3 Ways To Plan Your Own Professional Development

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I have been reading the book, It’s Even Worse Than You Think by David Cay Johnston and he was talking about how a country’s future success is directly related to their investments in education and science, pointing to the amount of growth the United States achieved after the end of World War II and how now the US government has been working to slash education budgets, funding for the arts, sciences and research, and more things that are net positives or produce tremendous ROI over the lifetime of a person and their contribution to society.

That got me to thinking about personal development.

If you ask me, I’d say that having really strong elementary education in the State of Georgia when I was a elementary and middle school student saved me because the education system in Broward County when I was in high school wasn’t as rigourous and my performance backslid, something that took me a few years to overcome.

But the foundation of a strong education in reading, math, science, and other subjects has served me well over the years and helped me become a lifelong learner.

What concerns me today is whether or not people are putting the right emphasis on learning, first.

Second, are they planning their learning.

Third, how are they focusing their learning.

I don’t know if this is a perfect plan for professional development, but here are some tips that have served me well.

Understand where you are trying to get to:

I used to read a lot more fiction.

I still read some novels, but I’ve found that I read a lot more creative nonfiction because it helps me with the psychology of people and it helps me understand motivations more through reading about historical figures, autobiographies, and studies.

This is important because as someone that focuses on helping organizations grow their revenues, I understand the importance of the mental and the psychological to a person’s decision making process.

So I’ve directed much of my decision thinking in this way.

Currently, I’m reading James Clear’s book Atomic Habits because I wanted to learn about how you can help sales folks create wiser processes for selling and how to change people’s habits if you want them to do something you want to them to do.

You can copy this by recognizing what you want to learn in your professional development.

If you are into marketing, you might want to take the time to read books by Seth Godin, Al Ries, and others.

If you are in sales, check out Anthony Iannarino, Zig Ziglar, and others.

Whatever you are working on, figure out where or what you want to improve before you do anything else.

Make a plan:

When I started my podcast about a year ago, I knew that I wanted to create a podcast.

I didn’t know much else.

But I set that as my goal and went through the process of figuring out what I need to have, know, and do to build up a podcast.

Some of the things I did included talking to my friend, Troy Kirby, the OG sports business podcaster; read up on microphones, technologies, and other technical aspects; test podcasted with a few friends; and booked my first few guests.

You can do the same thing in your own professional development.

Think about it like this, I write a monthly column for the Project Management Institute on the people parts of project management. If I were coaching you on how to be a better leader in your organization, we’d build a plan for where you wanted to go that would include:

  • Recognizing what your leadership style is like now.
  • Focusing on learning about leadership styles by looking at people you think are good leaders and figuring out what they do that could be useful to you or that you could replicate.
  • Spending time talking with your team about their goals, challenges, and opportunities.
  • Making a plan for actions to help refocus your leadership style.

On and on.

The key is that you need to have a plan for improvement and lay out some action steps that are part of the plan.

Without action, zip happens.

Apply! Learn! Adjust! Repeat! 

I mentioned at the end that you have to take action and I want to reinforce that by sharing with you this last tip of applying what you learn from your professional development.

Start small, figure out one small step you can take.

Maybe go crazy, figure out three.

Just make sure you apply action to your learning and your ideas.

Take the reaction you get from these actions and adjust your actions, repeat…until you are regularly improving on the skill or action you wanted to improve on.

Is it that simple?

Yes and no.

Yes because you can do it. No because change is tough.

What say you on the subject?

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