Many learning and development (L&D) professionals are responsible for leading a function while also pursuing their own professional development with limited access to resources. The term “limited resources” has a different meaning for every person (e.g., a lack of funds, personnel, tools, space, expertise, etc.), but regardless of what the limited resource is, L&D professionals are creatively doing more with less to succeed.

“Money” is often the first word that comes to mind when most people think of limited resources. That’s because many L&D professionals are conducting their job responsibilities with a lack of funds. Additionally, learning professionals are struggling with a lack of funds to further their own professional development. Upon realizing this challenge, some seek other employers who prioritize their professional development, while others, viewing money as the answer, give up on it altogether, which only limits their growth.

When faced with this challenge, it’s important to think of all the ways you can be creative without money. “While all of us feel the impact and normal human emotions connected to resource constraints or reduced budgets, it’s how we handle the situation that makes all the difference,” says Paul Meskanick, MBA, the director of client services for Ingenuiti.

As a training manager, it can be difficult to convince your employees of the importance of expanding their knowledge when they’re focused on the limited resources. They need a shift in mindset. “Attitude is the one thing we can control,” says Meskanick. “Effective learning leaders must have a change of mindset, be adaptive and focus on opportunities.” Adopting an opportunity-oriented mindset can encourage creative thinking to find solutions.

When considering professional development opportunities, don’t limit yourself to traditional programs. “I’m a believer in lifelong learning,” says Shireen Lackey, CPTM, talent management officer at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, “and I really challenge my employees to find new ways to do that.” If you want to continue to excel and develop in your career, Lackey suggests broadening your perspective of what learning is. Everyone learns differently, and with today’s technology, paying for classroom training isn’t the only option anymore.

An alternative route is growing a professional network and using experiential learning. Dr. Bill Brantley, CPTM, HR specialist at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, uses what he calls “a sharing community” to exchange resources and best practices with other learning leaders to further his knowledge and to help others. Similarly, Lackey says, “Being able to reach out in the greater training and development community [to find] someone who has a similar job as me rather than being in the offices around me has been quite beneficial.” She also suggests asking what senior leaders you could interview for an hour or shadow for a day.

Forming partnerships with other training professionals can benefit all parties involved. In expanding your network, you open the door to new resources and, sometimes, mentors or coaches who can help you improve your professional development. “I don’t think a lot of people are willing to take that challenge on,” says Lackey. Whether it be from a fear of reaching out to strangers or the idea that doing so won’t make a difference, people are only limiting themselves when they decide not to grow their network.

Building a Brick House with Dirt

Knowledge is power, and expanding on that knowledge should be a continuous effort. Finding new ways to learn can be as simple as reading a new book or picking up a magazine. Consider also looking into online content. There’s a world of knowledge out there, and a lot of it can be accessed for free on the internet. Like most people today, Brantley has found resources online that he uses in both his own professional development and in teaching. However, when sharing with others, it’s important to make sure that it’s good, relevant content and “that it meets people’s needs,” says Brantley.

Similarly, Lackey provides her employees with a bulletin board of free resources. She says it’s important to keep “coming up with creative ways [for them] to take the time to develop themselves,” and when it happens, it’s “a win for everyone.”

Lackey also suggests attending webinars or roundtables. Even when it’s not on a topic that’s particularly relevant to her role, she says, “There are always little nuggets of information that get thrown out [that] give me a spark of something new I can do, or answer a question lingering in my mind.” Attending free webinars and roundtables provide the opportunity to have live interactions with experts.

Consider sharing the free resources you find with others in your organization. You’re not alone in the struggle of doing more with less, and sharing the knowledge with your colleagues in L&D only stands to benefit the organization, and the workforce, as a whole.

“A solution-driven mindset is the first and perhaps most important step in addressing this challenge,” says Meskanick. Similarly, when facing this challenge, Brantley says, “you kind of go into a startup mentality.” Sometimes, you just need to take a step back to re-evaluate what your goals are and how you can get there. Finding the relevant resources, whether from the internet or through a professional network, takes time, but it’s worth the search. The one thing you can’t do is give up; if the resources you need are not readily available, look elsewhere. “If you have to build a house and you don’t have bricks, you have to find some dirt,” says Lackey. “You just have to be a little creative” to get the job done.