All professionals need to continue to invest in themselves but many are on budgets too tight to afford more traditional education. Their student loans already can't be justified. Since there is no rule that professional development cannot be fun, think more creatively how to enhance your career condition by multi-purposing “fun” dollars with “development” dollars. It will be a win-win, as long as you keep fun and development in balance.

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Here are three suggestions for investing in your professional development with a leisurely twist. 

Be first to the bar. Somewhere near you, the next hot-spot bar is getting ready to open. Once the doors open it will be mobbed. To leverage the cachet the place will have, call the general manager and offer to host, for a small fee as needed, an intimate party with professionals in the area before the grand opening.

Once the general manager sees the advantage to the bar, invite influential contacts who you know and who you want to meet. Tactfully let it be known you are organizing and hosting a networking event at a chic establishment not yet open to everybody.

Your evening will feel like a really hot party but will actually be professional development by way of networking and relationship building. The relationships you foster hosting a party such as this will get you further than the next 12 books you read.

Take that vacation. Vacation is, ideally, when we relax removed from work but, unfortunately or not, most growth focused professionals can’t shut off the way they think, no matter where they are. Just build into your planning that you will probably be thinking about work and career, even on the beach.

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On vacation, take time to reflect on your career. Use your time away as a “psychological refresher.” Make vacation a little like New Years when we resolve to change, drop or adapt habits.

Take notes on the behaviors of the people in the culture, trendy local places that are busy and how the vacation location is different from your every-day landscape. Search for trends that aren’t present yet in your hometown. Introduce yourself to servers, business owners and other people. Develop a few new contacts in a different market.

Seeing new perspectives first-hand opens up your mind two-fold. Gain professional development by way of new experiences. 

Dine at your favorite restaurant. Next time you splurge on a meal at your favorite restaurant, invite someone who has rejected you professionally. Ask to be joined at lunch or dinner by the prospective client who never agreed to do business with you or that manager who recently denied you the job.

Use some (but not all) of the time to get feedback. Why didn’t you get the business or the job? Ask if it is okay to follow up in the future, and if they would suggest contacts who may be interested in your services. Eat a slice of humble pie, then eat your favorite meal. Learn about yourself as others see you. 

Professional development can be gained in many fashions. Experience new things, build relationships, have fun doing it.

Related: Using a Purposeful Meal as a Networking Opportunity