Professional Development - There’s a secret that most professionals don’t learn until they’re in the workplace: you’re never done learning about your field. No matter which industry you work in, business methods will change with the times; technology will make certain aspects of business obsolete; and your coworkers will come and go.
All of this means you’ll have to stay on your toes—and you’ll have to continue your education and development beyond what you learned in college.
The challenge, however, is finding the right kinds of professional development. Whether you’re an employee who’s been given the opportunity to brush up on some skills for your job, or you’re a manager who’s planning an in-service program for your staff, selecting the most effective and productive professional development is critical.
When choosing or creating a professional development plan, consider your goals, the most useful methods and delivery systems, and evaluation tools to determine if your professional development has been useful.
A hands-on approach
For many people, learning is doing. Not everyone is a tactile learner, but there are situations, like introducing new technology, in which a hands-on learning approach is especially effective. For instance, an all-day in-service to train employees on a new software system might be more productive if employees are given a walkthrough, and then allowed to play with the software.
The more opportunities you have to interact with material, the more likely you are to retain the information presented to you.
A specific goal
Setting goals is important for any business—but it’s especially important in relation to professional development. The most effective professional development exercises have clearly established objectives and timelines, as well as built-in incentives for learners to retain the information. When you enroll in a class or create a training module, lay out specific objectives.
Do you want your employees to complete a project by the end of the quarter? Do you want to finish a degree program before the end of next year? Make sure your goals are both explicit and reasonable, and keep track of your progress.
A clear evaluation protocol
Just as setting specific goals is important for successful professional development, so are clear and detailed evaluation guidelines. While completing a degree program might satisfy one of your goals, it’s important to tie your goals to other actions. Did earning another degree help you secure a promotion? Did a department in-service lead to fewer errors or accidents?
Be as clear in your evaluation as you are in your goals—and be sure to create a protocol to help you meet goals if they’re not met the first time around.
Professional development programs often focus on teaching the participant something, but true growth in most industries also involves a measure of social engagement. Programs that allow coworkers to pursue their professional development together, like on-the-job group training or in-service workshops, can be ideal for improving social engagement and promoting learning.
Professional development is essential in most of today’s popular career fields, but that does not mean that all development and training options are created equal. Finding the most effective opportunities is essential when leveraging valuable time and budgetary constraints. With the right program, further training in your field can be easily incorporated into your current busy schedule.
Photo by Nils Gaylen