Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Develop Yourself in Addition to Training

By Shelley A. Gable

While we work diligently to develop learning experiences that help our clients meet their business goals, we must also engage in continuous learning ourselves. What types of learning experiences do you pursue? How do you keep up on trends and generate new ideas?

Below are five professional development opportunities to consider for yourself…

--1-- Pursue Stretch Assignments
Stretch assignments involve taking on a project that requires using new skills or exercising existing skills in new ways. For instance, if you’re interested in change management but haven’t had a chance to apply that knowledge, you might offer to help shape your client’s change strategy as part of your next training project.

--2-- Attend Events
Attending national conferences hosted by professional associations can be informative and inspiring. Area events by local chapters can have a similar effect. Even if the topic of a local program isn’t right up your alley, the conversations you have with industry peers can be a helpful source of ideas. Don’t have many events available in your area? Check out live webinars, too.

A few organizations I pay attention to include the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD), International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI), and the eLearning Guild.

--3-- Engage in Online Networking
Online networks offer an outlet for following industry trends and generating discussion around your areas of interest. Get links to recent articles from training professionals and organizations on Twitter. Participate in #lrnchat on Twitter on Thursdays for a lively exchange of ideas with others engaged in the field. Pose questions on relevant LinkedIn discussion groups to get advice for your training projects.

--4-- Skim the Blogosphere
The fact that you’re here may be a sign that you’re doing this already. Regularly visiting a handful of training-related blogs is an efficient way to keep up on trends by seeing what people are writing about. Some bloggers share examples of their work, allowing you to glean ideas for your own projects.

Consider using an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed to subscribe to several blogs. An RSS feed posts headlines and short summaries of articles from several blogs on a single page, so you can easily skim headlines like you would in a magazine. A few popular RSS readers include Feedly (my favorite), Google Reader, and My Yahoo (of course, there’s many more!).

--5-- Keep Up with Research
While informal exchanges with others in the field can be good for generating ideas, published research offers insight on what works. Data-driven research findings confirm the extent that models, theories, and techniques work in a variety of situations. Published research in the field can help us be confident that we’re recommending evidence-based practices to our clients.

A few relevant journals include Performance Improvement Journal, Journal of Workplace Learning, and Human Resource Development Quarterly. Of course, many others exist too. To keep up with them, you can subscribe to their alerts or access the journals at a local university.

Please add to the list!
Which organizations’ events do you attend? What journals do you read? Which RSS reader do you prefer? Are there other professional development opportunities you regularly pursue? Please, leave a comment and share your suggestions.

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