When you work in L&D, you’d think that learning would come easy. But we have the same challenges as people in other fields in trying to remain abreast of changes and to continuously improve our knowledge and skill. While L&D folks aren’t generally required to log development credits, the field is changing so much that our individual learning plans inevitably contain goals under the category of “keeping up” or “deepening expertise.”
In a world with many demands on your energy, it’s critical to plan for your ongoing professional development goals, and that’s one of the possible courses a learning journey might take when you chart your course. Slow and steady will win this race if you’ve got a good handle on your destination and the path to take.
Here are some of the slow-steady paths that can lead to continuous growth:
The easiest path you can take toward staying in the know is to subscribe to journals, blogs, podcasts, and other regularly produced sources that feature the kind of information you want. Consider both practitioner sources and academic sources. If you’re not inclined to have subscriptions sent to email, use other technology to aggregate your inputs. Feedly is my tool of choice, and there are others. For a master class in getting the right materials compiled for quick review, check out Mike Taylor’s thorough explanation of his curating practices.
The richest source for knowing what’s happening in your areas of interest is being connected to others who are doing the work. You need to get out of the bubble of your own environments and hear about others’ projects and insights. It’s important to develop a professional knowledge network – people you follow on social media or hang out with in informal conversation online and in professional gatherings. Join professional organizations both nationally (or internationally) and locally, and check out their publications and newsletters. Your social media feed can alert you as to emerging hot topics and concerns, at least among the people you follow. Attend conferences when you can, and actively network with fellow participants, sharing your challenges and solutions. Aim to have diverse perspectives represented among your connections so that you don’t further reinforce the bubble you’re in.
More than just being connected to other professionals and tuned into their conversations, you want to actively engage with them in co-creating the practice of the profession. Work out loud. Share your perspective and actively seek to gain an in-depth understanding of what others are thinking and doing. Look for opportunities to collaborate, and check your thinking with each other. As you learn, draft quality guidelines to document what is important for you to attend to in your work. As you interact with others who care about your practice arena, you’ll create a community of practice and start to accrue the benefits of such association, accelerating your learning.
When the skill you want to strengthen is one that you use in your work, take advantage of every opportunity to experiment, practice, and obtain feedback. Look at each project as a chance to learn something or to put what you have learned into practice – and do that deliberately. Learning in the flow of work is clearly possible and powerful when you are deepening your skills, but it won’t happen automatically. You need to focus your attention, reflect on outcomes, and advance your skills with each project.
Charting your continuous professional development course
Any journey of note requires a solid plan, and a successful voyage of ongoing development is no exception. Start by clearly identifying what it is you want to develop – your destination. Whatever you can do to chart your course in that direction will make the travel go more smoothly and ensure you wind up where you intend. A slow, steady pace allows forward motion in tricky winds, and makes the journey enjoyable along the way. Bon voyage!
“The more I live, the more I learn.
The more I learn – the more I realize the less I know.
Each step I take, each page I turn,
each mile I travel only means the more I have to go.”
~ from Yentl
This blog post is part of a broader series giving advice on crafting and executing successful self-directed learning projects. If one or more of your 2022 goals involves learning, my newsletters and blogs for the first quarter of 2022 will expand on the research-based advice I offer in Charting Your Course.
Also in this series:
>> Everything you know about writing goals is wrong – how to define goals for your self-directed learning project
>> When practicing what you preach doesn’t quite work – nuances of writing self-directed learning plans
>> Be self-directed, but don’t learn alone – advice to look for people who impart knowledge and skill, people who engage in ongoing conversation, and people who inspire you to be your best
>> The community advantage – on how to build your own community for accelerated professional development