Continuing professional development – OPEN

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Topic 12.14: Continuing professional development


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It is easy to get complacent about professional development when you are already employed.

After all, if you already have a job, why should you go above and beyond to improve your skills, especially if it’s not required by your employer?

But making an effort to help yourself grow professionally will help you succeed, both in the short term and in the long term.

And if you don’t learn new skills and acquire new knowledge and experience, you’re likely to fall behind your peers, which could be detrimental when you look to change positions.

Taking charge of your professional development has become even more important since many companies no longer have the funds to help employees grow beyond their basic duties.

And because project managers tend to have shorter stays with organisations than their peers, companies may not see the value in training an employee they could lose.

Of course, employee-retention experts say that’s exactly why companies should offer professional development: because it helps them keep and cultivate their best talent.

Nonetheless, you have to take control of your own development – and find ways to make it happen.

Ignoring the irony in this statement, you can treat your professional development like a project.

Initiating this involves identifying opportunities for development, considering alternatives and assessing the costs, benefits and risks of each.

You can then plan your professional development by deciding:

What sources you’ll learn from

What programs or classes you might wish to sign up for

Who you’d like to be mentored by, and

What other sources of social support and accountability you’ll build into your learning program in order to achieve your goals.

As you design your program, remember that you’ll learn best if you create a program that allows you to learn on three levels:

Learning from other people who are ahead of you helps you to stay inspired by the possibilities and to discover more about the territory you’re heading into before you get there.

This might include:

  • Enrolling in a workshop or class
  • Attending an industry conference or event
  • Subscribing to relevant publications and blogs, and/or
  • Finding an experienced mentor to support you

Learning with others at a similar level of development helps to normalise your fears and ensures that your learning is highly relevant and meets you where you’re at.

This might include:

  • Forming a coffee group at work
  • Attending a networking event, and/or
  • Contributing to or commenting on the work of others

They say you have not truly mastered a subject until you can teach it to others!

Teaching other people who are just beginning helps to reinforce the foundational basics and to remind you how far you’ve come. 

Plus it has the added bonus of growing your leadership and influence and motivating you through the good feeling of giving back.

What exactly are you selling again!?

Want to avoid getting suckered into buying every new program, overwhelming yourself and never using any of it?

Just go back to your business case and check – does this offering fit with the outcomes I want?

You might also wish to gather feedback from others, record performance statistics, or just reflect upon and document your own judgement of your performance and progress.

How hard is it to unlearn ‘bad’ habits?

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