Professional development is not your employer's responsibility

Whoa!  If you’re an employer reading this, I can already hear your exhales of relief.  But we’ll get back to you in a moment.  If you’re an employee, I feel your anger directed toward me right now.  So, let’s focus on you first.

Let me repeat.  “Professional development is not your employer’s responsibility.”  If you have decided that the job you are in is the basis of your career, then why on earth would you put the ownership of your growth in the hands of someone that might not care or might not give it the priority it deserves?  It is your responsibility to manage and pursue your professional (and yes, personal — they are in fact connected) goals.

But it’s not always that easy.  You have to go to work, to get a paycheck, to pay your bills (I’m hoping you go to work for more than this, however).  But have you ever had a day when you just didn’t feel appreciated, weren’t sure this was the right path, was frustrated coming out of the last committee meeting on who the hell cares?

In 1992 I faced this exact situation — I was frustrated and wasn’t sure this was the career I wanted to pursue — and I was only a couple of years into it.  The dean I worked for at the time suggested something to me I won’t ever forget — and I pass it on to you for consideration.

Understand why you became passionate in the first place. Then go experience that firsthand.

Timothy Clark in an article in Fast Company (you do subscribe to this magazine, right??) entitled “Feeling Blah About Work? Don’t Blame Your Boss — Get Engaged” writes that “You may be tempted to hold the organization accountable for your engagement. If you still don’t buy the argument that you’re in charge of your own engagement, ask yourself: have you ever had true passion for something in life? Most likely you can answer yes. So where did that passion come from? You get the point. Nobody can give you passion. Nobody can instill in you deep and rich and vibrant engagement. You have to do it. You should do it.”

My passion was centered around students, helping them with their issues, helping them plot a path to their goals.  And experiencing it firsthand, not by a memo (it was pre-email folks).  I went to the dining hall and had lunch with the students.  That was it.  I was hooked again, excited and eager to pursue the next step in my career.  I made it a habit a couple of days a week to eat with the students in the dining hall.  I invested my own money to attend conferences my employer wasn’t able to (or didn’t want to) pay for.  You have to own your career, be engaged in your job and take responsibility for your own growth.

Ok, back to you bosses now.  I’ve just told your employees that you may not care about their professional development.  If you aren’t providing the type of advice I was given, if you don’t set aside appropriate money to send them to conferences that will help them grow professionally, if you don’t know what they want to do with their career — then you will lose them to someone else.  We believe that colleges need to find the best talent and give them the tools and training they need to be successful — not just in their job, but in their careers.

Recently I read that the average time a Millennial expects to stay with an employer is only four years.  They will leave. So unless you want to be sitting in search committees the rest of your career, why not try to keep the talent you have today.  While it is not your responsibility to support the professional growth of your employees, it would be very wise of you to be a partner in it.

Read more about why it’s not your boss’s fault by Timothy Clark in Fast Company.

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