As a hiring manager, one of the questions I always asked candidates was “How do you keep up in the field?” There is no one right answer to this question, but there are many variations on wrong answers to the question. Being in graduate school provides you with a ready-made answer: you are learning about foundational theories and models, as well as being exposed to current best practices. But how will you respond after graduation?
Some fields, such as law and medicine, require that practitioners engage in continuing professional education. Failure to do so has professional consequences. In Training and Development, the burden is placed on us. Each of us must define a Do-It-Yourself Professional Development Plan (DIYPDP).
Rather than become overwhelmed by the deluge of e-mails in your inbox touting webinars, seminars, conferences, blogs, online magazines, product trials, LinkedIn groups, and so forth, I recommend the following five strategies for creating your DIYPDP.
1. Subscribe to one or two free trade magazines, such as Chief Learning Officer. Each month, scan their tables of contents. This will help you to know what the hot topics are in the field. Then, read one entire article, word-for-word.
2. Attend one professional development webinar a month. If you can, attend the live event, rather than watch the recording. It is much easier to focus when it’s live: you don’t have the option of fast forwarding.
3. Periodically investigate the sessions for an upcoming professional conference. Much like scanning a table of contents, it will keep you up to date on hot topics. It will also tell you who the current thought leaders are in the field.
4. Set a personal skills challenge for yourself, such as learning how to set up an online asynchronous course using a free application, such as CourseSites by Blackboard, or learning how to conduct an online, virtual session using the free version of AnyMeeting. Spend a short period of time each week working toward the goal. One you accomplish your goal, consider updating your resume and portfolio.
5. Pay attention to Elliott Masie. Masie knows everybody in the field. His team works on everything and anything remotely related to learning and development, from fads to trends. Trust me on this one.