Several years ago, in a marketing team meeting, as we discussed our professional development plans for the upcoming quarter, one of my colleagues blurted out "I don't have time to for professional development. I'm too busy. I can't take a day to go to a conference or a workshop."
Neither our boss nor the rest of the team let her off easy on that comment. The marketing landscape is changing every day, with new tools and tactics to be aware of coming at you all the time. If you simply throw up your hands and say "I'm too busy!", where do you see your career heading?
My friend Gini Dietrich brought this up over on the Spin Sucks blog recently. And since professional development for content marketers was the topic of my recent #CMworld chat, this seems like a great time to share some of my favorite tips and resources for professional development.
Start by creating a professional development plan
I know planning is an often overlooked activity in the content marketing world, but the best way to ensure you're focusing your limited time and resources on the right professional development activities is to document your professional development plan. What are the areas you need to focus on to reach your professional goals over the next 12 months? And what activities can get you there? Yes, paid training and conferences should be in the mix but so should on-the-job projects and committees, volunteer work, company sponsored training, books, blogs, white papers, podcasts, and industry networking activities. I created a helpful template for getting your career development plan organized, and recommend you start there.
Useful educational resources for content marketers
OK, now that you have your career development plan documented, what are some of the external resources you should check out? One of my primary ways of keeping professional development front-and-center on a daily basis is by reading a range of informative content marketing and social media blogs. My current favorites include Marketing Profs, Content Marketing Institute, and Social Media Examiner. I've captured more of my favorite blogs, which I read every week, in this list.ly: Must-read content marketing and social media blogs.
Podcasts make up another big chunk of my weekly professional development time, thanks in large part to their portability. I can listen to them during my daily commute, or while doing chores around the house. I listen to This American Life and CMI's This Old Marketing every week, and listen to a number of other podcasts when the special guest or topic is of interest.
As time allows, I also participate in a number of recurring twitter chats on marketing topics. It's amazing how much you can learn from your peers. And best of all, unlike some of the other learning venues, twitter chats are interactive, and provide you with the opportunity to ask your peers questions that can help you improve your skills and work process,
I'm a big proponent of carving out time to attend industry conferences like Content Marketing World. Unlike self-study opportunities which can often be interrupted by your day-to-day responsibilities, packing your bags and heading to a conference provides you with a focused, immersive learning experience. For a comprehensive list of national and regional conferences, check out this post from Curata.
For my own professional development, I've frequently taken on freelance or volunteer positions outside of my regular job that would allow me to build out new skills. That has the added benefit of providing fuel for your LinkedIn profile, and broadening your professional network while making yourself more employable. My moonlighting gigs allowed me to explore podcasting, learn how to build online communities, keep my arts and entertainment writing dream alive, and gain hands-on social media strategy experience. All of which helped keep me engaged in my current full time job, while preparing me for taking on new challenges in future roles.
So, how about it? Are you ready to take charge of your professional development? What do you want to learn next?