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Positive Professional Development--An Evolving Idea for Managing Your Career

Positive Choices

For the past several months I've slowly been formulating ideas on what I feel is a different process for career managment and growth that's necessary to be successful in a new economy. I've been sharing these ideas here in their raw state, as they develop. The more I share, the more clarity I get about what I'm trying to understand and communicate. 

Right now, I see Postive PD as a few things:

  • Positive PD is mindset, that's focused on finding the intersection between your core strengths and the opportunities that you find in the world.  It's clear that static, career ladder type work is not the wave of the future. You will have to adapt on a regular basis. You need to strive for constant clarity about who you are and what you want and awareness of how you fit into the opportunities that are constantly presenting themselves to you. 
  • Positive PD is about asking the right kinds of questions. The questions we ask end up driving the work that we do. In Positive PD, we are deliberately focusing on asking the right kinds of questions--positive questionsimportant questions. Positive questions help us focus on solutions, not problems. Important questions help guide us to the work and ideas that are most likely to engage our passions and talents. Important questions also help us make a difference. 
  • Positive PD is also about working in positive community with others who are seeking their own professional growth. Although I've done a lot of individual career coaching, I've found that the most powerful strategy for working with people is in groups. There's something about the dynamic that develops when groups of people are working together that is far more energizing and motivating than anything a coach can do one-on-one. Groups also combat that sense of isolation that can develop for people as they work on their career goals. It helps to work with others involved in the same pursuits who can hold you accountable and help you find clarity. 
  • Positive PD uses new tools for new work. We have always had interest inventories, skills checklists, learning plans and other tools to help us with career management. But the work we do now requires us to use different tools--visual tools, story frames,  tools that help us cultivate a growth mindset and engage in more strategic reflection and action.  If we want to ride the tides of a more volatile work environment, we must be willing to do the work that will keep us in front of changes. We need to engage more deeply, pro-actively and positively with our own growth. 
  • Positive PD is a process, not an event. There was a time when event-based career management worked. You looked at what you wanted to do when you graduated from school, maybe you thought about it if you saw an opportunity at your employer or if you became unhappy with your job. But that sort of event-based thinking will not work anymore. Things move too quickly and you will always be reacting if you continue an event-based approach to career growth and management. The only way to stay in front of developments is by continually working on yourself. 
  • Related to the idea of Positive PD as a process, Positive PD is about adopting healthy career habits. Just like the best way to maintain your weight is by developing healthy eating and exercise habits, rather than yo yo dieting,  Positive Professional Development is about committing to regular healthy career habits that make you stronger, more flexible and more resilient. These are habits like intentional reflection,  strategic action and developing your essential core. 

Most of all, I see Positive Professional Development as a long-term investment in the only asset you really have--yourself. Too often I see people turning themselves over to their organizations for development, or ignoring their development altogether. This is tragic to me. It is a tremendous waste of talent. Failing to make that investment in yourself can leave you floundering in the wake of changes or unemployment, leaving you reacting to events rather than pro-actively taking advantage of new opportunities. When you invest in yourself, you build value for the long-term and give yourself the control and power you need to shape your own career, rather than having it shaped for you. 



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Wow. You and I are clearly on the same wavelength about this stuff.

I've been running a course with Julie Clarenbach using similar principles:

And for visual tools, I really like the stuff Christine Martell at VisualsSpeak is doing:

We are on the same wavelength, Jo, including the stuff with Christine! I've actually been using her Image Center as part of the work I'm doing. And I'm getting ready to launch a course this fall that allows people to delve into this more deeply. We should definitely chat sometime!

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