Exploring your options and building skillsBy Marshall Brown
Q: I am a mid-level meetings manager in my assn and love what I do. However I would really like to expand my skill set and explore training and education career opportunities. How do you suggest I do this?
A: Good for you that you are taking the time to develop your skills. As I have said in previous articles, individuals must take charge of their own careers and not wait for someone to tell them to develop other skills. Kudos to you for doing this!
Before I make some suggestions, I would encourage you to assess what about training and education is appealing to you. You don¹t have to choose between meeting planning and training and education. Perhaps there is a way to combine your love for meeting plan with your interests in training. Many assns (especially smaller ones) have combined these two necessary functions into one.
Now, some ideas (and please, readers, if you have additional ideas maybe you have done this yourself feel free to write me and I will share them in another column).
Have you discussed this interest with anyone in your assn? I suggest talking with your immediate supervisor. Explain to him or her that YES you love what you do, but you would like to explore some other skills. Perhaps there is a training project you could assist with to get some experience. Volunteer to help the training manager in your assn (assuming you have one) with developing a curriculum for an upcoming program. Strategize the types of education programs your members might need and determine how you could help make them happen. Unlike corporate America, assns are great places to explore opportunities other than what you were hired to do.
Assns also are great places to develop skills and networks. Consider going to meetings (maybe even get involved) at the local chapter of the American Society of Training and Development. They have a very active chapter in the DC area (the national is in Alexandria VA) and would be an excellent place to network with folks doing the things you might want to be doing. It¹s important to start associating with ³like minded people² people that are doing the things you want to do, have similar interests and can introduce you to other training professionals.
What about finding a person that is experienced in training and education who could act as a mentor? Again, developing your network will help with this.
As you meet people, look for someone you connect with, who is experienced in the area you are looking into, and who might be interested in helping someone ³learn the ropes.² Lots of people are willing to do this you just need to ask. Be specific about what you are looking for and what kind of time commitment it will take.
Do you belong to any assns now? Do you volunteer in your community? If so, volunteer to develop some training and education programs for those organizations. You will not only benefit the organizations, but you will gain experience to add to your résumé and talk about during informational (and eventually, job) interviews.
If you find out after exploring the profession of training and education that you aren¹t interested, that¹s fine too. At least you spent some time researching it and getting answers to your questions. You will be more prepared if you decide to consider other professions in the future. Although we focused here on training and education, the same suggestions would apply when exploring other career opportunities.
Again, I want to commend you for continuing to challenge yourself with new opportunities. Life is an adventure, now just go find it! Wishing you all the best you deserve it!