Infusing Professional Development Into Your Schedule

CR_July2014_finalBy: Christine Rigamer, APR , Communications Manager

You know the feeling you get after attending a great conference? You’re empowered and ready to take on any challenge, yet you have just a little twinge of exhaustion after trying your very best to emulate a human sponge and absorb all the latest industry trends.

Do you ever wish you could take all that inspiration, networking and professional development and infuse it into your daily life? With varying levels of monetary and time commitments, chances are there’s at least one (if not more) leadership and professional development program that can complement your current schedule and budget without leaving you feeling stretched.

If you’re able to dedicate a few hours of your weekend, Junior League of New Orleans (JLNO) hosts an annual “Get on Board” training program in early March. Held on two consecutive Saturdays, this condensed course gives you a comprehensive view of what it’s like to serve on a board and the responsibilities associated with it. Plus, if you are looking for an outlet to give back to the community with your new skills, JLNO will even match you with a nonprofit at the end of the two sessions – talk about maximizing your time!

If you’re more flexible in the evenings, the Committee for a Better New Orleans’ annual Bryan Bell Leadership Forum and the Young Leadership Council (YLC) Leadership Development Series are terrific options to consider. Both programs meet once a week in the evenings after work during the Fall. By dedicating one night after work for 10 weeks in a row, you can create new connections and develop leadership skills while you are at it.

If dedicating one full day per month is easier to swing, a multi-month program like  Leadership Jefferson, the New Orleans Regional Leadership Institute (NORLI), Leadership Louisiana or Loyola University’s Institute of Politics might be a good fit. These programs attract both established and emerging leaders and, while self-nominations are encouraged for these programs, the process is competitive and members are by invitation only.

If you prefer setting your own schedule, you may want to see if your industry offers accreditation programs that can work around your existing commitments. This Fall, I received my Accreditation in Public Relations (APR), which was a multi-step process that approved candidates have up to a year to complete. The program was flexible enough to where I was able to set my own timeline and deadlines.

If your schedule is a little unpredictable and you’re unable to commit to a program with a deadline or consistent schedule, luncheons are a great opportunity for professional development. By dedicating an hour or two every other week to attend one luncheon, you can learn new skills and grow your professional network. Local chambers are great resources for networking and business card exchanges, while industry focused groups like Association for Fundraising Professionals – New Orleans Chapter (AFP New Orleans) and the Public Relations Association of Louisiana – New Orleans Chapter (PRAL NOLA) offer monthly luncheons focused on industry trends.

If setting aside a few days in a row works best for you, it’s always good to keep an eye out for conferences taking place in your hometown. For example, AFP holds an annual June conference in New Orleans that features nationally known speakers like Gail Perry of Fired Up Fundraising. The conference pulls regional attendees ranging from Dallas, Houston, Gulfport, Baton Rouge, Lafayette and more! By attending conferences taking place in your own backyard, you can take advantage of great professional development and networking without the added travel time and expense associated with of an out of town conference.

Regardless of your field, ongoing professional development is critical to remaining relevant and competitive. The key to picking the right program for you is being honest and upfront with yourself when evaluating your time, capacity and existing commitments. But remember – whatever time you are able to allocate to professional development is ultimately an investment in yourself and your career path.