How to Retain What You Learn After Professional Development Ends


Technical professionals are among the world’s highest-paid workers, earning an average starting salary of $91,010 USD. However, technical professionals who want to stay relevant in a rapidly evolving technological workforce often need to maintain their professional licenses and revamp their skills through continuing professional education.

While professional development and continuing education are vital to self-improvement, people will often forget the majority of what they’ve learned shortly after training. According to 19th century psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus, people will forget 75% of what they’ve learned in less than a week if it isn’t applied to their daily lives. 

How to Retain Your Professional Development Skills

As a technical professional, one of the best ways to learn and retain new skills is to be able to apply them to your job. This means that professional development efforts should not be spent learning skills you will rarely use, but should instead be tailored to your ability to learn and apply those skills. To improve learning retention, try the following techniques:

Practice spaced repetition: Instead of trying to cram everything you need to know into a single lesson, spread lessons out over spaced intervals over longer periods. 

Apply the subject matter to real-world projects: Bring an actual work project to training sessions so you can immediately put what you’re learning into practice.

Implement “lean learning”: Using this learning method, attempt to learn only the foundational skills of what you need to know. Then, immediately apply these new skills to your work, request feedback from your supervisor, quickly revise your skills as needed, and repeat.

Apply the 80/20 rule: Using this method, learn by using what entrepreneur Tim Ferriss calls “the minimum learnable unit.” As opposed to trying to learn everything about something all at once, only learn the basics in order to develop a solid foundation of those skills. For example, if you want to learn a new language using the 80/20 rule, you focus on learning only the most common words and phrases that appear in 80% of that language. After which, you would then apply those words and phrases as much as possible in actual conversations. 

Use “guided” learning: If possible, use training applications that offer integrated learning features, such as screen pop ups that give you greater context as you learn.

Take mini courses: Access quick courses (no more than an hour long) that teach new skills applicable to your job. 

The IEEE Learning Network Turns One Year Old

Since its launch on 11 July 2019, the IEEE Learning Network (ILN) has provided continuing education to technical professionals from around the world. With hundreds of courses offered from 25 course providers, ILN offers the latest in continuing education for engineers and technology professionals who want to advance professionally, refresh their skills, or stay up-to-date with the latest trends.

The platform provides users the ability to: 

  • Search through hundreds of online educational offerings from IEEE
  • Access a transcript of in-progress and completed courses
  • Earn professional development hours (PDHs) and continuing education units (CEUs) on many courses
  • Learn what’s new in the world of continuing education at IEEE
  • Earn digital certificates immediately, then view and print on demand
  • Complete dynamic assessments to test knowledge of course content

Start learning today! Visit


Glaveski, Steve. (2 October 2020). Where Companies Go Wrong with Learning and Development. Harvard Business Review.

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  1. Five Tips For Getting The Most Out of Professional Development - IEEE Innovation at Work - July 16, 2020

    […] You’ve Learned: Make sure what you learn during the course sticks with you after it’s over. There are a number of techniques that can help you retain what you learn. For example, spaced repetition is a learning method where […]

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