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10 Ways To Jump Start Your Professional Development

“Education isn’t for getting a job. It’s about developing yourself as a human being.” 
— Liz Berry

In an ideal world child and family welfare practitioners would be guaranteed to receive quality supervision on demand and unlimited access to professional development opportunities. Obviously this ideal is not possible and many practitioners struggle to receive much needed support to continue to grow their practice skills. Even if practitioners are fortunate and do receive great supervision and regular training opportunities, chances are they will still need to manage their professional learning and development.

So what can you do to ensure that you continue to learn, develop your skills and receive the support and feedback that are essential for quality practice?

1. Seek external supervision. There are a number of great reasons to consider accessing external supervision. If quality supervision, that meets you at your needs, is not available to you, invest in external supervision.

2. Register for a course or a class. Book in for a conference or attend a forum. Look at professional development calendars and courses. Identify which learning opportunities best seem to suit your needs. Speak to your supervisor or manager and see what sort of support your organization is able to offer you and make a plan!

3. Read.  Look for current research and professional practice articles. Subscribe to professional journals, on-line or hard copy. Keep your eyes open for new books and don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations from your colleagues. Odds are good that everyone around you is looking to develop their knowledge through regular reading too. If you are feeling exceptionally dedicated, consider starting a practitioner’s book club!

4. Join a face-to-face or on-line ‘community of practice’ intended for Child and Family Welfare practitioners. If there is nothing available locally, no problem! One of the great things about current information technology is there is no need for any practitioner to practice in isolation. If you can’t find groups, ask around!

5. Find like minded colleagues who want to develop their practice. Include practitioners with different ranges of experience or complimentary roles. Consider developing an informal or formal mentoring network.

6. Keep up to date with what leading child and family welfare experts are thinking and doing by reading their blogs. Subscribe to blogs you want to read on a regular basis via email or an RSS reader, so that you’ll be alerted as soon as new postings are made.

7. Explore Google Alerts. Monitor the web for information about topics of interest using Google Alerts. This strategy is so simple but can provide you with a regular source of current information related to your areas of interest.

8. Sign up to LinkedIn and join a group for child and family welfare practitioners. There are some excellent groups both nationally and internationally. Feeling super inspired? Start a group of your own!

9. Commit to participate. It’s not enough to be a professional development voyeur. You have to be willing to speak up, get involved, jump in! Chair a meeting, organize an event to share critical reflection and coffee, write a blog post or a journal article. There’s lots of different ways you can interact. Find ones that challenge you to stretch your practice and grow your skills!

10. Keep a critical reflection journal. Make regular time to be self-reflexive. Consider how your self-location, identity, practice frameworks, ethical perspectives, and worldview influence the work you are doing. Use your journal as an opportunity to chart your professional development journey: challenges and successes!

Of course this list isn’t everything that you could do to work on your professional development. It does however, provide some concrete ideas to get you started. Pick one or two things, give them a try and let me know how you go!

Fiona McColl – PeakCare Training and Sector Development Manager

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