Your Professional Development: Who’s in Charge?

One of the most important journeys you will take in your life may get less attention than you give to your annual vacation.  Seriously, when was the last time you sat down and planned out your personal development for a given year or even for 3-5 years?  If you spend time doing this, perhaps you could lend me some ideas about how you got started and how you keep things moving.  For the rest of you I suggest you read on as I share a few ideas that have worked for me over the period of a 40 year career.  My intent is not to give you a "one size fits all" plan, but to share examples of things that have worked for me as well as some things that were less effective.  The important thing to remember is that not everything you do will work as intended.  If things always work out as planned for you then I suspect you are not pursuing much or you are much, much smarter than I am.

Here is a short list of development ideas that I have pursued during my career.  I'll go over the list in aggregate today and then do a deeper dive on each in a subsequent post:

  1. Spend time in areas or at events with people who are different than you 
  2. Work on horizontal as well as virtual development
  3. Seek out mentors for stages in your career/life
  4. Ask for feedback
  5. Know when to stop doing something
  6. Understand that part of your career is about being fed while part is about feeding others
  7. Learn that failure can be your best friend
  8. You never have enough connections
  9. Never stop learning
  10. Volunteer activities can be great for your career
  11. Take time to pause, reflect and plan

My career officially started in the summer of 1981 after finishing my undergraduate degree.  My first job came through the network of one of my good friends in school (see #8).  I worked in this first role for about 2 years when I lost the job due to a reduction in force (see #7).  This led to a move to the Nashville, TN area where I worked for a Japanese American joint venture where I had 4 roles in 5 years.  (see #2)  During this role I went back to graduate school at Vanderbilt and I also spent significant time volunteering for the YMCA, leading to a new career with the Y.  (see #10 and #9)

After joining the YMCA I was introduced to several leaders in the HR world who helped me grow in my knowledge and helped me expand my network.  (see #3 and #9).  This role led to my last "job" as the head of HR for an engineering firm.  After 11+ years as a HR leader I decided to become a consultant in the talent acquisition world where I also did leadership development work.  (see #5 and #8)

I have been in the consulting world since 2006 and God has blessed my efforts sufficiently so that my wife and I could put two sons through college and prepare well for a retirement of some fashion, but one that will allow me to continue doing what I love doing.  (see #6 and #8)

There will be a lot more detail when I break these down, but I think you can see that my life experience has driven this list.

This makes me remember to add one more thing, (see #11)

I'll be back soon with more.