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I've always been a big believer in life-long learning and investing in myself. From making the decision to pay for my own IABC membership for the first few years of my career, to soaking up every book, article and opportunity that presented itself, I believe professional development (PD) has been a key contributor to my success.

I honestly think that learning and success are correlated, as is personal investment in your success. Perhaps there is a certain kind of person who takes the initiative versus the one who sits back and waits for things to be provided (and then complains that no-one cares and opportunities don't exist).

The early investment in IABC (both money and time) and the commitment to learn any way I could, meant that through the majority of my career (since 1998 - OMG that's 20 years) - my employers eventually paid for all of my memberships and professional development. It soon became a bargaining tactic as I moved from position to position, eventually leading Internal Communication for Canada's largest private-sector employer. As a business owner now, I proactively put aside budget for PD and networking with peers.

But this blog is not about budget. We know organizations are tightening purse strings and that investment in training and development, especially expensive conferences, can be quickly eliminated. So what can you do when you have little or no money for development?

Attend free Face-to-Face and Online Programming - Free face-to-face and online programming in now available through professional associations and technology platform providers. The caveat is that you may need to listen to a product pitch, but many have been terrific at tapping into the experts and providing great content. Here are a few of my faves for Internal Communication:

  • IABC - If you have a membership, free webinars are a great way to learn about industry trends
  • For Immediate Release and IABC Circle of Fellows - Membership is not required to attend these events either live or on re-broadcast. Shel Holtz is great at leading a discussion on industry trends and aligning the Fellows discussion with IABC's monthly themes
  • Technology platform company events - There are some great online series that are offered by companies like Poppulo, Contact Monkey and DevFacto. Companies like Social Chorus, Poppulo and Bananatag are running some amazing local seminars as well. While some of these events are free, others are strong programs that are offered at cost-effective rates like FutureComms by Social Chorus. Follow them on twitter or LinkedIn to stay informed.

Listen to Podcasts -For those who are auditory learners or simply want to keep busy during their commutes, a podcast is a great way to incorporate learning into your day:

  • Although it hasn't been updated for some time, I still love Icology episodes. Search and download past episodes for some rich content on Internal Communication.
  •  The FIR network and Circle of Fellows episodes are also available for audio download.
  • Contact Monkey also produced a list of The Top Five non-IC focused podcasts that can help build business acumen for Internal Communication Professionals.

Read Blogs and Articles - Most of my reading now focuses on online blogs and articles in the Internal Communication Space. In addition to blogs available through the technology companies mentioned above, I also enjoy:

  • AllThingsIC by Rachel Miller. In addition to perspective and knowledge, she also has a number of resources on her website.
  • Changing the Terms is written by Mike Klein. Mike is always willing to push us into new directions with his philosophies and thinking.
  • I also enjoy the H&HComms Blog for insights on Engagement and Internal Communication. Michael Hargreaves does a great job tapping into global perspectives and I am always happy to contribute when I have the time.
  • A great compilation of all resources that focus on IC is IC Kollectif. Lise Michaud keeps us updated on the latest reports and studies and all relevant information for Internal Communication practitioners. Her Next Level report is worth a good read with real examples from in-house IC practitioners around the world.

Volunteer - Volunteering has always been a key part of my learning plan. Early in my career, I picked volunteer jobs that gave me experience in communication areas I didn't experience in my junior positions. It was also great networking. I quickly took on leadership roles to prove that I had management skills (I believe to this day that this helped me move to management quickly in my career), and more recently, my volunteer efforts gave me global exposure for my expertise.

  • Volunteer with your professional association. Organizations like IABC and CPRS have a great local, national and and international roles available.
  • Do something you are passionate about?.Why not lend your expertise to a not-for-profit or charity. Especially those that would benefit from your communication skills.
  • Join a Board. A professional organization will help you connect and learn from other professionals. Joining a not-for-profit board of directors also gives you insights from other professionals and help you understand financials, operational issues and the type of conversation that happens at the decision-making table. It's great perspective.

Here's the bottom line. We own our own growth and our own career development. As we near the end of 2018, create a proactive plan for professional development in 2019. No more excuses, only action!!

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