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Tips For Making Your Professional Development A Priority

October 9, 2020

Kerry Salvo

Growing and developing as a professional is so important for all of us – we meet new people and broaden our networks, learn new tools and strategies to apply on the job, and even come up with those big ideas that can propel us to the next level.

Sometimes, these opportunities crop up spontaneously, but more often, we need to be mindful of taking the time and prioritizing our professional development (PD).

Let’s be honest, how many of you have registered for a webinar, been unable to attend it live, had every intention of clicking on the link to watch it later? *Raises hand.*

While there’s not one gold standard for how to approach your own PD, here are a couple of tips that might get you on the right path:

  • Subscribe to a few blogs, vlogs, or Podcasts related to topics you are interested in (or know you need to learn more about). Then, schedule (yes, actually put it on your calendar) a recurring 30-minute weekly meeting when you commit to reading or watching them. A lot of these are free to subscribe to and contain short and easily digestible snippets of information. Whether you are an auditory, visual, or read/write learner, there’s something for you in these formats. (ACA has its own camp-focused Podcast, CampWire, and there are a few other great summer camp focused ones too if you just do a search.)
  • Find a PD buddy. I don’t know about you, but accountability can go a long way for me. If you have a colleague who also commits to attending a webinar and then you schedule coffee or a Zoom session to discuss takeaways, or you tell your supervisor that you want to share something from an article you are reading with them, you might be more likely to actually attend the session or finish the article.
  • Look into getting a mentor. While this is a long-term commitment, a good mentor can have a huge impact on you both personally and professionally. (And, if you’re not sure where to start, reach out to us here at ACA, New England and we might be able to help identify some mentor candidates.)
  • Map out your year and create an annual professional development plan. Just like planning and running camp is a year-round process, your own PD should be too. By doing this, you can identify quieter pockets of times and actively seek out workshops taking place then. Your plan doesn’t have to be complex (maybe it’s a couple of books you want to read and one training you’d like to go to), but it should be created in conjunction with your supervisor (and if you’re a supervisor, do this with your staff reports). When your camp/ organization understands the importance of professional development and supports your growth, we all win! And, if you need help making the case for a program or workshop, ask the sponsoring organization to help. I know I have written letters to school departments to help potential attendees express the value of our annual conference to their principal or supervisor.

We know this is a tough year for many and budgets are tight. There are lots of free resources out there – and, never be afraid to ask for financial assistance if there’s something that you really want to attend, but the cost is a barrier – many organizations are happy to help work something out!

These are just a few suggestions, and I bet many of you have some other great PD strategies you use too. Feel free to share them with me and we can always put out a Part 2 of this post with some of your ideas!

Kerry Salvo is the Director of Education & Professional Development at ACA, New England. Kerry plans our annual New England Camp Conference and our other educational and professional development offerings.

Originally from Portland, ME, Kerry has worked for Camp Fire North Shore, City Year Boston, the YMCA of Southern Maine, and the Portland Public Schools. Kerry holds an Ed.M. in Education Policy and Management from Harvard University, a B.A. in Sociology and French from Boston College and is a proud AmeriCorps*VISTA alumna. In her spare time, Kerry enjoys jogging, Zumba, doing crossword puzzles, and spending time with her nieces and nephews!

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