There is a lot of talk swirling around these days about the term professional development. But are we talking about professional development or just development? In less than half a second, Google populates 42.3 million results to the question How do I develop professionally? In that same amount of time, a shocking 90.4 million Google results appear in response to the question How do I develop myself?
A quick scan through those results is enough to have you asking:
- Do I develop my strengths or focus on my weaknesses?
- Am I right-brained or left-brained?
- Should I take the Myers-Briggs or the DISC?
- What about grad school or night classes?
Start with Purpose
When I was in a mentoring group in 2002, my mentor challenged me to write a life purpose statement by answering the question, “Why am I here?” This exercise and the purpose statement that resulted provided a lens through which I have been able to view future decisions. It was big thinking- thinking with the heart.
A couple years later, I decided to pursue my MBA by enrolling in a local Executive MBA program, meeting over two weekends a month. I was never enthusiastic about the classes, but I was pursuing a degree I thought I needed- until my wife became pregnant with our first child. The thought of holding my newborn son while balancing an Economics book became a recurring nightmare. So I quit. Which caused me to step back and re-evaluate. Did this decision align with my purpose statement? While parts of it did, the majority did not. If I had considered my purpose statement when making the decision, I could have avoided what ended up being an expensive lesson.
So before you dive into development, look into purpose. Discover how you are wired and assess what areas of your work you enjoy the most. Think through the roles in your life that only you can play- mine are husband to Susan and dad to Thomas and Bo- and align your purpose with those roles.
Combine Purpose and Passions
The sweet spot of development comes when purpose and passions are combined. After defining your purpose and identifying areas for growth, your interests and passions should be integrated into the process. In the old days (I’m 41 which makes me feel old around Roam), professional development was defined by a limited menu of options. But as the workforce has changed, the idea of development has become more personal and more creative.
Consider Steve Cody, the CEO of the PR Firm Peppercomm. Not only does he perform monthly in New York City comedy clubs, he also requires his employees to know how to deliver a stand-up comedy routine. Do you think his employees are better communicators? Better thinkers? Do you think the work environment at Peppercomm is more collaborative and energizing?
For you left-brained introverts- or those who love to travel- why not learn a second language? Grab a Rosetta Stone and learn the dialect of your next vacation spot. Why?
Learning a second language assists in planning and decision-making, it increases focus and creativity and will help you in understanding other cultures and points of view.
I could go on and on …
Salesforce gives their employees VTO (volunteer time off) to give back to local and international communities with their 1-1-1 Model.
Google instituted a “Googler to Googler” program that engages employees across departments and allows Googlers to volunteer to teach classes on their area of expertise.
Own your Own Development
In today’s fast paced and always-connected culture, the concept of continual learning and development is more achievable than ever. Here are a few ideas to help you get the most out of your development:
- Challenge yourself to listen to podcasts or books on tape while you commute or exercise.
- When you read, net-out your books. If you are a kindle reader, it is easy to grab your book highlights, copy them into Evernote and create a one-page summary of what you read.
- Share what you are learning. Grab a friend and let them in on what you are learning. There is no better way to reinforce your learning than to share it with a trusted source.
Don’t rely on your company to develop you – be a learner, define your purpose and connect it with your passions. You won’t regret it.