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Why Professional Development Is Essential to Career Advancement

  • 5 Min Read

From your earning potential to advancement of your career path, professional development opportunities can have a major impact on your life.

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When you think about what’s next in your career, professional development probably comes to mind. But can upskilling and professional development programs and courses really help you advance in your career? A couple of our own D2Lers have experience that suggests the answer is yes.  

There are plenty of benefits to keeping your skill set up to date. From your earning potential to advancement of your career path, professional development opportunities can have a major impact on your life and help set you apart in your field. In this article, we’ll dive into why professional development should be an essential part of your career path.  

Why Pursue Professional Development?   

In our white paper, Enabling Upskilling at Scale, we found that most North American employees want to engage in some type of professional development, but very few actually do it—just 17% in the US and 12% in Canada. Taking the first steps toward professional development might seem challenging, but the benefits speak for themselves.

It Could Open New Opportunities in the Workplace  

Even if you’re unsure where exactly you’re headed in your career, professional development can open doors you might not have thought possible or lead you down a path that you hadn’t even considered.  

Leanne Sathasivam is a people and culture business partner at D2L, but before she started a career in human resources, she worked in hospitality. Even though she was nervous to go back to school, she dove headfirst into professional development, which allowed her to advance along a completely different career path.  

“It wasn’t one thing that propelled me to where I am today,” Sathasivam recalls in our webinar, Career Coaching: Professional Development for Today’s Workforce, echoing what she’s learned over her own learning journey. “It was a lot of little steps, opening doors to opportunities which led me to where I am now.”

Career Coaching: Professional Growth for Today’s Workforce

Tune in for an interactive discussion on professional development, where you’ll hear real, personal career growth stories from members of our team. 

Watch for Free

Professional development goes even further beyond a one-time career change; it’s something that can be carried with you throughout your career. Upskilling doesn’t need to be pursued all at once, either—it’s something that can be done in pieces, from one-day courses to semester-long programs. Lifelong learning is meant to lead you to opportunities today, tomorrow and later on in your career.  

It Can Boost Your Confidence and Job Satisfaction    

By pursuing professional development, you can expand confidence in your skills to continue the career path you’ve been dreaming about. If you’re still unsure what your dream career path might look like, professional development can be the key to discovering what that dream may be. It can also add more value to your current role and boost job satisfaction by reenergizing your career.  

“I took on a new role and then I did a lot of professional development,” says Tina Fletcher, director of engineering at D2L, reflecting on her first leadership experience. “Sometimes you don’t need to be 100% qualified for something before you start doing it.”  

Whether you are ready to make that jump in your career or advance your current skill set, professional development can continue to support your current and future abilities. Through learning, you can gain the confidence you need to succeed in whatever direction you might be heading.   

It Can Impact Your Pay Scale   

Beyond adding more value or new skills to your career, professional development can have a direct impact on your wallet. A survey conducted by Evolllution found that 87% of North American employers said continuing education has a positive impact on an employee’s pay scale.  

The same Evolllution survey found that most employers are willing to reward employees for their educational efforts in general. But this doesn’t mean you need to have your whole career figured out in order to take steps along your lifelong learning journey. Small steps, like starting with courses that cover soft skills, can set you apart from your colleagues and take you closer to your next promotion.  

“Things like communication, problem solving, time management, organization—regardless of what role you’re in—those skills are always going to be helpful to you,” Sathasivam enforces. “No matter what you’re doing in your career or the path that you’re taking, there are always some skills that are going to be important.”  

Communication skills, for example, can help you articulate your successes and your desires to take on new challenges. They can also help you relay your ambitions to your leaders, putting yourself in the conversation for promotions when the opportunities arise.  

It Helps Keep Your Skills Relevant and Future-Ready  

Workplaces are experiencing accelerated change through technology, making professional development vital to keeping your skills current. Having a growth mindset will be crucial down the road in any career.  

“I don’t think anyone is ever done learning how to be a good leader,” Fletcher states, looking ahead to what’s next on her own learning journey. “Conditions are always changing around you, including the people on your team, the type of work you are doing or the situation your company is in at any given point. This can mean you need to drastically change your approach to leadership on a regular basis to adapt.”  

It’s not just leaders like Fletcher that these changes impact; they are challenges the whole workplace faces. According to Deloitte, the average lifespan of a professional skill has dropped to around only five years. It’s more important than ever to seriously consider professional development, no matter your path or the stage of your career.   

Start Your Own Professional Development Journey   

Looking for advice on how you can get started? Watch our free webinar, Career Coaching: Professional Development Growth for Today’s Workforce, to hear more personal career growth stories and advice on how you can overcome some of your own barriers and advance your learning journey today.