We have all heard the dreaded phrase, “There is no money in the budget for X,Y,Z…” Whether it was after asking for a raise, hearing about cuts to department resources, or as an explanation for a hiring freeze, limited budgets are commonplace in today’s workplace.
After working for several organizations that allowed me and my colleagues to attend area-specific local and national conferences, webinars, and leadership development programs, I was taken aback to find out that my current department did not have a professional development budget. It is a growing area that is juggling several different innovative projects so it is important to stay abreast of current trends and best practices. So how does that happen with no PD budget? I consulted mentors and researched online to come up with a list of ways to create your own professional development on a limited or nonexistent budget. I hope that some of these are helpful for you:
- Online Resources. There are numerous FREE resources available to help keep you abreast of new developments in your field. There are free courses offered online in a variety of different areas through Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) providers, TED Talks, and Podcasts. You can brush up on your communication skills, learn branding and marketing, polish your writing skills, or even learn a new language. For more information on these resources, check out EdX, Coursera, TED Talks, and in the iTunes App Store
- Books and Articles. Gather a small group of like-minded colleagues or friends and select a monthly or quarterly read and discuss. This can be done at a formal or informal gathering–lunchtime, Saturday brunch, or virtual meeting.
- 30 minute PD. Block off 30 minutes on your daily work calendar two to three times per week to have PD in your office. You can use this time to read, review websites of peer companies and institutions, listen to a podcast, or practice a new skill. However you choose to spend the time, make it a priority to add professional development to your schedule.
- Collaborate with Others. Reach out to a peer organization or institution (where appropriate) and find out how they are handling an issue in which your institution/department is struggling or looking to grow. Likewise, share with them what you are doing well in an area in which they are struggling or looking to grow. Promote a spirit of collective work and reciprocity, not competition.
- Use Social Media. Actively engage in professional development groups on social media. There are Facebook groups for Social Workers, Teachers, Student Affairs Professionals, Doctors, Lawyers, Childcare Providers, Small Business Owners, etc. This provides an opportunity to learn, grow, and network. You never know how a connection may positively impact your professional trajectory.
- Share what you have learned. In your weekly, monthly, or quarterly department meeting, take 10-15 minutes to present information to your colleagues about the new developments and best practices you have learned using the options above. Suggest to your department leader the idea of your team working together to generate a list of topics and taking turns researching and sharing information with the team.
What are some other ways to create professional development opportunities on your own?