By Monica Nolasco, Ed.D.
I am writing this article on professional development so that I can follow my own rules about making the most out of every professional development opportunity: In order for me (or anyone, really) to learn from a seminar or class, we need to apply something we learned there in our daily practice. Professional development is the act of honing your skills and increasing your knowledge-base in your area of expertise, and putting into practice what you learn is an opportunity to be better at what you do.
When I started my work as a career coach, I wanted to learn about additional tools that I could use to enhance my performance as a professional. I also realized that, if I didn’t use a new tool, I would lose it. The brain, as we know it, is an amazing organ, but it needs to be engaged to perform at its best.
According to research by Earley and Bubb (2004), authors of Leading and Managing Continuing Professional Development: Developing People, Developing Schools, “People learn in different ways and have preferred learning styles but learning takes place in a variety of ways and in different settings. It can be formal or informal, within the workplace or off site.”
So, regardless of whether you are seeking professional development advice on a one-to-one basis or attending workshops or classes, you should keep the following in mind:
Interactive or Non-Interactive. Many specialists in professional development suggest that collaborative seminars and workshops are the ones that work best because they engage participants in a way that allows them to share their own lessons learned with each other. Workshop leaders who encourage subject matter exploration and follow-up activities usually find that, not only do the participants learn from the leader, they also learn from each other.
Effort and Motivation. What is your motivation for seeking professional development? Your answer to this question is important because the more motivated you are, the more effort you will invest, and the more motivated you will continue to be. A study I came across recently found that “the more effort one puts in, the more motivated one feels.” So, be sure that the professional development opportunity you are pursuing is something that interests you.
Feedback and Self-Growth. Getting feedback from peers and supervisors is invaluable. This is one form of professional development. Often, you don’t see the gaps in your own career growth, and others do, so feel free to seek their feedback. You might ask your supervisor for his or her assessment of your progress, the outcome of a project you worked on or how well you are applying techniques learned at training the company paid for. “Each time we get feedback, the brain is hard at work updating its knowledge and behavior in response to changes in the environment.” Learning something new is better than being stagnant in your role or becoming bored.
It is essential to continue to seek learning opportunities. What you come to understand over time benefits you and the work you do. Think of what is important to you and seek to enhance those areas. Developing yourself professionally comes in many forms: new processes, cross-training opportunities, requests for feedback from your peers and supervisor…you name it.
As always, keep in mind that, although your professional development is important, it is essential to maintain balance in your life by practicing self-care. It’s okay to put yourself high up on the priority list regularly so that you can continue to do the great work you are doing.
Now you know: No matter what type of professional development activity you choose, you are bound to feel better about yourself, your career and your personal life.
If you’d like to learn more about personal and professional development and how both can help you, contact me via email.
Sources for this article
Anonymous. (March 01, 2013). Professional Development That Platoon Leaders Value. Army, 63, 3, 61.
Dartmouth College. (April 19, 2017). Brain sets a unique learning rate for everything we do, by self-adjusting to the environment: Study refutes theory that behavior under uncertainty is optimal. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 20, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170419131745.htm
Earley, P., & Bubb, S. (2004). Leading and Managing Continuing Professional Development: Developing People, Developing Schools. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.
Friedrich Schiller University Jena. (March 3, 2017). In learning, every moment counts. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 19, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170303091526.htm