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Wednesday, July 26, 2006  

Expanding the Definition of "Professional Development"

When I hear professional development I think of huge corporations paying their employee's way through college or professional training classes. I didn't really understand how one finagles their employer into paying for say an advanced college degree and kind of dismissed the entire category. But if you expand your definition of professional development you can get a lot more value out of your job.

I work as a print and web graphic designer at my first full-time "real job" out of college. To me that means I am here to learn all that I can - especially in a field where there's a lot of freelance potential I want to learn how to be as skilled and self-sufficient as I can in every area. I work for a local, 12-person company that doesn't have any sort of formal professional training program. So I made my own.

This is a perfect example of why you should never be afraid to speak up and ask for you want. In the case of further training, its mutually beneficial for both you and the company you work for. In my case my employer was looking to hire someone to program the websites that our clients often need. Although my professional focus is design, not programming I know that in the world of web design programming knowledge makes you a much more valuable designer. So I stepped up and asked if my workplace would send me to training classes in dreamweaver and CSS. They happily obliged. After all, it is much more cost-effective for them to train someone who is already employed than to hire someone new. I've taken two classes and I've spent the summer reading up on CSS and other web programming techniques from books which I picked out and my employer was more than happy to pay for. This week I take over the maintenance of our websites so it's finally time to put my skills to the test! Even if you would like to expand your skills in area that isn't directly related to your current position it's worth a shot to ask - one it shows initiative and two if you're a valued employee they will be interested in prepping you for a more important position.

Ideally the professional training you receive will lead to the ultimate goal of your personal finances - more money! But even if your current employer doesn't see it that way it will add skills to your resume for your next job. And in my case, all the training that my job is paying for is enabling me to start doing freelance web work. Whatever the outcome, it's a smart way to add value to your professional, money-making self.

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