As leaders, we encourage our staff members to think about professional development.
- What do they want to do to keep current in their field?
- What additional skill sets or experiences do they want to add to their portfolio?
- What seminars would they be interested in attending?
- Are they interested in becoming more involved in the community to broaden their background and network?
Hopefully, we provide opportunities that will stretch them and expand their thinking. As my career was just launching, I had a very forward-thinking boss. She sat me down and asked me what specific organizations I wanted to get involved with in the community. I truly had never thought about it before and remember being stumped for an answer. She rightfully thought it was never too early to volunteer, expose myself to different experiences and expand my network. I don’t know if I appreciated it at the time, but I certainly do now.
Where do you begin when thinking about focusing on your own professional development? Here are a few thoughts to get started:
- What are you passionate about? It may be helpful to begin expanding your knowledge in areas where you have the most interest. If you are interested in the subject or topic, you most likely will be eager to spend the time to learn more and will naturally be good at it.
- Identify specific gaps or areas where you need to improve. If there is a functional area that is not one of your strengths, partner with a colleague or a person outside of your company who specializes in that function. Talk to them, volunteer for a project or get involved on a committee that may provide you with some additional perspective or knowledge in this area.
- What specific areas in your business are expanding? How can you become more involved? Volunteer for a project, task force or to research a new business idea. You will most likely get to know new colleagues or form stronger relationships with others. Take initiative. Learn how your competitors are approaching this business issue. You will not only expand your knowledge, you may also make yourself more valuable to your organization.
- Who do you admire? How can you learn from that person? Most people would be flattered if you told them you admire them. Take them out for coffee or lunch. Ask them questions. Try to learn about how their career has developed over time and determine if there are some examples that may resonate with you.
- Attend a professional workshop or conference. Is there a conference or workshop that sounds interesting to you? Network with others to determine if the speakers are well respected and have something worthwhile to share. You most likely will walk away with a few new pieces of knowledge and newly formed relationships to add to your network.
Hopefully, as managers, we are asking these questions of our staff members and team on an ongoing basis, but are we also asking ourselves the same questions? How do we continue to expand our knowledge, add to our network and enhance our skill sets? We often say that we are too busy and lack the time needed to devote to anything new. However, we also know the answer to that statement – we don’t have the time, but we need to make the time. It pays off in the long run, and if our team observes us actively pursuing professional development for ourselves, it will become a natural part of their repertoire as well.