Few months ago, my cousin started working at a company that gives employees a yearly professional development stipend.

“What are your plans for the money?” I asked.


“Oh, I don’t think I’m going to use it this year,” he said. “I’m still learning the ropes, and the idea of heading to a class three times a week after work or squeezing in a conference sounds overwhelming.”

“Do you have to spend it all at once?” I answered. “If not, there are plenty of smaller ways you can get ahead.”


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Many individuals assume professional development has to be a huge investment—but that’s not always the case. These four alternatives will teach you valuable skills and insights without requiring a great deal of time or cash.


If a Week-Long Conference Sounds Like Too Much


Go to One Day of the Event Instead


Professional Development


Taking a week (or even a couple of days) away from work can feel impossible, but many conferences offer single-day passes. You can receive the greater part of the benefits (the connections, insights, and self-promotion) without paying the mental, physical, and literal price.

To make things even easier, search for a conference in or near your city. The first or second day is probably most solid option: That’s when organizers usually schedule the most popular speakers and talks.


If You Don’t Have Time to Take a Course


Look for Chances to Broaden Your Skill Set at Work


Professional Development


Without a doubt, taking a course is the most common way to learn new things, but think about it: Your manager and team members also possess knowledge and skills that you don’t. So if you don’t have time to sit in the classroom, keep your eyes peeled for chances to learn them. As an added bonus, asking others to teach you something usually makes them feel good and strengthens the relationship.
Suppose you’re working with your fellow developer on a site improvement. If she writes a piece of code differently than you’d do it, ask, “Why’d you use that technique?” Follow up with questions like, “How else would you use that?” and “When would that strategy be less successful?”


In only five minutes, you’ll become a more informed coder. Do this every day, and your progress will add up.