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Invest in Yourself! 5 Steps to a Professional Development Plan

I started my fundraising career in 1989. Yes, you read that right. Nearly 30 years ago!

Even after all this time, I still learn something new every single day.

For starters, our clients teach us so much. We make a special effort to work with nonprofits that will add to our knowledge base. And, our consulting colleagues are so generous with sharing their experience and insights.

And, here at Front Range Source, we are really committed to setting aside time for formal professional development activities.

We’re members of consulting groups and professional associations that offer networking and educational opportunities. Just last week we got so much out of the Colorado Planned Giving Roundtable conference. Yes, it costs money. But, we are so much better at our jobs because of it.

When was the last time you attended an educational session to hone your skills? If it was more than six months ago, you need to get back into the swing!

Professional development is one of those things that can slip through the cracks if you don’t set an intention and then follow through to make it happen.

We know you’re busy, but professional development is so worth it. If you’re having trouble getting to it, our suggestion – as usual – is to MAKE A PLAN.

Here are 5 steps to creating a Professional Development Plan:

STEP ONE: Set your professional development goals

Start by sitting down and asking yourself:

  • What are my objectives for the year?
  • What are my larger career goals?
  • What do I need to know in order to fulfill my goals and objectives?
  • Are there specific speakers or presenters that I admire and who I’d like to hear speak?
  • Where are my colleagues hanging out?
  • What does my boss suggest would be good for me if I want to excel at my job?

STEP TWO: Identify and prioritize the educational activities you want to join

This might include:

  • Professional Associations
  • Peer Learning Groups
  • Conferences
  • A little reading on your own
  • And so much more

Ask around and see what others are doing.

STEP THREE: Put professional development in the budget

Some years, you’ll need to pick and choose. If you want to attend an expensive national conference, it might use up all the time and money you can reasonably expect to spend on professional development. Just alternate with a year of local conferences and small workshops and you’ll get the best of both worlds.

STEP FOUR: Share what you learn

Make it a priority to share what you learned with your colleagues and ask them to do the same. Brown bag lunches are a perfect way to do this. Put them on the schedule to make sure they happen.

STEP FIVE: Pay it forward

Some of the most rewarding learning opportunities are those in which YOU contribute directly to the experience. Try speaking at a local or national conference, think about sitting on an educational planning committee for your favorite association, or facilitate a peer learning session. You have so much to offer!

I challenge you to take the time to write down your professional development plan right away. Now’s the time. You’re worth it!

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