We Want You to Dance: How Professional Development Benefits You
"Dancing in all its forms cannot be excluded from the curriculum of all noble education; dancing with the feet, with ideas, with words, and, need I add that one must also be able to dance with the pen?" - Friedrich Nietzsche
What comes to your mind when you think of professional development opportunities? Do you think of required classes that you must technically sit through in order to please a licensing board or a boss?
While many professions, including teaching, medicine, and the law, require members to take continuing legal education classes, most do a poor job of communicating why. Professional development is not about remaining competent at a job. Professional development is about inspiration, movement, and collaboration; it is about dancing.
"The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled." - Plutarch
You should participate in professional development opportunities because they can inspire you to reach new levels of excellence in your work. By exposing you to new ideas, they can increase your creativity. By helping you find courage and skills that you did not know you have, they can enable you to see your potential. Alli McKee from Blot, Inc. was inspired to live scribe on a huge board for the first time during the #IFVP2015 conference:
I learned so much but what I loved the most was being a part of a community where I felt comfortable to get out of my comfort zone. I have only done this in my notebook up until today. Today was my first time doing a live scribe on a huge board, and it was phenomenal.
Professional development opportunities can also reconnect you with your passion for visual practice. As Lloyd Dangle from Hewlett Packard shared at the end of #IFVP2015:
Last night, it was so great when we had dinner. Everybody on my team was excited. They were thinking of all the things we have to take back. I have never seen such a level of energy with my team.
Dancing requires a willingness to go where the music and the body leads. Professional development will not work unless we are willing to grow and motivated to engage new material and ideas. Sometimes by stepping outside of our comfort zone, we can find our rhythm. Sometimes the rhythm inspires us to move in a new direction.
"Work to become, not to acquire." - Elbert Hubbard
Professional development is about movement of the mind and body, a process of learning, growing, and becoming. As you work, you encounter questions, and through professional development, you can explore possible answers. A new member at last year's conference, Wendy Hsu, talked about the benefit of finding a community in which she can learn:
I feel like finally I have a chance to share, to ask the questions to someone who knows what I'm talking about. It has been really great to find people who have the same interests, and they're more experienced...I can learn from them.
Finding a space where you can learn from other peers and colleagues is important regardless of your experience level. Learning new strategies, techniques, and skills can increase your productivity and confidence, as well as improve your work product. After #IFVP2015, Sophia Liang of Graphic Footprints shared,
What I loved about this conference and the IFVP is that...we are at such a spectrum of different levels. We have an opportunity and a space for us to all meet together and all learn from each other.
When you engage in the learning process, you do not merely acquire new skills. You become the type of professional that clients and colleagues want to work with. You establish a reputation as someone that values excellence and knowledge. At the same time, you communicate that you value the ideas and skills that others have to share.
"I can do things you cannot. You can do things I cannot. Together we can do great things." - Mother Teresa
As a visual practitioner, your work may at times be isolating, and professional development opportunities offer a much needed chance to work with peers with whom you can share ideas and from whom you can get meaningful feedback. You can meet other professionals who may help you in your career through connections, support, or business development.
When asked to describe his favorite part about #IFVP2015, Trent Wakenight at OGSystemsthoughtfully replied:
Open access to others knowledge and their willingness to impart that knowledge to others. It is truly a sense of community where people do not hold onto knowledge as if it were power. They share knowledge so that we can collaborate and take that power to the next level.
While you could dance alone, there is value in partnership. With others you can take steps that you cannot not take alone. Professional development opportunities provide spaces to work collaboratively to solve problems that you face and that face the profession as a whole.
You can seek out opportunities for inspiration, movement, and collaboration. You can learn to dance with your markers. You can dance with others at local gatherings, in online communities, and through mentoring and service to others. You can dance in DC!
By Karyl Davis