus, they are usually very inexpensive – certainly less than a college course!
  • Mentoring/Apprenticing. Do you have a colleague or peer who has been through a similar process? Ask them to help educate you! They can share their insights and expertise over coffee, or weekend get-togethers. Use their knowledge to further yours!
  • Check out local businesses or parks and recreation organizations to see what they have to offer. Toastmasters International is also an excellent choice for those who wish to improve their presentation and speaking skills. There are chapters everywhere, you just have to visit their website for the information.

Be willing to stretch outside your comfort zone. While it’s a very nurturing and seemingly “safe” place to be, it really can be detrimental to you in the long run. Stretching yourself beyond your comfy, cozy existence can be stressful. But it can also be life changing! It’s where growth occurs. And with growth comes progress and forward movement. What better way to make yourself an invaluable employee than to keep learning, learning, learning, right?