On-the-job learning can make life at home richer

Tiffany O’Donnell is the CEO of Women Lead Change and mayor of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Think about the last time you learned something new on the job. Maybe it was a tactical skill, “how to use ABC Software,” or feeling more ambitious, a deeper dive on LinkedIn Learning like “Better Ways to Resolve Conflict.” Now imagine bringing that skill home. Wouldn’t life be a little easier? That’s the promise of professional development today. It’s not just for career progression — it helps us in our personal lives, as well. 

Lifelong learning and professional development have a far wider impact than just the workplace. Barbara Oakley, Ph.D., author of “A Mind for Numbers” (2014) and other books about learning, explains how the skills that you learn in professional settings can help you become more successful in managing your private life, too. Developing critical thinking, problem solving, communications and conflict resolution skills don’t just make you a better professional, they can make you a better person. Applying these skills in the workplace can help us at home. Personally, I’ve found that learning to use these skills outside the workplace can help us have healthier relationships, live better, happier lives holistically. Cognitive skills such as active listening, conflict resolution, and learning how to communicate with colleagues constructively are essential to success at work. 

I’m reminded of my husband’s experience in corporate America in the ‘90’s. As a leader, he took part in diversity training that included improving skills like listening, having empathy, recognizing “we don’t know what we don’t know.” While his team benefitted, guess who else made him lean upon them (a lot!)? You guessed it. ME! Learning to apply these skills made everyday life at home richer and he’d say (I hope!) happier at home. 

A philosophy from James Clear comes to mind where “If you get 1% better each day for one year, you’ll end up 37 times better by the time you’re done” (JamesClear.com). If we commit to growing “1% better every day” through professional development, then our community becomes a place that grows together — where we are all getting 1% better every day. Most may view professional and personal developments as separate. However, they are adjacent in more than one way. Taking the step to acknowledging the impact professional development has on our personal development is the first step towards a better future. We can see them as parts of a whole — as one way to build our lives and our community into what they can be: a place where we all get better — 1% better every day.

We must see professional development not just as a career requirement but as a valuable resource for personal and community growth. When we pursue growth as both professionals and people, we are not only helping to build a stronger, healthier community, but also taking steps towards a brighter future for all of us. Let’s keep growing, together, one step at a time. 


Tiffany O’Donnell is the CEO of Women Lead Change and mayor of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She can be reached at [email protected].

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