6 tips to keep up with professional development in a hybrid world

By Jennifer Rogers (LinkedIn), governor at large, NTEA Generation Next

This article was originally published in the January 2023 issue of Generation Next Edition.

Let's face it: the pandemic altered both our personal lives and the way we conduct ourselves in the workplace. It seemed like everything shifted. Online meetings started to take precedence, information was shared via the cloud, and email became the main mode of communication; it became less personal, more computerized, and a touch disorienting.

When it comes to interacting with clients and employees, we're all getting used to this new normal, but it also appears that some things are actually returning to normal. More live events are happening, there are more in-person meetings, and some of us are going back into the office full-time. I don’t know about you, but it feels like we can begin to focus once more on our professional development as the world begins to "level out" in some ways.

In this hybrid, in-person/ digital era, here are six tips for how to keep improving in your professional development:

1. Read as much as you can in as many formats as you can.

Reading will always be a terrific way to learn new things, but which format is best—articles, books, journals, etc.? The answer is all of them.

Reading in various formats adds variety to the way you learn while also challenging your thinking. Dive into a topic with a book or get a condensed version with an article. Avoid developing tunnel vision by reading only about your industry; instead, broaden your scope and look for patterns in other sectors that could assist you in resolving problems or providing answers to questions you may have regarding your own industry.

2. Podcasts are taking the world by storm and there are some pretty good ones out there.

Everyone’s favored method of information consumption seems to be podcasts these days. Podcasts have made it easier for everyone to learn about things like philosophy, physics, politics, and business that many people would have to go to an Ivy League school to learn.

If I hear about a podcast from a colleague or friend, I usually look it up and give it a listen to see if it's any good. Almost always, I end up becoming a devoted listener. (Side note: Check out “The Huberman Lab,” “Making Sense with Sam Harris,” and “Diary of a CEO”; they're all excellent  podcasts and feel like gymnastics for the brain.)

3. Make the in-person interactions count.

Even if we are engaging more in person, it still feels like there aren't many opportunities. Make the in-person, networking interactions count. Ask them how they are doing, how their families are doing, and what they have been up to in their spare time, rather than just talking business. Although it is okay to talk about work in person, take the time during these interactions to talk about more than just work and build that professional relationship.

4. Participate in social media, especially LinkedIn.

Social media is still a dominant force in communication. There is a limitless supply of information available on various platforms. For business, LinkedIn is a great resource to interact with colleagues and customers. Become a member of some of the groups you relate to; read postings to find out what subjects matter to others; and comment on their posts. Take time to read the most recent posts and turn off notifications so they don't become a distraction.

5. Attend webinars.

Webinars often offer interviews and other content that you would have to pay hundreds of dollars to see in person. Webinars are different because they often have live streaming and a chat feature that lets you interact with the speakers. As a result, learning becomes active, not passive.

Shameless Plug: Generation Next recently jumped on the webinar bandwagon and started a quarterly webinar series called "What's Next with Gen Next." This is a conversation between a Generation Next board member and a mover and shaker in the work truck industry. In the first episode, which aired in January of this year, Ashley Pace, vice chair of Generation Next Board of Governors, spoke with Andrew Dawson, marketing and advertising manager for Muncie Power Products and former Generation Next Board og Governors Chair. This insightful and enlightening session provided insight on how to make your way in the work truck industry. Be sure to register for future webinars and look through previous interviews on the Generation Next LinkedIn and Facebook pages, as we intend to have a variety of topics and guests.

6. Attend in-person conferences.

Attending in-person or hybrid conferences gives you the chance to learn from business leaders and subject-matter experts. Keynote speakers and workshops offer fantastic chances to learn something new or a new way to use something old. Plus, the opportunity to meet with multiple customers in one location is priceless, and you can connect with others in your industry. One option taking place very soon is Work Truck Week, March 7-10.

There are opportunities to engage with Generation Next members during the event. For example, the Leadership Workshop & Networking Reception: EQ + TQ - Positive Workplace Climate will be held Wednesday, March 8 from 2:30-5:30 p.m., and Generation Next board members will be at NTEA booth 3500 on on Thursday, March 9 from 10 a.m.-noon. Pleae stop by and say hello! View all opportunities here.

Basically, we all need to stay current with the latest networking, communication, and connection developments. Refusing to adapt will only yield bad results. You won't lose if you embrace technology, the changing environment, and the need to stay on top of how to improve your professional network and continue to develop your professional skill set. 

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