FourTips to Energize your Professional Development in 2018

Posted by Admin on Jan 8, 2018 5:00:00 PM
With a new year and a strong economy, I hope all of you are setting professional development goals for yourself and your employees. Here are four suggestions for you to make the most of your professional development in 2018:
1)     Review Memberships and Subscriptions – Have you reviewed your association memberships, trade publications, newsletters, online communities and subscriptions lately? The simplest and most accessible form of professional development is through your computer and mailbox, day in and day out. If you are like me, the list of subscriptions has grown to the point where you are so overwhelmed by content that you hardly read or watch anything that comes through your inbox. The beginning of the year is a great time to clean out those subscriptions that aren’t valuable anymore, either because they have changed or your needs have. All of us have changing roles and/or areas of interest, so start the new year by creating a list of information priorities, then audit your professional communities and subscription-based content to make sure you are getting what you need.
Recommendation: Knowledge@Wharton has a potpourri of topics, like this podcast by Wharton’s Jeremy Siegel discussing his forecast for 2018.
2)     Create a Continuing Education Plan – Too many of the certified professionals we serve find themselves with one or two months left in their recertification period and end up scrambling to complete their CE requirement. At the start of each year, assess your learning preferences, CE needs and topical priorities, and plan accordingly. I'm sure there are differences depending on your industry, but research on Canadian financial advisors suggests that you should attend at least three conferences per year. (Source: Investments & Wealth Institute and CoreData, 2017)

But how to choose? Do you value networking with people like you and learning something familiar? Or do you prefer meeting different professionals and learning something different? Do you want a “generalist” conference with a variety of tracks, or a specialist conference focusing on narrow topics of interest? There are dozens of conference options in our industry, and the bar of quality has risen. Changing your normal patterns has its own merit when it comes to learning something new.
Recommendation for Financial Advisors: ACE Nashville 2018, hosted by the Investments & Wealth Institute, is a generalist conference with tracks for retirement, institutional consultants, wealth management/financial planning, and a rigorous “no-pay-to-play” format—all sessions are programmed by a volunteer committee, with no sponsored presentations by industry vendors.
3)     Prepare to Dive Deep on a New Area of Knowledge or Professional Competency — In financial services, fewer than half of licensed professionals hold any professional designation. This is not the case in other fields like nursing, where the majority of professionals hold voluntary credentials. However, according to a Core Data study of Canadian financial advisors in 2017, two out of three respondents found certifications to be “very important” to their professional development priorities, and more than half prioritized educational programs and courses as very important. It’s probably not an exaggeration to say that there are more financial advisors who want to earn a credential than those who have one—perhaps the saying, “There are more law students than lawyers” also applies to the financial services industry, as well!  (Source: Investments & Wealth Institute and CoreData, 2017)

Not all deep-dive options need result in a designation, however. It helps to know the difference between a certificate program and a certification. This may be the topic of a future blog post, but the short answer is to equate “educational completion” with a certificate program, and “job competency” with a certification program. Unfortunately or fortunately within financial services, nearly all of the professional designations available are educational certificate programs that provide graduates with a designation upon completion.
Bottom line, don’t stop with whatever licenses or entry-level credentials you have already earned. Identify for yourself and other team members which extended learning will be a priority in 2018, and/or what new advanced competencies you or team members will pursue.
Recommendation: Harvard’s Justice Course offers 24 free “online classes” with video lectures and accompanying readings on ethics and morality, taught by one of Harvard’s most gifted professors, Michael Sandel.
4)     Expand Your Budget—My final word of advice is to carve out as much budget as you can to fund professional development for yourself and your team. Professional development is the primary way to invest in product quality if you are in the knowledge economy. Knowledge professionals compete with each other on price/value, or on quality/service. You don't have to be gifted in strategy to know that the latter is a more sustainable approach. When you invest in the quality of the competencies you and your team members bring to the client experience, you differentiate your service based on quality, not cost. 
Recommendation: Benchmarks on what you should spend in any given year differ greatly depending on your industry and other variables. If any readers know of a good rule of thumb for what percent of each dollar of revenue generated by a knowledge worker should be reinvested into professional development, please respond.
Below is a final reference from the Canadian Financial Advisor Professional Development study on this point. (Source: Investments & Wealth Institute and CoreData, 2017)


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