Free Professional Development: Is It Really Worth Your Time?

No professional development training is ever going to be totally free. When an opportunity comes along that seems too good to be true, it’s important that you take a step back, evaluate what you’re hoping to get out of the experience, and confirm whether the provider is an authority that you genuinely want to be learning from.

Here’s what Arden’s coaches have to say about free professional development classes or sessions. Find out how to weigh your options and determine whether one of these opportunities will be really worth your time in the long run.

When You’re Looking for a Few Tips on a Topic

If you just want to get some tips or pointers on a specific topic, there are free professional development opportunities out there that are beneficial to you. The best place to look is within an organization for your industry. For example, the Society for Human Resource Management is a professional group that has a local society chapter in individual cities for HR professionals.

If you’re a member of your city’s chapter of the society and they’re offering a free seminar or a personal development workshop, we say all systems go. That association is hand-picking topics specific to you and your industry and bringing in thought leaders in that subject to get you interested and on the path to learning more. This is the type of session that’s going to be definitely worth your time.

Remember: Anything that’s offered through a professional organization or affiliation is going to be valuable, but it’s not going to be a sustained or long-term learning opportunity. Research shows that you need multiple touches with a topic for new material to really sink in.

When You’re Looking for Sustained Learning

Not all free professional development opportunities are created equal. So we’ll tell you right now, if you’re interested in becoming an expert on a topic or want to truly advance a certain skillset, “free” courses aren’t going to be worth your time. And more than likely, they won’t actually be free.

If anyone offers you a free development opportunity that’s long term, be suspicious. To determine whether this provider is someone you can trust, find out where their funding comes from. If they wind up having a grant to support classes or sessions, that’s great.

But chances are they have a sponsor or a product they’re going to push on you, in which case you’ll be roped into another commitment by the end of the course and that really isn’t going to be worth your time.

Quality Long-Term Professional Development Isn’t Free

If you genuinely want to advance your skills, you need to be selective about the provider you choose.

Where should you look? For rich, sustained learning that allows you to improve and grow, the following resources will provide the most valuable experience and enrichment in the long run:

  • Graduate classes at your local college
  • An executive coaching partnership or leadership training program
  • Professional development courses in your industry specialty that take place over a long period of time

What Should You Look for in an Executive Coach?

Hiring an executive coach can be a game-changing development strategy for self-discovery and advancement in leadership. Coaching isn’t free, but when you select the right provider, the results have the potential to yield an exceedingly high ROI.

If you’re interested in pursuing coaching, don’t do so before reading Arden’s free guide to the 7 Most Common and Costly Mistakes Businesses Make When Choosing an Executive Coach. We’re a leader in the coaching services arena, so you can trust that this tip book will be worth your while!