Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Let's Be Incredible

Hello all you blog readers out there! Please let me preface the following commentary by warning you that my style is generally to present an issue, back it up with evidence from peer-reviewed journals, to follow-up with some good old-fashioned playing devil’s advocate, and then summarize with a thought-provoking question (or six). That style permeates in some fashion in today’s blog, but less this time because this is more of an opinion piece based solely on my own experiences. As such, please take what you will, believe what you like, and argue with/dismiss what you think may be ludicrous. I promise that I’m not here to convince you of anything; my purpose is simply to give you food for thought.

Today’s topic is Professional Development. I have no problem being transparent that writing about this topic given my current role at the Campaign may bring up shameless plugs for the trainings we offer in house and onsite. That being said, there is a much deeper issue here than promoting the Campaign’s original purpose. When I say the words “professional development”, what comes to mind? Your annual review where your supervisor encourages you to take advantage of “professional development” opportunities? Those emails/notices promoting “professional development” opportunities that you are SO interested in, but can never seem to find the time in your ridiculously hectic schedule to actually attend? Or, maybe you think of all those things that you want to learn more about, but you haven’t the slightest on where to find the information/training/coaching YOU need based on your own individual learning style and/or, and perhaps more importantly, based at a level that complements your repertoire of knowledge rather than repeating what you already know?

If any of those thoughts have at least crossed your mind, let me congratulate you on being ahead of the game. In other words, at least you are THINKING about the benefits and the absolute necessity of professional development, if only to mark off that box on your annual review. The solution to those thoughts is relatively simple:

1. Make a list of what it is that you WANT to learn more about (read: what are you motivated to learn more about) and make a list of what you NEED to learn more about (read: what must you learn in order to continuously engage in best practices);

2. USE the resources you have available to you at your fingertips (read: Campaign trainings, the brand new Online Learning Center that the Campaign will be launching soon, professionals at your place of employment who have experience in whatever information you are seeking as well as professionals at other related partner organizations like the Campaign, and the ABUNDANCE of information available to you FOR FREE on the web/at your local library);

3. Hold yourself accountable by setting deadlines for acquiring your new knowledge/skills – try post-its on your bathroom mirror at home, notes jotted to yourself in your planner, and/or tell somebody whose opinion you hold in high regard who can remind you to stay on target what it is that you are hoping to accomplish.

What is challenging is when none of those thoughts cross our minds when we hear the words “professional development”. Rather, if the idea of professional development is just that – an idea or an ideal – then we truly have a problem. We cannot operate under the premise that simply graduating from a great college and/or graduate program is enough to set us up for being lifelong experts at what we do. What may be even more tempting, and perhaps more realistic, is feeling that way after we have attained a level in our chosen profession where others refer to us as “experts” because of the ongoing in-the-field experiences we have had. The reality is that expertise is relative and fluid – a goal that isn’t measurable because there is ALWAYS something more that we can learn, a skill we can improve upon, a concept we can master simply because the knowledge available to us is always changing. Accepting, no embracing, that fact leaves us with no choice but to proactively and deliberately seek out professional development or be left behind in a mindset of passivity and apathy. In other words, being “good enough” is not good enough. We have to WANT to be incredible…and I don’t use that word lightly.

As such, the question I leave with you to ponder is as follows: what have you done with your professional development lately? The encouragement I hope you consider is that we can all make our strengths stronger and choose to challenge our weaknesses head on rather than burying them under the proverbial mounds of paperwork we consider more manageable. Believe me, you will feel more confident in yourself and your office teammates will respect you more for trying. Give it a shot and let us know how it goes. In return, I’ll keep you posted on my end as my own method of accountability.Let's Be Incredible

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