Nine Ways to Use Your Professional Development Stipend  

by Justin Schmidt March 16th, 2023

From taking classes at a community college to buying career-related books, here are the 9 answers to the question, "How can employees use their professional or personal development stipends?"

  • Take Classes at a Local Community College
  • Join Toastmasters
  • Upgrade to Linkedin Premium
  • Invest in Social Activities and Interests 
  • Attend Conferences and Seminars 
  • Explore Closely Linked Skills Training
  • Attend Interpersonal Psychotherapy Sessions
  • Hire a Coach
  • Buy Career-Related Books

Take Classes at a Local Community College

I've used mine to take classes at the local community college and to attend conferences related to my field. I think that these stipends are a great way to invest in employees and encourage them to grow both professionally and personally.

In addition to taking courses and attending conferences, employees can use their stipends to purchase books and other materials related to their field or to pay for membership in professional organizations. I know that I've benefited tremendously from taking advantage of these opportunities, and I'm grateful that my employer is willing to invest in my development.

Antreas Koutis, Administrative Manager, Financer

Join Toastmasters

Toastmasters is an organization that encourages people to practice their public speaking and thereby improve their communication skills. Good communicators tend to be good leaders, so Toastmasters is a way for employees to develop their potential as future leaders.

An easy way for companies to implement this is to form their own in-house Toastmasters club. For a minimal cost, employees can meet once a week to give speeches in a supportive setting with their coworkers.

The benefits extend beyond just being better speakers, and employees will also learn how to hold more effective meetings, listen more attentively, and offer constructive criticism.

David Aylor, CEO & Lawyer, David Aylor Law Offices

Upgrade to Linkedin Premium

Purchasing LinkedIn Premium is a great way for employees to use their stipend. LinkedIn Premium gives users unlimited access to LinkedIn Learning, a massive collection of professional online courses.

These can help individuals learn more about payroll services, salary insights, and recruitment tools just to name a few topics. Premium also adds additional networking features and reveals the profiles that visit the user’s LinkedIn too.

Kevin Callahan, Co-Founder & CEO, Flatline Van Co.

Invest in Social Activities and Interests 

Employees should take advantage of professional and self-development stipends by seeking opportunities that align with their desire to grow as a person.

These opportunities can come through social activities and interests (i.e. learning a new language/skill, investing in health/dance classes, joining a book club, online/offline events), formal institutional learning (working towards a degree, certification or credential that aligns with your role at your workplace), opting for activities that help one improve their existing skills (public speaking classes, DIY classes for specific hobbies); etc. 

Ultimately, employees are feeding their brains well by taking healthy calculated risks that will open up their minds, hearts, and physical energies that will help them navigate better in their professional roles and life.

The stipends provide an opportunity for people to diversify and strengthen their human interests. They become better contributors at home, in their relationships, and at work.

Sasha Laghonh, Founder, Sasha Talks

Attend Conferences and Seminars 

There are many ways employees can use professional or personal development stipends. One way is to use the money to attend conferences or seminars related to their field. This can help them stay up-to-date on new developments in their industry and learn new skills.

Additionally, employees can use the stipend to pay for membership fees for professional organizations. This can give them access to networking opportunities and resources that can help them in their career. Finally, employees can use the stipend to pay for classes or training programs to improve their skills. This can help them be more qualified for promotions or new positions.

Whatever way employees choose to use the stipend, it can be a valuable tool for professional and personal development.

Tzvi Heber, Founder, CEO & HR Head, Ascendant Detox

Explore Closely Linked Skills Training

One of the best uses of a professional or personal development stipend is to explore closely linked skills training.

For example, if you have a development team who focuses on a certain coding language but there is another language closely linked that can come in handy in the future, it makes sense to use the stipend for this exploration rather than on training for something they potentially do not need as much, or may not get as much out of.

Many training budgets are wasted on what I like to call 'recap training', rather than taking that leap into the closely linked but otherwise unknown, which is often where the real learning and development takes place.

Dawn Wood, HR Manager, Woodyatt Curtains

Attend Interpersonal Psychotherapy Sessions

Employees can use their stipends to attend interpersonal psychotherapy sessions. It's not uncommon for many people to get burned out with their job or feel depressed due to personal reasons. These situations can significantly impact their mental health and may affect their work performance if proper treatment is not administered.

Seeing a psychiatrist is costly, and not everyone can afford it. However, with stipends from the company, employees can seek professional help to combat their emotional and psychological struggles. This allows them to overcome their current mental battles, which can be beneficial both in their personal and professional growth.

Sam Tabak, Board Member, RMBH Charities

Hire a Coach

As the Senior Director, I am also the HR leader of my company. I always advise my employees to use their professional or personal development stipends to hire a coach. 

I hired a professional development coach when I was first starting out in my career and it made all the difference. My coach helped me to set goals, create an action plan and hold me accountable. She also provided me with valuable feedback and resources. As a result, I was able to make significant progress in my career. 

You can hire a personal development coach too, like a gym trainer or a relationship coach. A coach provides the support and accountability that keeps you on track and ensures you meet your development goals. 

From my 54 years of life experience, I can attest that it will be an immensely valuable use of your stipend.

Derek Bruce, Senior Director, Skills Training Group

Buy Career-Related Books

Employees can use professional or personal development stipends to buy books related to their careers or industry.

Books are a good choice for this stipend because they provide a lot of information in a condensed format, and they can be read relatively quickly. Further, books are cost-effective which means that employees can get a lot of value for their money.

Grace He, People and Culture Director,

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