Fitting Professional Development into your Busy Life

As student affairs professionals, we understand the importance of continual education and staying current with new trends.  However we often find it difficult to fit professional development into our everyday lives.  It seems fitting as we near conference season to talk about ways to develop as professionals beyond attending a conference.   Below are 10 ways to work professional development into your routine:


1.)     Plan ahead and attend a conference:  Don’t just attend a conference but make the most of it.  Attend sessions on topics related to your position, but also about larger trends about student populations.  You never know when a topic will relate to your daily work or spark a new set of ideas.  While at the conference, mingle with others.  Attend socials, exchange business cards, get involved, and introduce yourself to presenters.  Also mix it up a bit, most people stick with attending the same conference every year.  Branch out and attend an institute or a specialized conference.  Try attending a local conference to build up your local network.  Look for information about the 1st TJA Conference in 2012 and plan on attending that.

2.)    Read, read, read:  Read journals, newspapers, blogs, and other literature that will keep you posted on a regular basis.  Don’t think you have time to read, come into work 30 minutes early once or twice a week and read an article.  It is easy to build reading in, if you plan ahead.  Or read over lunch at your desk.

3.)    Share, share, share:  Reading new information is an important part of learning new material, but often sharing information can spark great conversations in the office about the current research.  Hearing what other people think about a topic can push your learning and thinking even farther.  Once a month plan with staff in your division a lunch discussion around an article that everyone reads. 

4.)    Take a class:  Many colleges and universities allow their staff to take classes for free or a reduced cost.  If this is the case, don’t miss out!  Not only will the material help you learn a new skill, but the technology that is being utilized inside the classroom will help you contact with what your students are doing on a daily basis.

5.)    Volunteer:  Ask your supervisor to volunteer to lead a committee within your department, join a committee within your division, help plan a mini conference for Student Affairs professionals within your school, or any other opportunity outside of your job description.  These opportunities push you to take on new roles within your division and learn a new set of skills.

6.)    Mentor a Graduate Student or New Professional:  Being a mentor can lead to many opportunities for you to share your knowledge and experience with others, but you will also reap the rewards as well.  A graduate student or new professional will challenge you to think about the student affairs world differently, lend you books and articles that they are reading in class, and open your eyes to how things in our field continually change.

7.)    Incorporate Development into Meetings:  Make time during staff meetings or regular meetings with your supervisor or supervisee to discuss topics beyond the scope of the job.  Development could range from inviting a presenter from another department in to discuss what they are doing in their area to a topic that all members of the organization are struggling with and using the meeting as a brainstorming session.

8.)    Reach out:  As student affairs professionals we tend to make many friends at other institutions through committees, graduate programs, organizations, or past colleagues, but we often forget to spark discussions with this network to discuss challenges, successes, or great ideas.  Take the time to call or email with a past colleague to hear what is new at their institution.

9.)    Access your strengths and weaknesses:  Take an inventory of where your strengths and weaknesses are.    There are many tools that can be purchased to tell you your strengths and weakness, but this can easily be accomplished by having a conversation with a supervisor, supervisee or a peer.  When you figure out what they are, create a list of ways that you can work to improve your weaknesses and help develop others with your strengths.  Use your strengths to present at a student conference or blog about your experiences on the TJA site.

10.) Get involved!  Join The Jersey Alliance!  One of the best places to work to develop your skills and stay current with trends would be to attend a meeting, write for TJA’s blog, join a committee, or reach out and find other ways this new organization could use your help.  By getting involved, you reap the rewards-larger network, exposure to new ideas and skills, and a large pot of knowledge.

If you have any additional ways that have helped you to continually develop as a Student Affairs professional, please feel free to comment to this blog!


Look forward to meeting you at our next meeting.

Kelly Hennessy, TCNJ


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