There was once a time when I’d get frustrated about the lack of opportunities to travel for conferences or trainings. I used to think about “what could have been” if I had only continued my education and pursued an advanced degree. Frankly, I decided to make a personal choice to stop complaining about the opportunities I don’t have and start thinking about how I could develop my own professional development. I stopped depending on others to provide me these opportunities. I welcome them when they are offered, but I no longer wait for when those opportunities happen to come by.
As I found out, the process of identifying areas I’d like to learn and how I’d go about them was a fun process in itself. It made me think about my future career path and finding creative ways to learn the skills and acquire the experiences necessary to get to where I’d like to go. In some ways, I have some ideas on where I’d like to be, but at the same time, I am open to the possibility that there just might be some careers out there for me that have yet to be invented. When I made the decision to stop complaining and comparing my professional development (or lack of) with others, I made the choice and commitment to be accountable for my professional development and in general, the future of my career. It’s too easy to blame others for lack of opportunities, but it’s very liberating to know that I have control over my career.
I just recently read a book called “Digital Schools: How Technology Can Transform Education” wherein the author, Darrell West talks about the different ways technology has made available different ways of learning. The ideas in this book are similar to this book (and many others) I read a while ago. Social media, open learning initiatives, mobile, e-books, and cloud computing have made information more readily available. It is through technology that virtual personal learning networks have become possible. Through social media, I have been able to develop professional and personal networks consisting of higher education and IT colleagues all over the country. As a matter of fact, I’ve been able to collaborate with a few of these colleagues on some projects. On my campus, I started looking for learning opportunities. I wanted to learn more about student affairs, so I accepted the opportunity to be a mentor for NASPA Undergraduate Fellowship Program (NUFP) and I also volunteered to be a member of the planning committee for a New Professionals Institute program for new student affairs professionals. I wanted to network with other folks on campus and further develop my leadership skills, so I requested to be a mentor for a campus-wide leadership program.
Using technologies I mentioned above and seeking on-campus opportunities for professional development started with a mindset, a personal choice to pursue learning beyond the conventional means I was familiar with. It started with a choice to stop thinking of the limitations and looking at all the possibilities on how I could improve my professional self. A trusted colleague, now retired, gave this advice once – “investing in yourself and your commitment to your job don’t have to be either/or. When you invest in yourself, you are actually investing in those you serve.”
credit image: http://blog.aicpa.org/2012/03/make-the-most-of-your-professional-development.html