Staying Current: Professional Development

African American Businesswoman Juggling

There is no doubt that we need to stay current on the latest in our industry.  Are you too busy working in your job and not on your own job? Do you have many responsibilities in your personal life to even think about taking the time to improve at work? There are many ways to stay up-to-date in this ever changing world.  Explore what you want, how to get it, and ways to learn and grow.  How do you get the knowledge and skills you need?

Stephen Covey’s 7thhabit is “Sharpen the Saw.”  This habit’s name is based on a story about 2 lumberjacks.  The Paul Bunyan type of lumberjack.  The first lumberjack was sawing a huge tree when the second lumberjack walked by and asked him if he sharpened his saw before he started to cut down the tree.  The first guy said, “I don’t have any time to do that.  I need to chop this tree down quickly.  Time is money.”  Ok, I’m paraphrasing.  The second guy sharpened his saw.  It took some time but he thought that time would be worth the effort.  Then the second guy found a huge tree to cut down and started sawing.  The story ends when the second guy yells “timber” before the first guy.  The first guy is still sawing and the second guy is finished.  Taking the time to sharpen the saw paid off in the end.  The moral of the story is make sure that you take care of yourself, get good resources, knowledge and skills before you take on your job.  When is the last time you sharpened your saw? And do you even know all the different methods to sharpen your saw?

Are you the first lumberjack?  Do you work and not come up for air?  Are the tools in your “toolbox” from that hardware store that went out of business?   Was the last time you took a class (even online) in the early 2000s? Are you a member of your professional association in name only?  Do you mentor others in your occupation or are you too busy to share your expertise? Is your linked in profile up-to-date so others can share the latest information with you?  Are you not sure exactly how you should update your skills? Below is a list of ways that we can get the professional development that we need.  Check which ones you do and which that you think you can benefit from the most.  Use the second column box (details) to write the exact conference, podcast, magazine, etc. that you would be interested in using to stay current.

What do you do for Professional Development?




  Obtain a professional certification  
  Attend Conferences  
  Participate in Webinars  
  Individual Development Plan (IDP)  
  Network with Peers  
  Participate in Professional Groups  
  Read Trade Publications  
  Using/utilizing a Coach  
  Learn and apply from applicable Courses  
  Consult a mentor  
  Coach a peer or subordinate  
  Learn from Venders (leverage the vendors thought leadership for the latest trends)  
  Research a topic and write about it’s application  
  Actively volunteer with a professional organization  
  Job shadowing  
  Informational interviews  
  Read books on professional topics  
  Develop content for a blog or newsletter  
  Develop content to share with others on a topic you want to know more about (presentation or job aid)  
  Listen to a podcast  
  Discuss topics in a community of Practice  
  Update your linked in profile  

Now that you have checked which types of professional development you have done in the past make sure that you determine what you would like to do in the future.  Try something different, meet new people, volunteer, or create new content.

If you are new to your profession, I would suggest volunteering in your professional association and/or finding a mentor. Share what you do with others and learn from your peers and the experienced sages.  If you are one of those sages become a mentor, speak or teach others what you know.  We can all benefit from learning, sharing, and growing in our profession.

I’ve heard many excuses from people who do not participate in any professional development at all.  The explanations I hear start with time and money.  What people don’t realize is that many of these options are free.   I remembered when I volunteered at my profession’s international conference and expo. I got a day at the conference for free, learned so much, and met so many people. My time was well spent and volunteering didn’t cost money for the conference.  Always remember, that first lumberjack spent more time in the long run.  When you learn a new method it may save you more time!

Please let me know if you have other ideas to add to this list of professional development opportunities. I look forward to hearing from you.

#professionaldevelopment  #lifelonglearning  #Employeedevelopment



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