As this publishes, I will be on a plane heading for the Windy City: Chicago. As part of my involvement with the Legal Marketing Association, I’m fortunate to be able to meet with some of the leadership of the organization this week for a leadership conference, since I’ll be joining the LMA’s Technology Committee as Co-Chair for 2015!
That got me thinking about professional development this morning – something that’s important for all of us, but something we can easily forget or push to the background in our busy day-to-day lives. I mean, who has time to add one more thing, right?
But it’s essential – U.S. News & World Report offered this great article three years ago, which is still relevant today. They say:
It’s easy to get complacent about professional development when you’re employed. If you already have a job, why should you go above and beyond to improve your skills, especially if it’s not required by your company?
"But making an effort to help yourself grow professionally will help you succeed, both in the short term and in the long term. And if you don’t learn new skills and acquire new knowledge and experience, you’re likely to fall behind your peers, which could be detrimental when you look to change positions."
Even for those of us who are happy where we are, are we sure that we’ll be able to sustain our positions without further development?
That’s what I thought.
So let’s consider two ways today that we can further develop ourselves professionally – and these will not only help to potentially bring you new skills, but will also reinvigorate your enthusiasm for your work, and hopefully give you a fresh new look at the tasks in front of you.
Tip One: Read a Book
This is actually a fairly difficult one for me – I love to read, but when it comes down to it, I’d rather read something fictional and not at all related to my work, so that I can get a break. But there’s a lot of value in finding a few good books and using them to bring you a fresh outlook – and extra points if you’re reading something with general applicability or outside of your professional expertise. Some suggestions I’ve had in recent years include:
- Delivering Happiness: A path to profits, passion, and purpose – Tony Hsieh
- The Lawyers Law of Attraction: Marketing Outside the Box but Inside the Law – Hillel Pressser
- Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization – Dave Logan, John King & Halee Fischer-Wright
- The Lean Startup – Eric Ries
- Good to Great (and Great by Choice) – Jim Collins
While some of these are still on my to-do list, I promise to dive into them to set a good example. You don’t have to read the entire book cover to cover this weekend, but why not switch up your commute reading, or take fifteen minutes of your "lunch at your desk" to read a few chapters. It may inspire you to finish out the day even stronger!
Tip Two: Attend a Conference
I’m fortunate that LMA is allowing me to attend this leadership conference, and I’m looking forward to sharing with you what I learn there. We already do a lot of events within our own area of expertise, and these are important and valuable. But once in a while, change it up and go to something entirely different.
It doesn’t even have to be business-related necessarily – go to something that will break you out of your comfort zone and teach you some skills. At the very least, you may get the chance to practice your networking by meeting new people!
A few years ago, I was able to attend Social Fresh, which was a social media conference. I was able to hear all speakers from outside of the legal industry, who gave me some excellent perspective and inspiration. I continue to look to them today for advice and suggestions, which broaden the benefits I can bring to my position.
Heading to a conference isn’t the only way you can accomplish this. Consider:
- Taking a class: community colleges often offer evening classes, and one of them might strike your fancy. I took a year and a half of French again a few years ago, and it was great for stretching my comfort zone! Local schools will often offer community classes as well – everything from technology and business skills to yoga. Take a look at their flyer to see if there’s something you’d be interested in or benefit from.
- Get online: although you don’t get the in-person networking practice benefits, you can still learn some valuable skills online. Everyone from colleges to individual organizations are offering online courses these days, so find out what skills you may want to enhance or learn and sign yourself up! The benefit is that in many cases, you’ll be able to tailor the time you invest to your schedule, which will make it more convenient for you.
No matter how accomplished we are, if we’re not learning and growing, we’re backsliding. So today, give some thought to how you can further develop yourself professionally to bring some new skills and a fresh outlook to your daily work!
As always, if you have other tips to add to our two, please share them in the comments!