What’s Your Professional Development Plan?

Time to Plan Next Year’s Goals

It’s that time of year again! Time to endure endless holiday music streaming through the speakers of every. single. store. Jalopies and luxury cars alike sporting reindeer antlers and red ball noses. Squeaky school band concerts and plays that take more time to dress your kid for than to sit through. Office Secret Santas and GAO-approved holiday celebrations.

And time to start thinking about your next annual performance plan!

For some of you, your deadline to plan your professional development strategy for next year has already passed, but, if you’re like me, you (and your supervisor) have forgotten all about this necessary task that falls near the end of each calendar year. What’s worse than trying to throw your plan together at the last minute might be trying to nail down professional development activities that pertain to your government job.

In my field (writing and editing), the opportunities seem to grow slimmer each year as I work my way through the relevant courses and conferences. Although, overall, the communications field continues to evolve quickly with the advent and growth of social media, good, old-fashioned writing and editing don’t change all that much from year to year; that can make it hard to find events and training that are new and exciting.

And I know I’m not the only one in federal service whose career subject is slow to evolve. However, I’m willing to bet you could go to the same meeting or conference every year and learn something new and useful. And don’t overlook private-sector opportunities, either! Attending a conference, meeting, or training outside the government can help you stay abreast of trends in your industry and can help you look at your daily grind with fresh eyes.

Reconnect With Your Calling

The opportunity to interact with fellow professionals in your field is vitally important, especially if you’re the sole person in your office that does what you do. Your skills and training are independent of the agency with whom you share your talents, and getting together with people in a similar career field is a good reminder of your inherent awesomeness. Conferences and training can get out of your bubble and let you compare notes with other people who get you—for example, that don’t look at you like you’re crazy when you scream that you’ll throw your computer out the window if you have to INTERPRET ONE MORE PARAGRAPH OF POMPOUS JARGON. You’re among like-minded people whose laptops are covered in stickers supporting the Oxford (or Harvard, since we’re in America) comma, and the swag tables are heavy with books on grammar and writing, style and design . . .. Oops. Pardon me. I wandered off down the halls of my personal Professional Development Eden.

You get the point, though, and you might be surprised to find that your management gets it, too. Many supervisors understand that their employees are refreshed and revitalized after taking some time to reconnect to their unique training and skill set. Even if you don’t take advantage of every networking opportunity at a conference or training course (I try to actively avoid them, myself), it’s helpful simply to be around people who, regardless of where they work, are on your same professional page.

Find Your People

If you’re not sure where to start looking for opportunities, I’ve found some good places for both a general crowd and, more specifically, communications professionals. Of course, start right here on GovLoop, where you can find an annual “best of” list for people just like you! GovEvents is another good resource to check out, though it’s homepage can be somewhat overwhelming. Go to the “Find Events” page to tailor your search.

To go outside the government box, start with a general web search for your career field and the word “conference” or “training.” Check the websites and publications of your industry’s professional societies. And don’t forget to think outside your career box, too; check out leadership training, or training in a field related to yours that you’re interested in.

For communications-specific training and conferences, these are some of my favorites (offering conferences, regional meetings, or continuing education training).

Get ready to make 2020 your most professionally developed year yet!

Ronda Lindsay is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. She has been an editor in the federal government for 13 years, working first for the Department of Defense and then for the National Transportation Safety Board. She has a master’s degree in professional writing from Towson University and a bachelor’s in English, with a minor in writing, from Oregon State University. She is passionate about plain language (in the government sphere), nature, books, fitness, and crafting. Originally from Portland, Oregon, Ronda loves to mentor others from west of the Mississippi who are interested in civil service. You can read her posts here.

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