Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Recognizing the Importance of Professional Development – Taking and Making Time to Learn

This time last week I, and about 250 others, had just finished listening to an amazing “Day 2” keynote address given by Denise Bissonnette. For “Day 1” we’d been privileged to hear John Krumboltz. These two, and a host of others, presented at the BC Career Development Association’s 2012 Career Development Conference. Attendance was down this year, likely as a result of BC’s “Business Transformation” which has seen a number of agencies closing and Career Development Practitioners (CDPs) losing their jobs. Those who are working are in training and probably scrambling to be ready for the launch of new services on April 2nd. I’d guess that limited resources, which include time and money, drew many away from CDC 2012. This made me wonder, however . . . how many of us see the conference, and other professional development activities as something “nice to do” but an overall low priority vs. a “must attend” event? Clearly, I shouldn’t make assumptions about what stops someone from engaging in professional development but it is curious.

Given the huge changes in BC’s career development landscape how did people not “move mountains” to attend the conference? The networking opportunities, alone, can be a huge benefit for someone in transition. Taking this further, is it just the conference or an underlying reluctance to invest in our own lifelong learning? I remember one discussion, in particular, that had colleagues sharing comments they’d overheard; things like “Now that I’ve got theories and ethics I don’t have to take any more courses” or “Now that I’ve got a three year contract I’m not going to bother keeping my professional certification.” Again, a few comments aren’t likely representative of a full population but this isn’t new – several of us have noticed that some CDPs simply aren’t willing to make learning a higher priority.

According to the 2009 Pan-Canadian Mapping Study of the Career Development Sector, “access to professional training is the highest rated priority by CDPs for future directions needed in the sector” (p. 5) yet I’d suggest that much of this training already exists. The Career Development Chapter of the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association recently updated an inventory of career training programs that are available across the country and/or online. So, if the challenge is lack of awareness, this resource would go a long way in solving that problem. The other challenges that I’ve heard relate to time and money; we’ve developed two tip sheets to help with those (1) 10 Tips to Fit Professional Development into a Busy Life  and (2) 10 Tips to Stretch Your Professional Development Dollars.

So, I challenge everyone to find some way to invest in your own professional development this year. Read a book then pass that learning on through a blog post, take a webinar (see our series to support the Where’s the Work? project ), take an active role in a LinkedIn group like Careers Debate, find a conference, or take a course. Sometimes all it takes is a willingness to spend the time and it is worth investing in your own career! Good luck and let us know how you make out.

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