September 6, 2012
September signifies new beginnings harkening back to my childhood when September meant starting a new school year. I view education as a lifelong pursuit and my next area of interest is never far from my mind. One of my mentors states that there are two things that insure change in a person. The first is study – resulting when you learn new things – and the second is new experiences. Both of these enforce that you do not stay the same – good or bad, but always creating the opportunity for growth – a chance to move out of your comfort zone.
Belonging to organizations and associations critical to my area of expertise and attending conferences are some of the ways I continue my career development insuring that I stay on the path of the lifelong learner. They’re a great way to educate yourself on changes in your field, learn a new skill, stay informed and network with others who have similar challenges and interests as you do.
Next week I’ll be attending Vitera’s VIBE conference in Orlando, specifically to learn more about Intergy and Intergy EHR. I’m looking forward to increasing my knowledge, as well as connecting with new people to see how we can help each other.
What are your plans for increasing your knowledge and skills? Did you set some goals for 2012 that included learning something new or acquiring more in-depth knowledge to improve your overall effectiveness at work? If so, have you researched conferences, associations or organizations where you could gain that knowledge? As with any other project, you need to start with a good plan.
- What are your objectives? Establishing objectives will help you determine what direction you should take. If you’re looking for a little support in a particular area, then you may want to join an association with regular meetings for networking and staying informed. If you’re looking to gain a skill, then a conference may be the perfect way to do that.
- What are the available conferences, organizations and associations for your field of study? This is simply a Google search away. But, once you have your list of options, you’ll want to evaluate them to find the one that most closely fits your objectives. Do you have friends or colleagues who have similar objectives who can help you evaluate the options? Ask around to trusted advisors for recommendations on organizations that are reputable and provide good resources.
- How do you want to be involved? This decision should be based on factors such as how much time you can commit, the cost of joining / attending, do you prefer in-person attendance or virtual learning opportunities, how do the organization’s events fit your schedule, etc.
- Set small achievable goals. After attending a conference (or webinar), you need to integrate your learning into your daily routine. Pull out your notes and resources when you’re back in your office and really consider how to leverage them for change. Schedule time to practice using the techniques you learned or to call someone who can be a resource to you.
- Follow up on connections made at conferences or association meetings. It’s important to make contact right away while the connections you made are fresh in your mind and theirs. A tip I’ve found useful is to collect business cards from networking opportunities and write a little something about the person on the back of the card so you can remember things about them when you get back home.
- Take some down time (if you can) when you return from a conference. Many times a conference can stimulate your brain so much that you need a bit of a rest when you return. Give yourself a weekend retreat or a few days to rejuvenate before returning to work. You will be invigorated and ready to get start on new ideas. I promise.
- Evaluate how well you’ve incorporated your new skills or knowledge. After a month or so, reflect on what you gained by attending a conference, association meeting or networking event. Did that effort move you forward in achieving your goals?
It can be difficult to step out of your comfort zone and learn a new skill or attend a meeting where you’re a new face in the crowd. But, most people I talk to get such a sense of accomplishment when they conquer these challenges. They learn more than just the new skill, they learn something about themselves – and that is what it really is all about.
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