Some sage words about professional development from Christopher S. Penn:

"Recognize that skill development is paramount after the basics. You need to be out in the field, out testing, out questing, out learning your class, out learning your market as much as possible in order to develop and grow your skills."

Invest in Yourself

When you're slammed at work and having trouble finding time for your personal life, investing in skills development may seem like an easy thing to jettison. And while budget constraints may not allow you to attend a ton of classes or conferences or workshops, you can pick and choose more carefully to get the ones that will yield the biggest return. Click here for tips on evaluating opportunities.

There also are a lot of ways to benefit from conferences and workshops without spending a dime. First, there are loads of good-quality, no-fee events and webinars out there (Marketing Profs, for example, offers a bunch). Or you can follow #hashtags of big events and learn from what participants are saying online. Find a few conference blogs (official and otherwise).

Yes, you need to be doing whatever you're getting paid to be doing. But you're not going to get better -- more effective, efficient or innovative -- if you only do your job. The few promotions and raises out there are unlikely to come your way if you don't develop your skills, gain new perspectives, learning about your customers (internal or external) and trying new things.

Learn by Doing

Todd Moy and I presented a session at SxSW '09.

And it's not always about participating in these events. You can lead them, too. Learning happens whether you're the "teacher" or the "student".

One reason I do so many speaking gigs is because of the benefits I get outside of "marketing". Sure, people who might want to hire someone like me get to see me in action. That's great for biz dev. But there are payoffs for Margot dev, too. I always learn something new when I'm preparing for my workshops -- even the ones I give all the time. And my presentation skills get better, too.

Once I'm there, though, all kinds of great benefits begin to accrue. I get to attend other sessions. I get to meet other people who're doing cool things and have different perspectives than I do. All that adds to my knowledge base and skills set.

So make a commitment to your own professional development starting today. Look for opportunities that meet your needs and your budget. Carve out the time (it really doesn't have to be a lot).

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Two of my upcoming speaking engagements include: