On-the-Job Professional Development

Research has shown that the most successful managers in organizations learn 70% of what they need to know from on-the-job experiences. How can you - or your staff and managers - develop professionally while at work? Here are 24 ideas listed in order from those that take the least time to those that take the most time.

Remember, the idea is to learn from these experiences. Make sure that whichever idea you choose includes some way of making sure you are learning the most you can from these assignments, including a way for you to get feedback on how you are doing.


Opportunity Ideas

Opportunities are listed from the shortest time investment to the longest. Each opportunity also lists skills you might develop, benefits you may realize, as well as related tips or resources. For further information, reach out to the resource contact listed below.

1. Conduct a debrief after a project milestone or project completion, especially if the project was not entirely successful

2. Read an article and share highlights at a staff meeting

  • Skills: Analytical thinking; public speaking; visibility; industry knowledge
  • Tips / Resources: Subscribe to a business‐related magazine and each month have a different team member read it and summarize what they found relevant to your work for the team

3. Attend a conference and share highlights at a staff meeting

  • Skills: Analytical thinking; public speaking; visibility; industry knowledge
  • Tips / Resources: Rotate who attends external meetings and conferences and reports back to the team

4. Write an article for the newsletter

  • Skills:Business writing; influencing; industry knowledge

5. “Shadow” an individual who is particularly good at something you want to learn, or who has a job you are interested in

  • Skills: Job-related skills; career management; organizational knowledge; self-awareness;  
  • Tips / Resources: Shadowing can be a quick, onetime activity, or a longer-term experience

6. Orient a new employee / Be a new employee’s “buddy”

  • Skills: Organizational knowledge; influence; self-awareness; builds self-confidence
  • Tips / Resources: Buddies can be on the same team, or from another team or department

7. Come up with a more efficient, better process

  • Skills: Analytical thinking; influencing; listening; time management

8. Serve on a hiring panel

9. Resolve conflict among colleagues / subordinates

10. Write a proposal for a new system, product, expense

  • Skills: Analytical thinking; influencing; listening

11. Present a report to top management

  • Skills: Analytical thinking; influencing; public speaking; visibility

12. Teach a course or workshop on a topic you’re an expert in

  • Skills: Public speaking; job-related skills; visibility; listening

13. Learn another job in your area (cross-train)

  • Skills: Job-related skills; team-building; career management; listening; organizational knowledge

14. Find a mentor

15. Be a mentor

16. Take on a “stretch” assignment 

  • Skills: Job-related skills; organizational knowledge; teambuilding, time management; influence

17. Study customer needs / interview customers and write a report

  • Skills: Influencing; listening; analytical thinking; business writing; organizational knowledge
  • Tips / Resources: Before speaking to patients, confer with ColumbiaDoctors senior leadership

18. Join a committee or task force related to a pressing business problem 

  • Skills: Public speaking; analytical thinking; visibility; organizational knowledge; influence

19. Join / start a professional book group

  • Skills: Industry and/or organizational knowledge; listening

20. Represent the organization in the community or politically

21. Chair a committee

  • Skills: Builds self-confidence; organizational knowledge; visibility; public speaking; leadership

22. Become active in a professional association

  • Skills: Builds self-confidence; industry knowledge; career management

23. Work with a charitable organization

  • Skills: Influencing; build self-confidence

24. Coach children’s sports

  • Skills: Leadership; influencing; build self-confidence;


Resource Contact

For more ideas, or for assistance implementing anything listed above, please contact:

Sophie Oberstein
Associate Director of Learning & Organization Development