Why I Love Professional Development: Confessions from a Recovering Teacher’s Pet

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Remember that kid? The one who would stretch her hand as high as she could in the air, bouncing up and down in her seat, about to burst if the teacher didn't immediately call on her to give the right answer? Yeah, that was me. And while I like to think that I've mellowed as I've matured, I haven’t lost my passion for learning and the anxious teacher’s pet occasionally makes an appearance.

I have had the true pleasure of working at the same organization for over five years. But, with the benefit of experience comes the challenge of, well, challenge itself. It would be so easy for me to sit back, ride on the coattails of my past successes, and simply go through the motions of my day to day responsibilities. After all, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

I am in no way advocating for a complete overhaul of a program or project just for fun, but I am challenging you to genuinely explore opportunities for growth. Once I accepted the fact that I do not know all that there is to know about everything (and believe me, reaching that conclusion was a lengthy process), I began to seek out the chance to learn and I never looked back. Here are some highlights of what I learned:

Sometimes the most helpful expert is not actually an “expert”

We've all been to brown bag lunches or sat through a seminar hosted by an industry leading expert who did not offer a single unique or useful idea, and then while walking to our cars we strike up a conversation with someone, and bam! We finally have that valuable takeaway we've been craving. Peer experts are often times the best experts—don’t underestimate their value.

Be open and receptive to new ideas

I don’t like being wrong. In fact, there are few things I like less. The natural assumption I used to make when learning something new is that the way I was doing it before was wrong. And that wasn't fun. Until I realized that learning new strategies, philosophies, techniques, etc., was not a direct attack on my existing strategies, philosophies, and techniques, I subconsciously blocked the chance to learn. I let my pride stand in the way of becoming the best I could be, and remained stagnant and bitter for too long. Be open, for real. I promise you’ll come out better in the end.

You’ll get out what you put in, no more, no less

A mistake I often made when I was just starting to invest in my professional development was to show up at a networking event, order a drink, find a seat, and wait for people to come talk to me. Then I’d drive home frustrated because I attended yet another worthless networking event. It was a shocking revelation when I connected my own behavior with my growth. Networking is one of the best tools in a young professional’s arsenal, but only if we commit to making it beneficial for ourselves. Don’t wait for opportunities to fall into your lap. Go out and find them.

Are you ready to take the next step toward your own professional development? I encourage you to explore the great opportunities YNPN Denver offers. The Professional Development committee has been working diligently to offer relevant, exciting, fun ways to grow in the job you have, or the job you’d love to have. Attend an Affinity Group. Apply for a Learning Circle. Try something new. What’s the worst that could happen? A little growth never hurt anybody.

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