Tips on Professional Development

SCC Professional DevelopmentWhen people ask if they need to take Professional Development, they often have a very narrow definition of what that actually encompasses. You don’t get an A+ or graduate in the 90th percentile of Professional Development. It’s not a goal or an objective; it is a path that leads to greater competence, increased skill, and improved employability.

If you are engaged in your job, and you’re improving your skill set on a daily basis, then you are participating in Professional Development. It’s all about taking ownership of your career and being aware of the changing conditions in the marketplace. It is your responsibility to keep your skills up to date. If you’re skills and knowledge are not relevant and current, you’ll be replaced by someone who made the effort to remain competitive.

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—Alexis Grant

Many Forms of Professional Development

Document everything. If you take a course that increases your competency, make sure you have a copy of the degree, the certificate, or at the very least, instructions on how to locate them upon need. It’s probably best to create a portfolio of your professional activities. That portfolio would look very nice indeed on your own personal website, where you can create the display format, and then add commentary to emphasize the importance of particular achievements.

That’s not the extent of it. Courses, degrees, and certifications are terrific and are what most people think of when they think of development. You, however, are smarter than that. You recognize that the department next door, that you’ve never been in, presents an opportunity to increase your knowledge and broaden your insights.

If you’ve got a moment, drop by for a visit; make some inquiries; see if somebody there might benefit from your expertise, or be willing to explain their process. If their department has a better strategy or technique for a particular type of problem, maybe you can adopt it for your own, while sharing some of your own solutions that might help them out.

Remain Current in Field

Keeping apprised of what is happening within your field allows you to recognize opportunities to grow. That keeps you on top of changes in technology and how it will affect society, giving you the insight to spot trends sooner, which makes you more effective.

Enhanced awareness makes you stand out as a leader with vision; coworkers begin to look to you as an example. This, in itself, is very rewarding, but the practical upshot of all this is that it keeps your employability level high. You become the go-to person, the expert, an authority… All because you took a few minutes to notice what was going on around you and paying attention.

Learning Leads to More Learning

SCC Learning leads to more learningProfessional Development is cyclic and compounds on itself. Once you learn or achieve a particular topic, the next one might come easier or you may be more interested in it. Did you learn to speak Mandarin? OK, now learn to speak French, or Japanese, or Russian. Every time you learn a language the next one becomes easier. Stay on the lookout for new, useful things to learn.

The Source

Regulatory bodies determine that professional development is not optional for some people, such as doctors, nurses, engineers, teachers, geoscientists and astronauts. They must participate or risk losing their certification.

For many others, although optional, there are professional certifications available. Non-certified professional development learning (such as languages) can be equally valuable, as can receiving coaching, providing mentoring, or like a young lawyer, providing pro bono consultation at a legal aid clinic.

Nowadays there are even opportunities to obtain professional development certifications online, such as teachers collecting their CEUs (Continuing Education Units) to maintain their certifications. You can even study for an MBA online, if you think that is the route to go.

The key to effective goal setting is making goals personal. Any fitness expert will tell you that it’s not enough to want to be healthier; it’s much more effective to envision what that means to you individually, whether that’s fitting into your jeans or being fit enough to run a 5K.— Jason Lange

In-house certifications are sometimes required by a particular company. These are not necessarily transferable, nor are they considered equivalent outside of that particular company in many cases, but if you plan to stay with the company for a lengthy period of time, their certifications have the advantage of generally being free.

The concept of professional development may have arisen in 1857, and only taken 100 years to finally enter our educational system in 1960, but it has definitely gained traction since then.

Professional development isn’t a course you can take, or a degree you can obtain. It is a purely personal perception that life is interesting enough and warrants enough of your attention to learn more about it; to increase your skill and knowledge; to do more than passively observe the world going by.

It also (incidentally) may garner you some wealth, prestige, or acclaim along the way, which may be all the reward you need. But you will still be a better person for it.

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How to Search Dream Company

So you’ve decided you want to work for Berkshire Hathaway, or Samsung, or Coca-Cola. Maybe American Express, 3M, or Nike are more your speed. It doesn’t matter what label your Dream Company (DC) wears; all that matters is research and delving deep. You’re among millions that want to work for these companies, but they certainly don’t have that many positions. You’re going to have to distinguish yourself in some way.

Inside Contacts

Given your interest in a particular company, there is a distinct possibility that you already have inside contacts. If so, you have a leg up on your competition already! Speak to your company-related friends, associates, or acquaintances and ask them about the internal workings. It’s easy to talk to your friends, maybe over a coffee, along with some general banter.

Employers today are leaning more heavily than ever on their own employees to help them find and recruit exceptional talent. Why? Because in many instances, it’s faster, cheaper and, at least in theory, more likely to result in a hire who excels in the job and aligns well with the culture of the hiring company—Jenny Foss

With associates or acquaintances it might be a little more formal, so prepare some questions in advance and treat it like an interview. Figure out what you need to know ahead of time and build your questions around that knowledge. What is it like to work there? How would you describe the corporate culture? How well do they support employees for growth? Ask questions that will reveal whether this is really the company where you want to be.

Informational Meeting Questions

  • What does your Dream Company do?
  • Why are they the best?
  • What do they do that’s different from their competitors?
  • What distinguishing feature marks them as your personal DC?
  • Read their Mission Statement (usually on their ABOUT US page).
  • Are they Environmentally Friendly?
  • Are they Locally Responsible and contributing to the community?
  • Their History – read it, learn it. This makes you more insightful.
  • What do their clients say? BBB reports and Testimonials can be useful.
  • Grab a copy of their quarterly report to know about their Financial Health.
  • Check the company social media pages for info they want you to know.

Know the Competition

Know their competitors! Is the competition buying up companies and moving in new directions? Develop some insight and you will look a lot smarter when it becomes time for your interview.

Connect with Company Rep on LinkedIn

While you’re looking up the company on LinkedIn, look in the box named [company name] employees… Let’s say you wanted to work at IBM, just scroll along and you’ll soon encounter a Hiring Manager, staffing director, or an HR Professional. Right below that is a See how you’re connected button.  If you are, great; if you’re not connected, keep looking through the directory to see if you can find someone you may already know. In either case, start a conversation with that person. Tell them you’re a fan of the company and you’re wondering if they can answer a couple of questions about their job for you.

Don’t send your résumé; that’s too aggressive. Instead build up a rapport and then gently mention that you saw an interesting position and were wondering if your new friend could tell you the name of someone who can answer some questions about that for you.

When you speak to this new person you are no longer an unknown quantity because you can say “[Your-new-friend] recommended that I speak to you about this position.” You are head and shoulders above the faceless masses that might apply for this job because you know someone who is inside the company, which carries a lot of weight.

Create Connection If You Have to

Create one! Sometimes there simply is no connection but that doesn’t mean that you should give up. Find a couple of people that you would be interested in talking to; people that could provide useful information or actually promote your cause (getting hired). Invest some time and do a little research on them.

Let’s imagine that one of your targets has expressed an interest in “Modern Architecture” or “Nutritional Ethics,” your favorite hobby, and they happen to be a member of a LinkedIn group that discusses it. Did you know that you can join that group and then write directly to them citing the group as the reason you wrote? They cannot tell when you joined, so it is utterly discrete. Just make sure you don’t join a group where you have no knowledge of the subject and cannot make intelligent conversation.

After a couple of exchanges back and forth you can suddenly “discover” that they’re associated with a company that you’re very interested in. Be subtle, or at least use good judgment with your inquiries, and soon you might even be able to consider yourself friends with an influential person in your Dream Company. Imagine how far that can take you.

Networking is a discovery platform and a great way to give your personal brand more exposure. Always be prepared to unleash your identity so that others will remember you. Be careful that you are not overly deliberate or focused solely on self-promotion. But seize the opportunity, too—Glenn Llopis

The Takeaway

There’s an old expression that says, “Fortune favors the bold.” If this particular company means that much to you, then take the bold action and discover your connection, or cultivate it, or even create it. If you want to work there, you’ve got to get your foot in the door.

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