By Susanne Markgren, Digital Services Librarian at Purchase College, State University of New York
"Life isn't about finding yourself; it's about creating yourself."
- George Bernard Shaw
Planning for the future is something that always seems like a good idea, but we are often too busy trying to survive in the present to even think about where we are headed -- or where we may end up.
Our profession is always changing, and so are our jobs. We cannot stay static in an adaptive field, and we cannot depend on always having the same job we were hired into, whether that was five months ago or fifteen years ago. We need to manage our careers in order to maintain our existing jobs, or move into the next one. It's important to take the time to assess our skills and then translate them into the language of the jobs we want.
Reconsidering Professional Development
When we think of professional development, we may think of activities we sign up for and associations that take our dues. We may join and participate to make ourselves feel good about staying motivated, keeping current, and becoming more engaged in our work and our jobs (or job searches) through committees, classes, and conferences.
But professional development is really just another name for career management. Rather than considering professional development a perk or a requirement of a job, it should be a deliberate, intentional, and essential component of everyone's career.
Creating a Plan
Many of us are involved in professional development activities, whether supported, required, or (unfortunately in some places) done without institutional support or encouragement. But a professional development plan is different. It is a personal endeavor, a process, and a commitment that requires evaluation, time, reflection, and self-inquiry. It is a living document that should change, as we do. It can help us to define values and goals, identify skills and obstacles, and develop a path toward that particular something that we seek, whether that is a new job, a promotion, a new role, a career change, or simply professional satisfaction.
To help you get started, Educause has a useful template for creating your own professional development plan, and it emphasizes the following elements:
Reflect: start a professional journal, evaluate your existing qualifications and skill set, seek out requirements of jobs that interest you, discover and inventory your strengths and weaknesses, write down your daily achievements and frustrations.
Gain Self-Awareness: figure out what gives you satisfaction in your current job, and identify the obstacles that stand in the way of getting what you want.
Seek Outside Input: talk to your supervisor and your colleagues about your plan; find a mentor; voice your goals.
Develop Action Steps: update your resume, take classes, join committees and discussion groups, attend conferences and meetings, form collaborations, and overcome obstacles.
Set Longer Term Goals: step back and look at the bigger picture; set goals for three years, or five years out; start to envision and plan for the future.
Whether or not you put pen to paper and create your own professional development plan, you should consider sharing your work. Not just a finished product, but your goals, your progress and the processes that get you to that product; the bits and pieces of ideas and projects and classes and papers and presentations.
How do you know if something is good unless you get feedback? How do you get noticed if you never put yourself (and your stuff) out there? How do you meet people who share similar goals and skills? How do you find collaborators? How do you engage in professional development activities? And how do you exert your creative presence among a professional cohort? As Austin Kleon says in his book Show Your Work!, it isn't about self-promotion, it’s about self-invention.
This piece is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States.