professional development

There’s always something new to learn, and we can always be better.

Some may look on this negatively, but others see potential.

The fact remains, ours is an industry in flux.

What’s true one moment—what works—may not in the next.

So we adapt.

We test and we fail.

We try again and we learn.


The answer is different for each of us.

But as a rule, people learn to get better at what they do, to climb the ladder, to land more clients, and to excel in their chosen profession.

And that rule is true across the board.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, solopreneur, you work for a corporation, or a small business, it is critical to invest in professional development for yourself.

Maybe that means going back to school, having a LinkedIn Premium Membership, taking online courses, hiring a career coach, or joining the PR Dream Team.

Your organization may be willing to foot the bill to help you achieve your lifelong learning goals, or perhaps you must spend your own money to invest in your career.

Either way, identifying the most effective channels to spend professional development dollars isn’t easy.

This week’s Big Question is about potential:

What are the best ways to invest in your career?

Happiness is…

I’m going to start by answering a question with a question.

Well, I’m not, but Ty Belknap is:

Are you currently in your dream career? The best first step to investing in professional development is to make sure you are where you want to be.

Are you truly happy in this career, or are you happy enough that you will still enjoy it in five to 10 years?

If not, what does your dream career look like? What will you need to do to start down that path? What can you do in the next two weeks to take one step closer to your dream career?

Ask yourself those questions, and try to answer them without rose-colored glasses. These questions are valid whether you work for yourself, a small company, or a large organization.

Brad Shaw is all aboard the happiness train.

The best thing you can do is to first and foremost, love what you are doing. When you love what you do it will be very easy for you to nourish your career.

Attending online classes and webinars will become your passion. And when you are happy, the force of the universe will help you improve more.

The best things you can do:

  1. Attend networking events related to your career. In this way, you not only create professional relationships but you will also have the chance to learn from those higher than you.
  2. Never get tired of learning new things. You can either read a book, attend online classes or physical classes, join webinars or any career-strengthening events.

Setting Goals and Time

For Bill Clifford, it’s about happiness and setting goals:

Set goals for your career and be disciplined (not rigid). Many of us have a vision for what we want to be doing professionally, but we are often caught up in the day-to-day to take action and do it.

Also, set a defined boundary between personal time and your career. Enjoying your personal time can only result in professional success.

Happiness comes in many forms.

For Carmen Hill, it’s time.

Take/make time to think and dream. Go for a walk without listening to anything but your own thoughts.

This gives you space to process all the input constantly streaming in and generate new ideas for your future.

Professional Development through Education

This one seems obvious, but what type of education? Which online courses? Which will better serve your career goals and trajectory?

Maddy Osman says it depends.

I think the specific “how” behind professional development depends on your individual strengths. For me, this involves establishing a regular attendance at networking events and building relationships that pay off over time as the people I meet help connect me with potential collaborators and business prospects.

Networking events can also be a great way to learn about potential job opportunities or future possibilities.

My other personal career development investment has to do with education—via online courses or even good old-fashioned books.

A person who’s not constantly learning or trying to build their network risks stagnation in their career.

Vanessa Diaz shares easy, low-cost ways to invest in yourself:

I will buy books on Kindle for trips. Or switch back and forth between radio, Pandora, NPR-type shows, and audiobooks on business-related topics for long drives.

A membership is worth every penny. Plus, if you are a Los Angeles resident, you can get it for free with a library card. Saving you hundreds of dollars and learning about varying topics from public relations to finances.

Request Professional Development Time

Cristian Rennella loves learning! Interestingly, it turns out his peers and colleagues share his passion.

Look what happened next:

Personally, I like to be constantly learning something new. This makes me feel that every day counts, that every day I improve little by little. It is amazing.

While studying an online course, a person who works with us asked me what I did, how the course was, how much it cost, and other details.

After talking, I realized maybe he was not the only one in the company interested in what I was sharing, so we decided to have a group meeting.

It turns out we all share this same characteristic, some more (every day), others less (once a month), and each one in their own area of interest (programming, design, writing, marketing, etc.).

This opened the door to defining a new policy in the company: “Give All Employees $100 per Month for Learning and Development.”

The online programs we used most in the last two years were:

  • Highbrow
  • Coursera
  • Udemy
  • CodeAcademy

A Personal Business Website?

A website is a great investment for any business. No argument there. But what’s this “personal business website” Jason Lavis refers to?

Due to shorter tenure rates, multiple careers, side hustles, and the ease of starting your own business, there’s one investment far more important than all others. This is a personal business website.

Note I said personal and business together, not either/or. This is because a personal blog won’t offer career benefits, and a business website will die when the business does, or when you change direction.

If you chronicle your knowledge, experience, and discoveries on a website geared towards value creation, then this can back up any new venture. A new employer can see a history of critical thinking and problem-solving. A new business or product you create can be showcased on an aged-authority website with existing traffic and a network.

Whichever direction you go in, a personal business website can help support you.

The Right People

Many of the professional development responses to this week’s Big Question focused on people.

For Tara Geissinger, those people included a mentor:

I’ve seen great success come from having a trusted mentor. Whether that person is actually helping you on a weekly or monthly basis or simply holding you accountable to the goals you’ve set, they help.

Some mentors are paid, and others are trusted advisors willing to “donate” their time because they connect with you and believe in you.

For me, being able to bounce ideas off someone who has experience in my field and whose opinion I value is priceless.

From Richie Escovedo:

I believe investing in yourself through professional development opportunities is crucial for public relations career success.

For me, this included:

  • Joining (and actively serving!) in PRSA through local leadership positions and special opportunities
  • Attaining my Accreditation in Public Relations (APR)—the studying is the thing.

Seriously, it changed the way I practice PR for the better. Plus, I had APR mentors pushing me along and helping me improve along the way.

Help One Another

Maris Callahan’s submission didn’t fit perfectly into a “mentor” category.

Instead, it spoke to time and how we should share and use it to help each other be better:

Be generous with your time. It is precious to everyone. Volunteer for causes that matter to you. Take 10 minutes to review a colleague’s media list and give them your input. Have coffee with someone who is interested in career advice.

We all have to be judicious with our time and set boundaries that allow us to get work done. But, making time to help others in small ways is an investment in your network and your community which we all know is vital for us marketers!


It came as no surprise that most of our respondents highlighted reading when referring to investing in your career.

Greg Mischio had this to say:

The best way to invest in your career is through two methods: books and people.

Number one, you should take time out of your day to read. Time is a monetary investment, and by taking time to educate yourself on new trends you will build knowledge and expertise.

The second investment I would recommend is people.

Hire people to help you grow. I recently hired a business coach to help me with areas of business in which I simply don’t have the bandwidth or natural talent to handle. I could read all day about financial models, but it would be a slog.

When you don’t have the time, drive, or desire to learn it yourself, hire people to help you grow.

From Robyn Rudish-Laning:

Reading! There’s no shortage of career and communications books to learn from and build your knowledge base.

Becoming part of a community—whether that’s one like this (Spin Sucks), joining a professional organization (I love PRSA), attending meetings, networking, or other opportunities, being around other people and talking with them is an important part of professional development.

Investing time—make time for yourself. Block off time to learn or explore something new. There are plenty of free learning resources, affordable courses, more than anyone can take, it’s just a matter of making time for what’s important to you.

Up Next: Podcasts

In addition to reading, podcasts made a number of lists when it came to professional development.

Some are pure entertainment.

Others, more educational.

Either way, they are a great way to learn.

We’ve asked what your favorite nonfiction books are in the past.

Those books near and dear, which made a difference in your professional or personal lives.

Now we’re asking:

What are your favorite podcasts?

Maybe they helped you get ahead, or kept you from falling behind. These are podcasts which have become a staple in your busy life.

You can answer here, in our free Slack community, or on the socials (use #SpinSucksQuestion so we can find you).

Mike Connell

Mike Connell is the director of client services at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. He is also a contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks, the leading source for modern PR training, trends, and insights. Find more of Mike's musings on his blog, Communative. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

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