Professional development is something we know is important, but very few managers and leaders give it the time, resources, and prioritization that it needs. Of course, you can also choose what value to place on your own career development. If you’re looking to regain your momentum and start growing faster, here are a few traps to avoid:
1. Stop Thinking You Don’t Have Time to Learn.
You’re busy, I get it. But why is it that some busy people can make time to grow in their jobs and others can’t? Your manager’s attitude and company culture play a role, sure, but I think an even bigger contributor is the belief that professional development is somehow an “extra” that needs to happen when your other work is done.
Take this very concrete example: A public radio membership director spends two hours per week doing a complicated multi-step process to prepare data from a payments system to import it into a CRM. She knows that if she were to design a template to do this, she could probably reduce that time to 15 minutes. She also knows that if she knew how to build this template, she could build others that would save her time on other tasks. And, she could teach this skill to other people in her department so they could be more efficient. “One day, when I have time,” she says.
The bottom line is that you will never not be busy. The only way to “make time” to learn and grow is to stop thinking of it as something you do separately from your day-to-day work.
This requires a major mindset adjustment (no small feat)! As you leave the office for the day and take stock of your productive time, be sure to count the hours you struggled to learn a new technology, reached out to a colleague for coffee, or finally viewed that webinar recording.
You may also want to courageously consult your conscience for a moment: Is lack of time a convenient excuse for avoiding something that you’re afraid of doing, can’t get motivated for, or are worried you’ll look stupid asking about? The time you spend developing your skills to do your job better is partially dependent on what kind of support environment you're in. You may have colleagues or bosses who are comfortable with the status quo or who don’t offer rewards for learning new things. But if you were the kind of person who was not interested in growth, I doubt you’d be reading this post, so it’s time to face the obstacles that prevent you from achieving it.
2. Start Accepting Offers for Help and Connection.
Ever been to an awesome conference session where the presenter says something like “I would be happy to chat with anyone who’s working on this problem”?
Have you met a career soulmate at a cocktail hour, exchanged info, and then never followed up?
I used to co-lead a group for young professionals in public media where I frequently offered my organization’s assistance… I’d say 1 in 10 people followed up.
I’m not trying to be sanctimonious here. As I write this piece, I have half-a-dozen crumpled business cards in the depths of my backpack from people I wanted to get in touch with (sorry David from Austin!)
Why do we do this? Chances are we say we’re too busy (see #1), but I think the real reason is that reaching out requires some vulnerability and courage. It’s saying you need help! It’s saying I like you, do you like me?
Fun fact: At the end of a college class, my marketing professor thanked the class and said that if there was ever anything he could do for any of us, to reach out to him. I wrote him to ask for a job and he ended up giving me one at his company. That company was Greater Public!
The advice is simple on this one: When people offer to help or connect with you, assume sincerity and commit to taking them up on it. Put it in your calendar before you leave the event, webinar, etc. There are so many generous people in public media who want to help and connect. And remember that as we get later in our careers, helping others learn and grow becomes a critical part of our growth. A true win-win!
3. Identify what you really need, so you can find it.
Take a moment to close the 40 tabs you have open and think about a few things:
What’s something that you love about your work that totally engrosses you?
What’s something you’ll need to do at the “next level” that you can’t do now?
What’s a technology that you know others are using well, that you’re not up to speed on yet?
What’s something that absolutely terrifies you professionally?
Are you making adaptations in your work to avoid something that you should know how to do?
What’s something you mastered more than five years ago, that may be changing now?
Have you gotten feedback from a boss or co-worker that bothered you?
This is not new advice, but don’t let your professional inadequacies, career to-dos, hopes and dreams, etc. float around in your head. Write them down and start small working on one thing. If it feels overwhelming, shrink it down until you feel like it’s manageable.
True learning, the kind that actually moves you forward, is taxing. Few of us can do it well without some planning and accountability.
Your station likely has access to more professional development than you think. If your station is a member of PRPD, PMJA, Greater Public, etc., then you are too. If you’re part of an educational institution, you may have memberships to all sorts of training tools like LinkedIn Learning or Udemy, not to mention classes or seminars offered by your employer.
You might already have an ample list of work areas you want to improve. Or you may need to grow your list by better understanding best practices in your area of responsibility. Greater Public can help you on both fronts. We are an association specifically designed to help you develop your fundraising and marketing skills. Get your free trial of Greater Public membership started today.