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5 Professional Development Trainings for Every Stage of Your Career

Deborah Swerdlow profile image

Deborah Swerdlow

A woman of Asian descent peruses online professional development opportunities on her laptop while standing in her office.

According to LinkedIn’s 2024 Workplace Learning Report, working professionals increasingly view professional development as an important part of their careers. Whether it’s through applying to roles that highlight employer-sponsored training opportunities or pursuing upskilling programs, it’s clear that more people value learning as essential to advancing their career journeys.

But despite this strong interest in career growth, finding professional development opportunities can be easier said than done if you lack the resources and support.

That’s why we’ve rounded up a list of professional development training resources for social-impact professionals, organized by career stage. If one of these trainings speaks to you, check out our tips at the end for asking your organization to sponsor your participation.

Pro Tip: If you’re looking for free professional development opportunities, Nonprofit Hub has a guide to the best free nonprofit webinars.

When you’re just starting out

Working for Change, The Management Center

As a staff member at a mission-driven organization, you’re likely striving to work in a way that is equitable, sustainable, and gets outstanding results in your areas of responsibility. 

What you’ll learn: This one- or two-day training will teach you the tools and practices to be an effective staff member who prioritizes equity and efficiency in their work, including how to:

  • Get aligned with your manager on what success looks like;
  • Increase agency in your work by asking great questions and making proposals;
  • Advance equity and inclusion through your work;
  • Use check-ins to stay engaged;
  • Give and receive meaningful feedback; and
  • Prioritize and use your time well.

Location: These trainings are offered exclusively online.

Cost: Ranges from $200 to $420, depending on your organization’s annual budget or if you’re attending on your own. If your organization is a client of The Management Center or The Management Action Center (which works with non-501(c)3 social impact organizations), you can receive a 10% discount.

Effective Public Speaking, Nonprofit Courses

Strong public speaking skills can help you succeed in your current job and future positions, but the fear of public speaking can often hold people back from communicating clearly and confidently.

What you’ll learn: This 5-hour course will teach you what makes an effective speaker, including how to manage your nerves, body language, and voice when delivering a presentation.

Location: The training is offered online.

Cost: $99

When you want to make a change

Various courses, Pivot Journeys

Pivot Journeys' Founder Emily Lamia is a familiar name on Idealist’s Career Advice blog. As the company name suggests, Pivot Journeys offers coaching and workshops to help professionals navigate career transitions.

What you’ll learn: Online courses focus on interview skills, career mapping, management skills, and more. Whatever workshop you choose, you’ll walk away with actions and clear strategies to help you get to where you want to go next.

Location: Workshops are hosted online.

Cost: Costs range from free to $99.

Level Up Program, Bossed Up

Bossed Up’s Level Up program is a 6-month long cohort with monthly interactive workshops, coaching calls, and discussions with other first time or aspiring women managers.

What you’ll learn: The curriculum is full of one-on-one training sessions and provides real-time skill building exercises to help participants learn to lead effectively.

Location: All workshops are online.

Cost: $1,999—$2,499

When you want to boost your management skills

Managing to Change the World, by The Management Center

The Management Center’s management crash course comes in two varieties, a two-day series and a four-day series. 

What you’ll learn: The basics of effective management, including delegation, goal-setting, hiring, giving feedback, resolving performance issues, managing up, and organization.

Location: This training is offered exclusively online.

Cost: Ranges from $425 (for individuals) to $775 depending on your organization’s budget.

Asking your organization to sponsor professional development

First you need to find out if your organization has an established procedure for requesting sponsorship for professional development opportunities. If not, send a note or have a conversation with your supervisor that includes the following:

  • Details on the costs involved, including airfare or other travel costs.
  • The registration deadline (if applicable).
  • An explanation of how the training will make you a more valuable employee, such as by providing you with skills that are applicable to your job or enhancing your leadership capabilities.
  • Want to go to a public speaking training? Talk about how improving your speaking skills can make you a better ambassador for the organization when recruiting volunteers and funding.
  • About to take on a new role at work? Talk about how enrolling in a training like Bossed Up’s Level Up program can help you become a more effective leader.
  • Becoming a first-time manager? Talk about how developing your management skills can make you and your team more productive.

As we suggested in our post about making the case to work remotely, you may want to draft a formal understanding or agreement of how you’ll apply the new skills at work. For example, will you share your learnings at the next staff meeting? What benchmarks can you set for six months after the training to evaluate if it’s been successful?

If your organization agrees to sponsor you, prepare a brief report after your training—either a few sentences in an email or something you can verbally share in your next check-in—to recap what you learned.

Pro Tip: The more specific you can be about the benefits of the training, the better. For example, did you learn a new technique that you’re using to improve an existing process at work? Did the evaluations of your presentations at the annual conference become more positive after you attended the public speaking training?

The reason to do this is because one of the best ways to get your employer to say yes to future professional development opportunities is to show them how you’ve utilized the ones they’ve given to you in the past. In other words, show them how investing in your professional development is a win-win!

Deborah Swerdlow profile image

Deborah Swerdlow

As a nonprofit advocacy professional living in Washington, D.C., Deborah works with groups across the country to educate their communities and lawmakers about public policies that can help low-income residents make ends meet. She is passionate about helping people connect their interests to a cause they believe in and empowering them to take action.

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