Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Finding better comms pro development, & tucking it into your schedule

It gets more and more difficult to develop professionally further on in your career, thanks to opposing forces: The supply is limited, since it's easier to market courses to beginners over and over again. Your time is limited, and most professional development seems to chew time up: travel, overnights, multi-day sessions. And the demand is limited by our own entropy and insecurities...shouldn't I know all this by now?

That's what Seth Godin points out in Fully baked:
Knowledge workers, though, the people who manage, who go to meetings, who market, who do accounting, who seek to change things around them—knowledge workers often act as if they're fully baked, that more training and learning is not just unnecessary but a distraction....Show me your bookshelf, or the courses you take, or the questions you ask, and I'll have a hint as to how much you care about levelling up.
Smart communications professionals know that skills, tactics, tools, and strategies are changing faster than ever. So a better question might be: how can I find better professional development options and tuck them into my already full schedule?

I've found some good answers in the following ways:
  • Hire a coach, specifically, one who will keep your knives sharp: There's no better way to get training suited to your precise level of need than a 1:1 coach. Most of the coaching I offer is to speakers and presenters, but I've also coached managers at varying levels in communications operations...and I hire a coach when I need one to prep for a big speaking gig or other challenge. As my coach and colleague Peter Botting likes to say, "It's a poor chef who doesn't keep her own knives sharp." Best, coaching can be fit into your schedule, whether it's done remotely or in person. You'd be surprised what we can do in an hour on Skype or on the phone.
  • Curate your membership groups with care: I belong to almost no groups anymore, a result of many of them catering to beginners or an inner circle, or a circle of inner-circle wannabes. But I do belong to a pair of sister groups, the European Speechwriter Network and UK Speechwriters Guild, which have content that's well-curated, no panel discussions, and great networking with a global group. These folks share referral business, tips, write guest posts for me, and find me great material for my blogs. Yes, I'll cross the pond for that, and it doesn't cost that much more than a non-challenging stateside conference.
  • Look for side opportunities to learn and add them to existing trips: On a couple of my trips to the speechwriters conference, I was able to find shorter opportunities to brush up on skills, at a social media workshop using newspaper archives at the British Library, and learning about virtual reality at the Frontline Club in London (about which more in some forthcoming posts). Both happened later or earlier in a conference trip, making it easy for me to register and attend. Neither was a budget-buster, and each one broadened my world view on these topics. How often do you look for local opportunities--day-long workshops, lectures, or complementary meetings--in the cities where you are already traveling?
To really up your professional development game, you may need to get out of your existing membership or conference rut and start paying attention to different lists and feeds, searching for conference reviews (including asking colleagues of all kinds), and checking out unlikely sources and locations, like museums and libraries. Take a look at the Smithsonian Digitization Fair, canceled this winter due to a snowstorm but due to take place in autumn 2017, as one example, if your institution is at work digitizing its archives. Paying attention to museum offerings is what led me to the British Library workshop. If you have other suggestions for conferences for communications pros, head to our Facebook page or Twitter account, linked below, to share them and I'll compile them for a future post.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Boston Public Library)

Don't get caught unprepared, speechless, or without a message, but do catch me on Twitter, on Google+, and on the don't get caught page on Facebook--all great places to add your comments to the discussion. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Speakers & Communicators, to make sure you don't miss a thing on my blogs and get the first news about new workshops and projects.

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