Monday, June 23, 2014

We are surrounded by experts

Consider your personal development plan. What topics do you have on your agenda for the next year? Perhaps you want to attend a conference and learn from your peers about a specific topic. Or maybe you want to attend a seminar to learn specific skills around a specific topic. These are good opportunities in professional growth, to prepare you for the immediate future challenges of your career and industry. Such professional development courses are a staple in both industry and higher education.

But these are not the only opportunities to learn new skills. Those of us in higher education are fortunate to have another avenue: our campus peers.

The faculty on our campuses have spent years to become experts in their fields. And they are your colleagues. Just as we rely on relationships between our peers in IT to get things done, to call on favors, we can use our connection with campus to learn from our faculty. You might audit a class (often for no cost!) and spend an entire semester to do a "deep dive" on a new skill. Or you might ask one of the faculty to give advice or coaching to pick up a new topic, or to improve an existing strength. If you feel particularly motivated, you might work with a faculty adviser to build a program out of these leadership and management skills, and either complete a Master's degree or acquire a second Bachelor's degree.

Take a moment to identify your skills inventory. In what areas would you like to develop yourself? Now consider who are your experts inside the campus who might help you. A few examples of important leadership and management skills:

Public speaking
You might find this in your drama department. Learn how to present yourself, and how to project your voice across a room without shouting.
Written communication
Every university has a creative writing department. Reach out to your liberal arts faculty.
Conflict resolution
Does your institution have an executive MBA program? Talk with faculty in that area to get help, or look for classes within the program that you might audit. You might also look at courses that address the art of negotiation.
Building a budget
You will likely learn more about this from your economics department, where you learn how to account for the total cost of operations, about carryforward and reserves.
Creating a workplan
Most universities have a business department. You might also look at other planning-oriented fields such as hotel management.
How can you convince others to adopt your point of view? This is a skill that successful leaders develop throughout their career. For a jumpstart in this important area, consider your rhetoric department. The definition of rhetoric is persuasion.
Managing others
Management is more than simply handing out assignments. This area of expertise also encompasses time tracking and delegation, and is likely taught as part of any course on project management.
Reach out to your faculty and use your connections with campus experts to learn something new. Remember that in higher education, we are surrounded by experts.
photo: Saad Faruque

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