Just ask: taking time for professional development
By: Amanda Duncan
When I took my first job out of college, I was eager to prove myself to my boss. As the youngest member of the staff, I was worried I wouldn't be taken seriously in a room full of more senior and experienced colleagues. So, I said yes to every new project and opportunity. I made sure I was the first one in the door and the last one out of the office every day. I strictly adhered to my 8:30am-5:00pm schedule, not taking a second longer than 30 minutes for my lunch. I only left my office to visit partners or for meetings assigned to me by my boss.
Then the opportunity came for me to get my graduate degree. As I sat and looked at the course schedule, I thought I was going to have to drop out before I began—one of my required courses was only offered at noon once a week for three hours. There was no way I could make this work. I nervously proposed this problem to my supervisor—and she merely shrugged. "We'll work it out. Just flex your schedule." End of discussion. It was so…easy. So void of conflict. After that day, I wasn't so nervous to "flex" my schedule to allow me to attend meetings, courses, and conferences that broadened my network and understanding of my career path. All I had to do was ask.
Often as young professionals, we pass up opportunities that could stretch us and make us a more valuable asset to our company and community because they "interfere" with our work schedule. If there is a conflict, we choose work. But it doesn't have to be black and white. In fact, your employer probably wants you to take these opportunities as well and will be happy to see you taking the initiative to further your professional development. Your job and your professional development activities should act in harmony. Showing you value learning and development is as important as proving you are reliable and professional.
So, here is an opportunity to practice. In July, the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership will be offering a Master Class on Networking that will address best networking practices and how to adapt your networking approach to virtual platforms. This class is a 3-part series being offered at 10:00am. Yes, that's 10:00am, smack in the middle of your morning. Will this class help you develop professionally? Absolutely. Will it interrupt your day a few times? Also yes. Talk to your supervisor about it. More than likely, the skills you would learn would help you perform your job better as well as help your organization be more successful in this new virtual world. So taking a few hours and reallocating them to your professional development is a win-win for everyone.
I encourage you to find ways to incorporate professional development into your work routine as a regular part of your schedule. Talk with your supervisor about your personal and professional goals and what resources exist to reach those goals. She'll be happy to see you pursuing your development and probably more than willing to assist in the effort. Just ask.