Not to be dramatic, but it seems like professional development is over-glorified these days. Don’t get me wrong here; professional development is a good thing most of the time. It allows you to become better informed in your field, further your skills, and build a stronger network.
I enjoy professional development probably more than most people. However, there is a point when it turns into more of a hindrance than a help.
Stressed? Anxious? Take a Dose of Professional Development, and You’ll Feel Worse
I know I’ve found myself in this position before. I’m a lover of self-help books and psychology, and I’ve always got my nose stuck in some book or article that is supposed to illuminate all the secrets to success and happiness. While most of these books really are great and I do learn some interesting things, they don’t give me a road map to success or happiness. They don’t do the work for me.
When I set the books aside and close the computer screen to dive into the work I’ve been putting off? Now that’s when I really start to learn something about myself and my work—like the first time I ever wrote a planner review and realized it was a passion that translated well to my work as a writer. Countless articles later, and here I am with a slew of planner-related content people are enjoying (I’m changing lives here, really).
Completing the work is sometimes the only thing that eases the stress and anxiety that’s always piggybacking through my day. Sometimes no amount of conferences, books, discussions, or webinars will make your job easier or clearer. Sometimes you have to give up the search for information and throw yourself into the nitty gritty of your job.
The act of real work, army-crawling through the mud, is where the true professional development happens. This article is a perfect example—I’ve been putting it off for three weeks, but now that I’ve finally forced myself to suck it up, I’m surprising myself with the drops of creativity I’ve scraped from the bottom of my creative well.
When your quest for professional development takes over your work and exasperates your emotions, it’s time to reevaluate. Push the pause button on professional development activities and devote that time to doing your actual job (or side hustle) instead. Experience is the greatest teacher anyway. By devoting time and attention to your work, you can put all of those lessons from your professional development into practice and figure out whether or not it’s truly useful for you.
Be the Dragon
Guard your professional and creative integrity like it’s a princess in a tower and you’re the dragon. The people you listen to influence your work, and your work is one of the most priceless contributions you have. Not to mention, your time is precious and good professional development is hard to find, so keep your standards super high. Not every Shrek that comes calling is a prince in disguise.
Honestly, not every webinar, conference, and seminar is going to give you good advice. So when you do seek out professional development, it’s important to choose vetted, high-quality opportunities. Look for conferences that have been around for a while and receive high praise from people in your field (Here at Earn Spend Live, we love Create & Cultivate).
Don’t sign up for webinars that aren’t hosted by people you admire. And don’t waste time finishing a book or article that doesn’t prove its worth from the first paragraph. Anything short of these requirements is more likely to waste your time than give you insight to overcoming work struggles.
One Size Fits All Is a Myth
What works for one person might not work for you at all, and vice versa. Sharing our stories of struggle and success is wonderful, but it’s important to remember we’re all different and on different paths. So it stands to reason that a good portion of what you read and hear through the act of professional development won’t be applicable or successful for you.
If someone suggests something to you, then by all means check it out and give it a chance. But don’t be afraid to abandon it if it’s clear to you it doesn’t fit your needs. Even if you get all the way through a conference, book, or seminar, don’t be reluctant to ignore what you heard if you don’t agree with it or it doesn’t inspire you.
There’s nothing wrong with trying something, thinking it over, and then admitting it’s not what you need—that’s actually very self-aware and admirable.
Trust Yourself as Freely as You Trust Others
It’s more important to rely on your gut instincts and capabilities as an authority in your field than to seek outside help every time you turn around. All of that professional development takes time to find, complete, and digest—time you probably don’t have, especially if you work under deadlines and need a fast turn-around. Instead of spending hours upon hours reading, listening, and watching others, take that time to DO YOUR WORK. You can’t really expect to get any better at what you do without actually doing the work, right?
By all means, make an effort to educate yourself in your field, stay current on changes, and strive to be better, but don’t confuse the act of formal professional development with true work and experience. Besides, the people you look up to didn’t reach places of success and renown by only attending conferences. They got there by doing their work.