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For a healthy mind, body and business

How to maintain your professional development when you work from home

lady on a video call undertaking professional development when working from home
Image credit: Yan Kruka

Successful homeworking is not just having the discipline to work from home, but it’s also about making sure you are developing your own skills. This is true when you are running a business or looking for that next promotion. Nobody wants to stagnate. Working at home and concurrently trying to hone your expertise, whether you are a freelancer, a business owner, or you are trying to take the next step in your professional development, requires research. We need to find out not just what we need to improve, but what resources are available and who can help. There are many ways you can grow your professional development when you work from home.

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Set your goals

Some questions to ask yourself before embarking on professional development include:

What skills need improving or reinforcing in your current job?

Which areas are you weakest when it comes to the skills you use regularly?

What does the future of your role look like – are there new skills that will prove helpful?

Are there any legal requirements or standards you need to uphold?

Are you up to date with current industry trends?

If you work in a team, where is the skills gap or shortage that would be most useful to close?

When you know what you need to focus on, you can start setting clear goals and objectives. This allows you to decide which programmes to enrol in, which certifications might prove beneficial, and you can start researching.

Create a learning plan

Maintaining professional development when you work from home also requires a learning plan. The advantage of remote and more flexible work is being able to schedule your learning around your other commitments. If we take the coding example, doing this is essentially learning a new language, not something we can do overnight. Many new skills require time and a proactive approach.

Give yourself a deadline for when you want to achieve new or update your skills. This will help you plan your learning and block out periods of time.

Looking at your overall goals can seem quite daunting, so it is important to break your learning into manageable tasks that you can fit in over this period of time. Some programmes will come with ready mapped-out modules and training plans. Others will give you full control, which can be more flexible but does require more discipline and planning.

Check out our time blocking guide to help you with your planning in issue 10 of The Homeworker magazine.

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When you break down the skills you want to learn into these smaller tasks and develop a a timeline, you can track your progress, which helps you stay motivated.

Lots of people are now using AI tools such as ChatGPT to help them create a learning plan. While not essential, it can give you some inspiration.

Look at how your skills fit the bigger picture

There may be areas where you already have the skills and could just do with a little extra support.

For instance, so many of us are attempting to become better at coding and website development in general. Many website owners want more control over the entire process so they can create a unified brand and experience for customers all the way up to the payment pages. If you are looking for API-driven payment processing for developers, there are often tools already designed to help you achieve your goals.

The same is true in other areas such as accounting or graphic design. Research the platforms and tools available to help you with your current skills that will instantly help you achieve more.

Research the resources available

There are now a vast array of online learning platforms that will help you upskill. These virtual resources are incredibly beneficial when you are wanting to maintain professional development when you work from home. Platforms such as LinkedIn, Udemy, and the all-free Khan Academy have lots of courses.

The Homeworker Subscribers Lounge has a library of short videos and virtual webinars that can also help you with your productivity, business and wellbeing.

If you work remotely, your employer may have in-house training you can access. Make sure you reach out regularly to stay up to date on what is available to you. Working from home does not mean you should neglect professional development; it is essential to keep up to date so you are not left behind or disadvantaged.

Don’t forget in-person conferences and seminars as well. When you work from home, it is a great opportunity to get out, connect with other people and develop your skills in a different format.

Industry publications, relevant magazines, newsletters, and books are also a great way to stay up to date and knowledgable about what is happening in your field of work.

Find ways to apply your skills

As you become proficient in a specific subject, you will need to find opportunities to apply these skills. Being able to demonstrate new learning or certifications can make a good impression within your organisation, or to prospective clients and customers.

It also lets you learn from your mistakes. With the coding example, you can start applying your skills by setting up a basic web page and learn more as you go. As frustrating as this stage can be, this allows us to go back to the drawing board and see what we have learned and also where any blocks might be.

Understand your learning style

Critical to successful professional development is a good understanding of how you best learn.

We have written here about self-awareness when you work from home, and here on how to align with your personality.

For those who are neurodivergent, for instance who may have ADD or ADHD, it is important to recognise learning styles that suits you.

Getting an understanding of your learning style can be invaluable. It may be that you prefer more visual styles of learning as opposed to lots of note taking. perhaps you prefer in-person seminars as opposed to online tutorials.

Get a feel for how you best learn and research the types of courses or learning materials that are available.

Look for guidance and feedback

Learning something by ourselves is a massive task and whether you are building a website, or gaining a Project Management certification, getting feedback and support can really boost your progress and motivation. It’s a good idea to join online communities or forums where you can engage with other learners and experts to seek some feedback. It also allows you to ask questions and fill any potential gaps in your knowledge at this stage. Asking for a mentor either through work or within your network can also increase your chances of success.

As any homeworker will attest, there is a great deal of discipline involved, especially once you have completed your working day. Maintaining your professional development when you work from home needs to be done around your working hours, which is why you need to set clear goals and stay motivated by celebrating achievements along the way and reminding yourself why you are learning these skills in the first place.

About the author

Louise is an award-winning journalist and speaker who focuses on working from home, remote work and wellbeing. She is the founder of  The Homeworker, which is dedicated to helping you thrive when you work from home. The Homeworker publishes articles that are designed to keep you healthy, happy, fulfilled, and more productive in work and life.

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