Professional development entails engaging in learning activities that can help the participant earn professional degrees or certifications. It emphasizes the acquisition of new skills and experience that will enhance a career professional’s current or future role. Professional and personal development go hand in hand, because to excel career-wise, a working professional must develop personally or grow as an individual first. Though many people may find professional development synonymous with boredom, fun professional development is a realistic endeavor.
A career is meant to be tended to and nurtured. Left unattended, it can wither and die. But regardless of your career path or aspirations, professional development doesn’t have to be monotonous. Use these tips to turn professional development into an exciting stepping stone to the next level of your career.
Is Fun Professional Development a Reality?
Working professionals who want to grow must develop their skills and make tactical decisions to help them climb the career ladder. Professional development also allows companies to hang on to their employees for a longer period. In fact, 93% of workers surveyed would remain with a company longer if the employer invested in their careers.
Unfortunately, some workers find professional or career development to be a necessary evil. This is especially true if the development is irrelevant, antiquated, uninteresting, or dull. Worse, because many sessions provide impractical or outdated information, others may consider it a waste of time.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Creating fun professional development activities starts with understanding how adult professionals learn and striving to increase engagement. Moreover, people are more likely to finish a professional development session if it’s entertaining and memorable.
According to Gartner Research, gamification is one of the best ways to increase learner engagement, and studies show it can increase engagement by up to 60%. It also stimulates competitiveness by gamifying an activity. If participants can track their progress and earn rewards or bragging rights after completing a session, even better.
Actionable Item: Employers should consider gamifying career development activities. Making learning activities fun helps improve information retention, maintains participant engagement, enhances curiosity, and also encourages learners to try new things.
Is Fun Professional Development Available to Remote Workers?
If onsite workers struggle to find engaging and fun professional development, does this mean that remote workers are out of luck? Not exactly. The opportunity for incorporating fun professional development activities into a career path has grown. Thanks to the advancement of online communication, learning, and video technologies, options that may have been unavailable just a few years ago are now accessible to remote workers. In fact, the availability of online access has undoubtedly had an effect on employers. One study shows that 59% of organizations spend more of their budget on online learning, instead of more expensive in-person workshops and training sessions.
Employer-Led Professional Development Ideas for Remote Workers
For some inspiration, here are some examples of fun professional development activities for remote workers:
- Virtual Conferences – Virtual conferences are ideal for remote workers and employers without a huge budget or the ability to travel. With more events being moved online due to COVID-19, the opportunity to hear directly from industry leaders and reinforce your industry knowledge is growing exponentially. For remote workers, the flexibility and freedom that a virtual conference provides are a phenomenal bonus.
- Scavenger Hunts – Corporate team-building is difficult, especially with remote workers. But employers can add a fun professional development activity to their corporate development programs with a virtual scavenger hunt. Plus, getting workers to exercise their problem-solving skills and creativity while building rapport with colleagues is a win-win scenario. With virtual scavenger hunts like GooseChase, remote teams can participate while also strengthening their team and leadership skills.
- Digital Breakouts – This type of fun professional development is the digital equivalent to physical breakout rooms. Using Google Forms and Apps, employers can tailor these breakouts to fit their distinct goals. Digital breakouts involve asking participants to view targeted web or video content and asking them to unlock questions by solving puzzles and answering questions correctly within an allotted time limit. At the end of their session, participants can earn badges or find out their ranking on a leaderboard.
Self-Led Professional Development Ideas for Remote Workers
- Personalized E-Learning – Thirsty for knowledge? Sites like Udemy, Udacity, Coursera, and Lynda.com offer nano degrees and courses in a plethora of subjects. In addition, many universities are going online with degree and certificate programs. As a result, remote workers can take classes and develop new skills based on their individual interests and needs. Some employers with predetermined professional development training or courses will even support the alternative learning if it is presented as a benefit to their company. Therefore, career professionals should always ask before taking the financial hit on their own.
- Passion Projects – Do you have an idea that has been percolating in the back of your mind for years? Many career professionals have at least one or two ideas that never come to fruition simply because they never try. Working on a passion project can strengthen the professional’s skill set and may even benefit the employer.
- Video Networking – Networking is an integral part of professional development. It’s a great way to meet new people and develop career contacts. Video-conferencing sites like Zoom and networking sites such as Meetup bring like-minded people together. Through these platforms, networking events are becoming accessible and commonplace. Now, remote workers, digital nomads, and natural introverts no longer miss out on this beneficial development activity.
Career Professionals Are Taking Control of Their Own Development
Professional development has evolved throughout the years. Instead of traditional, ostensibly boring presentations and classes, workers can take the reins. This newfound freedom allows telecommuters and others to choose how to pursue fun professional development.
Making A Plan
Crafting a meticulous (or semi-meticulous) plan is crucial to fun professional development. Through this plan, workers can visualize their desired promotion and also find their ideal company fit. To this effect, this plan can include a road map to determine what the worker needs to do to achieve their goals.
Actionable Item: Take the time to map out a step-by-step plan, while simultaneously incorporating personal interests and growth milestones. This will ensure that career professionals stay on course and become engaged in their own success. For people unsure of where to start, journaling is a strong starting point.
Taking the initiative to get certified in additional career specialties is an essential part of individual professional development tracks. Certifications ultimately open the door to earn a higher salary. In addition, they can also boost a resume and improve the professional’s hireability during economic downturns.
Actionable Item: Career professionals should conduct research to find a beneficial certificate program. The return on investment of a certificate far outweighs the necessary expense and time spent studying.
Focusing on Those Soft Skills
Whether an employer offers fun professional development as a company perk or if career professionals choose to do things on their own, personal development is here to stay. But opportunities are the pursuit of the individual and rarely the employer. Thus, self-motivation is vital to remain marketable and competitive in the workforce.
In a LinkedIn study, 59% of hiring managers in the U.S. had a hard time finding candidates with soft skills. Therefore, workers should build the most in-demand soft skills, including:
- Critical thinking
- Interpersonal communication
With technologies continually changing, being a life-long learner, figuring how to find available resources, and also communicating effectively to help solve problems will go a long way in a professional’s career.
Actionable Item: Career professionals cannot ignore the development of soft skills. Self-awareness is crucial, and soft skills can always be learned or improved. Professionals must take some time to reflect on their shortcomings and be honest about what they need to work on. It can be the difference between getting hired and promoted or being passed by.
After all is said and done, the entire point of professional development is to improve workplace performance and personal growth. Asking for feedback from management and putting newly developed skills or training to practice is necessary for workplace success. To ensure the effectiveness of professional development, skills must be continuously used and improved, or the career professional will discover their skills diminishing over time.
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