Once we’ve accepted the reality that ongoing professional development is actually critical to being successful in each new challenge we take on as well as maintaining success in even our current role, and we create clarity around what we need our professional development process to look like, we need to make sure we’re taking advantage of the resources that will serve us best as we chase our goals.
Following strong examples is a great start, and finding the right people to mentor us along the way plays a key role too, but we’ll still need to make sure we’re taking advantage of every other resource we can get our hands on if we truly want to separate ourselves from the pack! So how can we determine which resources will give us the most value? How can we make sure the juice really is worth the squeeze?
The sky's the limit for what we can accomplish, but the one restriction we all have in common is the number of hours we have access to in our day. And let’s be honest here, there’s no shortage at all for magic pills in the marketplace that promise to fix our exact problem… Don’t believe, just talk about an issue you’re facing with your cell phone nearby and watch the ads start popping up in your social media feed and in your spam folder! But regardless of what most of those promise, there’s rarely a one-size-fits-all approach. That’s where all the time and energy we invested into developing absolute clarity around what we’re working to achieve begins to matter. If we’ve done that well, and we’ve built strong relationships with mentors we can trust, then we can really dial in on the professional development resources that give us the absolute best value for the time we invest into them.
Early on in our careers, there’s a strong chance that much of the development we need will be focused around the technical side of our profession. And while the need to continue honing our technical skills will never completely go away - especially with how fast any given field can change with a single new piece of technology - that will eventually become just a small part of the overall professional development we need to focus on. As we advance in our careers, we often find ourselves with more and more responsibility for the people around us. That’s where a whole different kind of professional development begins to matter; it’s often much more difficult to get the same kind of results through people as we were able to through a machine or a technical process!
Having clarity around our next goal as well as our long term goal, then being very transparent with the mentors we have in place can be critical in helping identify which resource will help us the most right now and which ones we should be considering that will serve us in each new scenario we face as we move forward. When Cindy and I built our Emerging Leader Development course several years ago, it was really intended for someone at a very specific point in the career. And although we’ve seen it serve people in many more stages of their careers that we initially pictured, we still knew it would have limitations since we could only squeeze a certain amount of juice from the six separate lessons it provides. That drove us to launch our Leading At The Next Level program as a way to support the folks who completed the ELD course and wanted to go deeper into the tools they would need to lead their teams. Since then, we’ve even started offering Strategic Leadership Coaching as a way to work directly with someone to help them make sure the action steps they identify from any lesson we share gets them the most juice possible from every single squeeze they make!
No two people will have the exact same goals or need the exact same resources, that’s where clarity matters so much! But the one constant I’ve seen over and over for more than twenty years has been the need for developing the skills that help us work effectively with the individuals around us as we grow in whatever career path we’re on. I’ll close by challenging you to develop that clarity I’ve referenced several times for what your next goal needs to be, then get the ball rolling toward accomplishing it by being intentional about your ongoing professional development journey!
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