Learning and development is an ever-growing and diverse field – and it needs to be! Developing successful learning experiences requires the immense knowledge, skills and resources of this large community. There is no single path to becoming a member of the community; if you were to ask any number of individuals to tell how and why they are in L&D, each would have a different story.
Think of your own story. You know where you are and how you got here, but do you know where you would like to go next? Start by approaching your own professional development the same way you would approach the development of any learning program. Many instructional designers use some form of the ADDIE model (analysis, design, development, implementation and evaluation), because it works. Since ADDIE is such an important tool in developing learning experiences, consider using it to help guide your own professional and career development.
Your client is you. Answer for yourself the same questions you would ask any client: Is there a particular position that you want? An organization that you want to become a part of? Does your current organization already have a career path that you can follow, and is that path what you want? What are your current skill and knowledge levels, and where are there gaps? What resources do you have?
Consider the results of your self-assessment, and develop a pathway, roadmap, mind map or blueprint for professional development. Whether you have access to a robust and progressive professional development program or you’re on your own, prepare an individualized development plan that includes objectives, assessments, and SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound).
Start to focus on the details of your plan, and determine what tools and resources are necessary to reach your goals. Your current employment and education may factor into what you want to do. Your organization may thrive on professional development and encourage and support discovery activities so that you can grow, learn and contribute in ways that are new, exciting and “out of the box.” Other organizations may not have the funds and opportunities to help develop and grow your career, in which case you can reach out to local, national or international L&D organizations, which may be able to provide direction and support and connect you with others in the community.
It takes a lot of planning to get to this stage. If your plan is well thought-out and realistic, implementation can be exciting. For this stage, you can go to relevant workshops, learn a new software or a new skill, and connect with others who are on a similar path. It may be difficult to keep your focus or motivation during this phase, and you may find that some rewards take longer than you expected. Keep referring back to the plan you developed.
Evaluation may be the last phase of ADDIE, but you’ve actually been evaluating and re-evaluating your plan and your progress throughout the entire process. Evaluation is what helps shape your path. Review your objectives, resources and goals, and determine whether you are still headed in the right direction. You may decide to make changes as new opportunities arise and you reflect on your experiences.
Finally, just as you are evaluating throughout your professional development, don’t forget to include the “soft skills,” such as emotional intelligence, leadership, problem-solving, critical thinking and communication. These skills are vital, and building your expertise in them should be an integral part of every step of your professional development. Take every opportunity you can to learn, grow and develop this most important project: your own professional development.