Awareness Article: Professional Development

Awareness Article: Professional Development

“Got Education?” is the slogan on the team T-shirts of UMKC School of Education staff members running a 10K for the Children’s Therapeutic Learning Center. The slogan brings a smile from both the directness and the irony of the statement. As many in the community look to university employees as experts in many areas, how do staff members refine their expertise and increase their proficiencies? How can UMKC employees find time to increase knowledge and skills, where are the training opportunities found, and why should this be a priority?

UMKC offers many opportunities for employees to pursue professional development at the university, school, department and personal level. The HR Training and Development team offers classes each month that cover topics ranging from supervisory development to office politics and are open to all UMKC employees. Place a reminder on your Outlook calendar each month to visit the website and sign-up for the classes that would be beneficial.

One of the great opportunities for all employees to pursue professional development at the personal level is myLearn. This is an electronic/web based program that allows individuals to pursue everything from technical skills to interpersonal skills.  Employees can log on to the website anytime, from anywhere, and work at their own pace.  Current skills can be polished and improved to aid a present position, new skills can be learned which could increase qualification for a new position, or dispositions could be developed into leadership skills. MyLearn includes specific courses which prepare you for official “certification” such as in Excel that is recognized by many as a qualifier of skills.

The breadth of subject areas of books available is vast; everything from computer programming to taking better pictures with an iPhone. A very small sample of the book titles which can be accessed through myLearn are listed below:

  • Impatient Optimist:  Bill Gates in His Own Words
  • Your Creative Brain: Seven Steps to Maximize Imagination, Productivity, and
  • Innovation in Your Life
  • 175 Ways to Get More Done in Less Time!
  • Making eLearning Stick All-in-One for Dummies
  • Building Websites
  • Pro C# 5.0 and the .NET 4.5 Framework
  • When Bad Grammar Happens to Good People:  How to Avoid Common Errors in English
  • VCP VMware Certified Professional on vSphere 5 Study Guide
  • The First-Time Manager
  • Capturing Better Photos & Video with your iPhone

The concept of myLearn is for employees to improve their skills and abilities to become better employees. MyLearn can be used while on the job, as long as it does not interfere with regular duties. Plan an hour or so each week to take a course, read a portion of one of the books, or listen to an audio chapter. Development of better time management skills leads to more efficient use of time, which can be used to pursue developing more skills, which makes for better employees and a better university. Dedicate time each week to professional development by blocking out one hour on your calendar and committing to using that hour for improving job skills.

Take time to learn to navigate through myLearn. It can be daunting at first and there is a lot of information to wade through. Ask for a small group in-service or locate someone who has successfully navigated the site and ask for a one-on-one guided walk-through. After the initial walk-through, use bookmarks and favorites to make returning an easier process.  Be persistent, it is worth the effort.

Be responsible when creating a personal development plan. Do not let it interfere with meeting deadlines for other projects or from maintaining regular duties. Talk to supervisors and department heads about creating a personal professional development plan. Seek input from others as to what skills would be wise to develop. Create a challenge with deadlines and rewards for meeting the goals. Share your successes and challenges with Staff Council’s Professional Development Committee.

Ideas to encourage making professional development part of a weekly routine could include creating a group and planning activities centered on professional development. Learning lunches can be planned for once a week, or once a month, where employees can get together and discuss what professional development has been pursued, what has been learned, tips can be shared with each other and continuous improvement can be encouraged to increase the overall performance of the whole department. For further ideas or help with any professional development needs, please contact the Human Resource Department at 235-1621 or umkchrtraining@umkc.edu.