The past 19 months have had most of us spending our professional energy focused on stability and not necessarily growth. Given this particular focus, it is possible that professional growth and development for us as individuals, and perhaps for our organizations, has been put on the back burner.
Gratefully, as much in our workplaces begins to stabilize, opportunities for professional development are available, even abundant.
The benefits of professional development and ongoing education are well documented.
Just to touch on a few, as individuals, it helps to keep us current in our respective industries, even offering a competitive edge. It allows us to maintain and grow our skill sets to be even better at our jobs or running our businesses.
Professional development also serves to keep us motivated and enthusiastic about the work we do. Our businesses and organizations benefit as well. The organization will typically experience increased retention and improved efficiency. Employees who feel valued by the organization and experiencing that the company is willing to invest in them are more likely to go above and beyond.
The options for participating in professional development have certainly morphed and changed, but much of this change has led to a substantial increase in convenience and accessibility. The opportunities are certainly out there, they may just look a little different than they did two years ago.
I miss a live event as much as the next person, but virtual events are here to stay. And there is much to applaud here.
First of all, this is not March 2020, and when done well, virtual events can be top-quality learning and networking opportunities. Event platforms have improved, and sponsoring organizations have enlisted the help of professionals to ensure that everything runs smoothly and that the event maximizes opportunities for engagement.
With better quality offerings now available, let’s talk accessibility. How many times have you wanted to attend a presentation, workshop, or conference and not been able to get out of the office or didn’t have the travel budget available?
It is certainly much easier to connect to a Zoom or Hopin link from the comfort of your chair. No plane tickets to purchase or travel time sacrificed. In a good virtual event, the opportunities to learn and connect will be there. It is up to us individually to take full advantage of them.
“Event platforms and planners are working hard to create quality experiences that connect people both in person and online,” says Jennifer Evans, CEO of Spokane-based Events by Jennifer Evans. “Virtual events aren’t a sacrifice; they have the opportunity to be every bit as engaging as an in-person event with the added benefit of savings—both time and money.”
Work Internal Resources
If you are part of a larger organization, take advantage of all it has to offer.
Successful organizations typically have robust learning and development programs and often those offerings are underutilized.
Explore what your company has on its calendar and take full advantage of these internal educational opportunities.
Many internal education programs are offering rich learning experiences featuring technologies and strategies such as virtual reality and gamification. Maybe your company offers stipends to help offset the costs of external opportunities. Take the time to fully leverage all of those benefits.
You may also want to explore mentorship opportunities or get a group of peers together for support and brainstorming. Set a up a meeting with that person you have been impressed with but haven’t had the chance to get to know.
If the offerings and opportunities are not there, consider creating them. If you are a young organization, be mindful of the benefits and return on investment of having a strong educational force within your organization.
It’s on You
There is no shortage of amazing resources to explore on your own. Step away from the true-crime stories and find a podcast that motivates and inspires you. Schedule time in your week to listen to it. Have a commute? That is great window of time to listen to the digital version of that latest leadership book.
Explore courses available to you on LinkedIn Learning or Coursera. Check out what subscriptions are available to you through your organization or the local library—two additional underutilized resources. Recent studies have also shown volunteering can provide further inspiration.
Taking the time for yourself and your own career development is crucial. Not only for your professional growth but your general attitude and mindset toward your work. Reminding ourselves that there is still much to learn, new avenues to explore, and paths to improvement, helps to keep us motivated and serves to increase the overall enjoyment of our day-to-day.
And certainly, during the last 19 months, we have learned the value of making the most of every day.
René Johnston, of Spokane, owns Employee Engagement Solutions, a consulting and employee-engagement training company.
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