Professional development can be defined as (Wikipedia) skills and knowledge attained for both personal development and career advancement. Professional development encompasses all types of facilitated learning opportunities, ranging from college degrees to formal coursework, conferences and informal learning opportunities situated in practice. It has been described as intensive and collaborative, ideally incorporating an evaluative stage. There are a variety of approaches to professional development, including consultation, coaching, communities of practice, lesson study, mentoring, reflective supervision and technical assistance.
The Why and the Why Not?
Business professionals pursue professional development for a few different reasons. Many pursue it as a requirement to stay current and professionally registered with their trade organization. Professions such as teachers, military officers, healthcare professionals, lawyers, accountants, engineers and real estate professionals are some of the professions that require this. In some cases, Continuing Education Units (CEUs) are required to stay professionally registered. Some are simply lifelong learners interested in learning for the sake of improving your skills and knowledge toolset, learn something new and grow. Lastly, professional development is pursued to be more effective and to stay ahead of the competition—in other words, to figure out a better mousetrap, albeit product/service development, sales and marketing or some other function. It can be argued that the more you know and are good at a particular task or function, the more efficient and effective you will likely be. This can easily translate into business success in the form of improved market share, increased profits, and higher bottom line revenue, to name a few.
Business professionals and entrepreneurs wear many hats. If you are not outsourcing, you are likely taking on several functions of the business yourself. This can quickly lead to inefficiencies, ineffectiveness and business paralysis. For example, you may be an excellent plumber, lawyer, contractor or exterminator but are you great at sales and marketing armed with they latest, greatest tactics and strategies? Do you know how to optimize your business’ finances and reporting with the latest tax laws? Can you easily streamline operations to create greater efficiencies and higher margins? If you answered no to any of these questions, you may need to consider outsourcing these functions more and/or put together a professional development strategy of your own.
Challenges and excuses for professional development abound. Costs are always a consideration when considering professional courses, education and resources to support your development goals. Where to find professional development resources tailored to your needs (and not have to sift through content that is not) is an often deterrent. Most popularly, not having the time to pursue professional development always seems to top the list of why most professionals and entrepreneurs do not pursue professional development.
By using technology and resources that surround you and you may not have known existed, you don’t have to go very far to access content that is relevant to your needs, and respective of your time. Here are a few outlets to consider:
- Your Local Chamber of Commerce usually has professional development sessions on various topics and functions from local subject matter experts and peers.
- The local community college and/or college/university offers programs specific to professional development functions (i.e. “Finance for the non-financial professional” is one of my favorite course topics and seems to speak directly to me). If you are don’t have the time for in-person classes, most college/university continuing and professional studies divisions have online classes that you can pursue at your leisure. For example, I’m teaching a class at NYU in the Fall entitled “Mobile Marketing for the Small to Medium-sized Business” online and via mobile phones. It’s an eight week class that meets ‘online’ 1x/week with various projects and content delivered via mobile phones and online.
- Mobile RSS Feeds can give you bite-sized professional development content delivered right to your phone and in real-time. Google Keywords is a great service (and it’s free). You can set up several keywords specific to the topics you want to learn, or receive constant information about, and that content will be streamed to you directly; and even from sources you request (i.e. NY Times, trade publications, etc.)
- The library and/or online bookstore are always great ‘go-to’s’ for professional development. A book or eBook on a specific topic (i.e. Sales) from a well-known author, you can pick up new ideas and ways of doing things quickly and at your own pace, that you didn’t realize existed beforehand. Ask other professionals what books they are reading or have read to optimize your search for such content jules.
- Subscribe to a magazine and/or newsletter specific to an individual function. For example there’s a great sales training organization called Impax (impaxcorp.com) that I’ve always admired and had the opportunity to work with briefly in my past. They have a newsletter that features sales tips on a regular basis. It’s worth the quick read and usually plugs a sales idea in my mind to practice throughout the day that I wouldn’t have otherwise.
- Social Media Surfing. There are some great professionals posting professional development content on sites like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, in an effort to generate business by being recognized as a thought leader. It doesn’t take long to search for this content but can be cumbersome weeding through the stuff that’s not high quality, too promotional and/or relevant. I usually look for credentials, number of hits and comments before clicking play…
- Your peers. Setting up mini-support groups and asking questions often can usually help minimize risk and provide solutions to problems you and your business are facing fast and from a trusted resource. It’s likely the business professionals sitting right next to you have experienced similar issues, challenges and have similar business/professional goals. Seek what they’re doing about it and it’s likely you will get some pretty interesting and immediate answers.
In my opinion, the keys to business success are effectiveness, efficiency, excellence in decision making, leadership, the ability to execute and minimize risk and, in some cases, a bit of luck. Professional development can help optimize each of these (well, maybe not the luck part so much) and get you to business success sooner rather than later!
About the Author
Angelo Biasi is General Manager of SMART Marketing Solutions, LLC, a leading full-service integrated marketing company in Naples, FL since 2001. He has helped create and execute marketing plans and integrated marketing solutions for companies such as Playtex, Bic, Rogaine, Tauck, and over 35 colleges and universities, to name a few. Angelo has an MBA in Marketing from the University of Connecticut and teaches Marketing at New York University where he has for over five years. For more information or to learn more, email him at abiasismartmarketingllccom (abiasismartmarketingllccom) , visit www.smartmarketingllc.com or call 239.963.9396.