There has been some ongoing debate lately about the importance of professional development. The reasons I have heard for not doing professional development activities include;
- I don’t have the luxury of doing any professional development, I need to be at ‘the bench’
- My position is grant-funded, this doesn’t allow for professional development
- My supervisor isn’t supportive of any professional development activities
- Most professional development courses are a waste of time
- Professional development is for people who are performing below expectations or for people who want a promotion
Like most reasons for not doing something, there is some validity to all of these excuses. Very few people have spare time for professional development, not all courses will suit every individual and certainly some individuals are told to complete professional development activities to address a deficiency in their performance. However, professional development is about so much more than simply addressing deficits and attending a few courses. Professional development done in the right way is about enhancing your strengths as much as it is about improving on your weaknesses and when planned for correctly it doesn’t need to be a huge time burden. Given the multitude of arguments for and against professional development I thought I would compile a few lists of why I think professional development is vitally important.
What does encouraging staff to do professional development activities achieve?
- Boosts staff morale and builds staff loyalty
- Encourages staff to be proactive and use initiative
- Promotes the growth and development of your staff
- Builds the agility and adaptability of your staff
How can professional development activities improve at the bench research?
- Increased efficiency through better planning and better time management
- Improved interpersonal skills
- Better written and oral communication
- Increased networking opportunities and networking skill development
- Exposure to new ideas and new ways of thinking
What constitutes professional development?
- Formal education, training, courses, etc.
- Mentoring (both as a mentee and a mentor)
- Job shadowing or planned exposures to other job roles or functions (such as teaching opportunities for lab-based staff)
- Team projects or collaborations
- Journal clubs
- Active participation in committees
What has professional development done for me personally in the last 2-3 years?
- Increased confidence and capability to effectively communicate key ideas with senior staff
- Improved resilience and agility
- Greater presence and increased networking opportunities
- Improved efficiency through better planning and project management skill development
- Increased awareness of the transferable skills I have and how these can be developed to improve my employability in the future
I am sure I have not mentioned every benefit or even every excuse, for or against professional development, but hopefully I have demonstrated that time invested in professional development is not time lost to research. That gains in efficiency, interpersonal skills, networking opportunities etc. outweigh any time expenditure afforded to professional development.