“Professional development needs to be part of who you are, what you do and what you promote.”
I recently tweeted that statement as part of a #sachat discussion on professional development. I’d like to take a moment of your time to expand upon my 140 character limit and talk about why I believe that continuous professional development is crucial to our field.
We are in the business of education. We work on campuses that promote teaching and learning. To me it seems only natural that an individual who works in an educational environment would be committed to lifelong learning. However, I seem to continuously run into individuals who say they can’t find the time for professional development or they take the “check off approach”, that is professional development is something they have to do rather than something they want to do.
The term professional development can mean different things to different people – for many they mistakenly believe that professional development only means going to conferences and being involved with various professional organizations. I would like to challenge readers to broaden their thinking when it comes to professional development because it encompasses so much more. Professional development is essentially . . . wait for it . . . EDUCATION. It can be as simple as reading an article and discussing it with colleagues. The key is being open to thinking differently, to looking at a situation through a different lens, to contemplate multiple angles. Our students are diverse and they are not the same students we served 5, 10 or 10 years ago. We need to stay sharp in order to best serve our students.
Professional development shouldn’t be something you check off of the “to do list” to satisfy a requirement or to get a better performance evaluation. It needs to be inherent in our daily lives. Reading articles, engaging with students, staff and faculty on hot topics, attending speakers and workshops, going to various training: all of these opportunities are ours for the taking on a college campus and many are FREE!
Continuous development is obviously something I feel strongly about. I have had supervisors who have been supportive of my development and I have ones that have been on the other end of the continuum. At the end of the day, I believe that my development is MY responsibility. YES, it is easier when my boss is my partner in my development, but don’t’ let that be a reason not to focus on your development. And if you are the boss, why aren’t you promoting your staff’s professional development? Employees who have opportunities to develop are happy employees; happy employees do a better job. High performing employees can better serve our students. Students are the reason we work in STUDENT AFFAIRS. It seems simple to me – strive to be your best and help those around you to be their best too!
Don’t know where to start? Here is how I approach it: with an annual professional development plan. I put mine in writing. I ask my staff to do the same. It’s great to develop your plan in consultation with your supervisor if he or she is interested in your development, but if they are not then find a mentor or a sponsor to assist you.
Some things to consider in your plan: What new skills are you hoping to gain this year? What are some competencies that you would like to focus on this year? What activities/committees do you want to get involved with in your department/on your campus/within your professional organization? What is your timeline for achieving these goals? What resources do you need to accomplish these goals? Who can help you with this? I have always found that if I write it down and share it, I’m more likely to follow through. I hope you will commit to your professional development in a way that it become who you are, what you do, and that you pay it forward and promote it in others.
Beth Moriarty is the Director of Residence Life and Housing at Bridgewater State University (BSU). Beth is also an adjunct faculty member in the Student Affairs Counseling Graduate Program at BSU. She has worked in the field of Residence Life for over 30 years. Her top 5 strengths are Learner, Relator, Input, Individualization and Achiever. Beth is an avid reader, a novice runner and she enjoys spending time with her family camping, going to the ocean, and watching the World Championship Boston Red Sox.