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This article was written by Alex Sixt, a member of the Entrepreneur NEXT powered by Assemble content team. Entrepreneur NEXT is our Expert solutions division leading the future of work and skills-based economy. If you’re struggling to find, vet, and hire the right Experts for your business, Entrepreneur NEXT is a platform to help you hire the experts you need, exactly when you need them. From business to marketing, sales, design, finance, and technology, we have the top 3 percent of Experts ready to work for you.
Whether you’ve been a business owner for years, or you’ve just begun your journey into entrepreneurship, professional development is likely one of the last tasks on your mind. With so many business needs pulling you in multiple directions, it can be easy to forget to spend time developing yourself. However, taking time to step away from your to-do list to focus on your own professional needs is just as important.
Everyone, not just business owners, needs development in at least a few professional areas (yes, even you). Although most business owners are finished with their formal education, that doesn’t mean learning has to stop beyond the classroom – in fact, continuing your education can even improve your business and your team. Thankfully, this type of learning doesn’t include shelling out thousands of dollars for one course or trying to sit still in a three-hour lecture (and “diligently” taking doodles- erm, notes). Unlike traditional education, professional development allows you to take control of what you learn and can even easily accommodate your work-from-home (WFH) schedule.
Even if you feel that your professional skills are up-to-snuff, development is an essential activity to help ensure you’re giving your team and your business your best skills. Although it can take up time typically dedicated to your business, development is worth fitting into your busy schedule and work on yourself, as it is an investment that can pay off in the long run.
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Helps you lead your employees.
It seems odd to say that working on yourself can improve your team, but it’s true. As a business owner, it’s likely that you’re responsible for a team, even if it’s just your best friend who takes care of your social media. Although it’s not possible to simply pass your new education onto your team once you’ve completed your development (we wish), your development can still greatly benefit your workers and your business.
It’s common knowledge that when you’re not at your best, your business and team are affected. Without development, it’s very likely that you’re already an exceptional leader; however, if you’re lacking in a particular skill (everyone is at some point), it can have a negative impact on the business. Great business owners understand that they encounter obstacles the same as anyone else, and professional development can help them evolve into better leaders, constantly improving themselves over time.
Professional development helps you to tap into your full potential, which in turn can help you lead and instruct your team in a greater capacity than before. Every team comes across challenges, if not constantly. By pursuing development for yourself, you’ll be better prepared to lead your team through any issue and come out the other side stronger and more prepared to take on the next under your leadership.
Related: The Future of Leadership is Empathy- And Companies are Better for It
The number one problem shared among entrepreneurs today is finding, vetting, hiring, and retaining expertise.
Improve in areas you didn’t realize you lack.
Let’s face it: we all have a blind spot when it comes to our professional life. No one is truly aware of every area they need help with, and that’s okay. The beauty of professional development is that it can help you to identify areas that could use improvement, and allows you to strengthen them at your convenience. It’s impossible to be a perfect business owner or leader, but working toward improving your areas of weakness will help you become more in tune with your skills and perform better in your role.
To help you identify possible areas to work on, consider what tasks in your job you tend to feel the most challenged in or even dread taking on. You’ll never love every part of your job (if you do, please spill your secrets), but professional development can help you to gain a better understanding of how to tackle those tasks. You may even discover weaknesses you didn’t know you had through development activities, which can help you to plan for future professional development.
Despite having weaknesses, you also have your strengths: the parts of your job you love the most and knock out of the park every time (go you!). However, even within your areas of strength, there’s always room for growth. The world of work constantly shifts, and the chances are high that your area of strength is likely to evolve over time, as well (for example, social media or web design). Think of your strengths as a muscle—to maintain their effectiveness, you need to exercise and challenge them regularly to continue to keep them strong. Although it may feel odd to enroll in professional development for your top skills, continuing your education in those areas will serve you well, long term.
Related: How to Prioritize Your Team’s Professional Development, Even Remotely
Hone in on the skills you want to use.
We all have areas that we really enjoy or wish we could specialize in, but time or money doesn’t allow for you to pursue them in a school setting. Enter professional development: although it’s not the equivalent to a college degree, the skills you learn are still of incredible value to you and your business. From research to certificates and more, professional development offers the opportunity to earn new skills or experience without the high costs of formal education.
It’s human nature to become curious about new topics or skills that seem interesting; especially as we enter a post-Covid age where the business landscape is moving faster than most can catch up with. To keep up with the industry as it shifts, it’s vital that as a business owner, you set aside time to ensure you’re ready to lead your business and team through the impending changes. By investing time into yourself to learn the latest in-demand skill or technology, you’ll also make an investment in the success of your company for the future.
The best part about professional development? It allows you to explore a completely new skillset without too much risk. As mentioned above, nearly every industry is currently experiencing incredibly disruptive change that you must tap into as an owner. These trends move quickly, and with change happening so often, it would generally be difficult to justify going back to school or stepping away from your role to develop new skills. This is where professional development saves the day: you can take on new skills with little risk financially or time-wise, and easily stay up to date on the latest changes within your industry.
Related: 10 Skills to Master Before Launching a New Business
Where to start.
Professional development doesn’t have to feel like a second job. As necessary as it is, it should be an enjoyable experience. While there is no one-size-fits-all development course, there are plenty of resources you can explore to find the right fit for you. LinkedIn hosts a variety of courses (most are free) aimed at helping professionals hone new skills. Another great option is Masterclass, in which celebrities and well-known experts in a multitude of fields teach classes about their particular craft.
If you’re seeking more specialized development that is outside the mainstream, your colleagues and mentors are the greatest resource of all. Chances are, the people you’ve worked with in the past have wanted the same development you do at some point, and know just where to find it. Facebook groups that are related to your profession are also excellent resources for finding development opportunities, as these digital networks include professionals from all over the globe who are sure to have an idea of where to look.
As a business owner, there’s no doubt that most of your time should be dedicated to tending to your business, especially in these difficult times of change. Nonetheless, it is incredibly important to take time to develop yourself, and professional development is an excellent way to ensure success for both yourself and your business. The more skills and professional areas you refine, the better prepared you’ll be to lead for the future and help guide others toward success.
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