Professional Development Program (planning)
Construction professionals have a limited view of professional development–seeing it as training, a means of keeping up-to-date, or a way to build a career. A Professional Development Program is much more. It is:
- Part of lifelong learning.
- A means of gaining career security.
- A means of assuring the public that individual professionals are up-to-date.
- A method whereby you can demonstrate and verify your proficiency.
- A way of providing employers with a competent and adaptable workforce.
I am often asked how a high school dropout from New Jersey started his own contracting company, became an industry leader, nationally known speaker and college professor? The method I used was a self-administered PDP starting with education, from finishing high-school while working full-time, to getting an undergraduate degree at night, completing a Master’s Program and finally earning a Ph.D. in Construction Management while working as an assistant professor. I am asked how did I found the first and largest surety consulting firm in the country and go on to consult to hundreds of construction companies over the second half on my career? What allowed me to have such a varied career in the construction industry was life-long learning driven by a hunger to knowledge.
Even as a young high school student working summers in construction I was eager to learn more about the industry that became my chosen career. I wanted to know everything about everything, and the more I learned the more I realized how much I didn’t know so I went about finding ways to learn more. For most of us accumulating a little knowledge nurtures an appetite for learning, and accruing more information leads to an unquenchable thirst for knowledge.
A Professional Development Program begins with a commitment to lifelong learning. If you’re eager to “know more” and humble enough to know you can never know enough, you have what it takes to make a commitment to lifelong learning.
Self-Directed Professional Development
To this day I am still that same “teenage apprentice” that decided I better “teach myself” what I needed to learn because no one else seemed ready, willing, or able to do it for me. The following principles emerge from Self Directed Professional Development:
- Professional development must include personal development because “people skills” are as important as business, management, and technical skills.
- It is important to identify subjects or areas that need improvement or should be learned.
- It is going to take time, so establish a three-year professional development plan and disciplined yourself to stick to it.
- Working with and studying with another or with a group provides the opportunity to exchange ideas, learn from each other and offers encouragement.
- Understanding that the world’s body of knowledge is captured in books, you need to determine to create an attitude and change behaviors so that reading becomes a habit. Serious managers and entrepreneurs read as many as 12 non-fiction books a year with six as a minimum. (My wife and sister regularly read more than 50 books a year.) Get into the habit of reading with a highlighter in hand which is the first step in creating an archive to refer to later when needed.
- Since the cornerstone of professional development is reading, knowing what to read is critical to busy people. The initial subjects should include Management, Leadership, Business Development, Economic Forecasting, Personal Development and Business Classics. Reading a minimum of six non-fiction books a year is an essential part of professional and personal development and more than six is far better.
- There are a number of good books on body language, a necessary skill in accurate communication. You can then become conscious of studying people more thoroughly through their actions as well as their words when interacting; an excellent skillset to perfect. It has great value in marketing, negotiating and presentations, and also makes you aware of how you appear to others.
- If at all possible find someone like a mentor, a study-partner, a friend or spouse who would be willing to discuss your progress and assist in your professional development efforts.
It’s All Up to You
A multi-year, self-administered Professional Development Program should be flexible because the pace of professional and personal development is set by the participant, and the learning opportunities and bodies of knowledge change over time. The significance of multi-year reflects the length of commitment and investment you are making. The plan should be updated annually, preferably in consultation with a mentor who hopefully will be available throughout the year for assistance and consultation. Most of that interaction should be prompted by you as you see the need. And remember, effective professional development begins with your commitment to “lifelong learning”.