A woman working on a computer representing why you need a professional development plan

Many people who are unhappy with their careers come to career development counseling looking for answers. They see other people getting ahead and loving their work, and they wonder why they feel so stuck and unsatisfied. They’re hoping a good career coach can help them figure out what they want and how to achieve it. I can tell you that the missing ingredient is never some mysterious quality that makes some people shinier and more successful than others — although I know it can look that way from the outside. More often, the difference is pretty basic: Some people are skilled at professional development planning, and others aren’t yet. 

In general, most of us don’t spend enough time planning our lives. We’re too frazzled by the endless to-do list we need to get through to ever zoom out and consider the big picture: Where do I want to be in ten years, and how exactly do I plan to get there? And, most important, how do the things I’m spending my time on every day fit into that plan?

If you don’t have an answer to those questions yet, this article is for you. I hope it inspires you to begin thinking about your own career vision and how you’ll bring it to fruition. Without a professional development plan, it’s too easy to wander from job to job, having your priorities set by someone else’s grand vision for their career, their business, and their life. You deserve the chance to design your own life around what matters most to you, based on your values and purpose. I hope this article will give you some ideas about where to begin. 

If you prefer to listen, I’ve also created an episode of the Love, Happiness, and Success podcast on this topic. It features my colleague Ronni M., a career coach and counselor on our team at Growing Self. She’s sharing her own career story, and the framework she uses to help people like you plan and create professional lives they love. You can find the episode on this page, Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen. 

What Is Professional Development?

Professional development is about more than putting in your time and holding a series of jobs until you reach your ultimate career goal. It’s really a personal growth process that helps you become the kind of person who can have the career you want to have. 

This work is deeper and more meaningful than the interview prep or resume writing that most people think about when they think about career coaching (although those can be important components). It involves expanding your capabilities by building new skills that will enhance every area of your life, not just your career. 

The best example of this kind of skill is emotional intelligence, which will have a huge impact on the trajectory of your professional life, as well as your personal life, and especially your relationships. Emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of your own feelings, manage them effectively, understand the feelings of others, and respond to others in ways that strengthen your relationships. 

This all sounds basic enough, and you may be thinking, “Great, I’m already doing that all the time.” But everyone can benefit from stocking up on emotional intelligence. In fact, most people rate themselves much higher in EI than they prove to be on comprehensive emotional intelligence assessments (just like most people say that they’re “better than average” drivers). Emotional intelligence coaching can help you know where your EI stands now and where you have opportunities to grow. 

This work pays off, literally and figuratively — people with higher levels of emotional intelligence tend to excel in the workplace, while many people who are lower in EI hit career plateaus and can’t figure out how to get unstuck, despite having gobs of talent and admirable work ethics. Their more emotionally intelligent peers are better able to avoid excess stress and burnout, form positive working relationships, and be good leaders who can inspire teams to accomplish great things. That’s why emotional intelligence can be the key to financial success, as well as life satisfaction. In fact, emotionally intelligent people earn nearly $30,000 more per year than people who score lower in emotional intelligence, and many employers have started to prioritize this skill when making hiring and promotion decisions, even above technical abilities. 

As you construct your professional development plan, don’t just think about what job titles you need to hold or experiences you need to have. Think about how you need to develop as a person in order to accomplish the career goals you want to accomplish. Aside from emotional intelligence, your professional development goals may include things like conquering a habit of procrastination, or overcoming perfectionism, or dismantling any limiting beliefs that are holding you back. Wherever you’re trying to go, the secret to getting there is identifying your barriers, facing them head-on, and defeating them one-by-one. 

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What Is a Professional Development Plan?

Once you have a big, ambitious vision for the future of your career, your next step is breaking it down into an actionable professional development plan that you can accomplish over years, one step at a time. 

Begin with the end in mind: Where do you want to be ten years from now? Maybe you want to make your living photographing wildlife on the Serengeti. Or lead a team of medical researchers contributing to life-saving breakthroughs. Maybe your career ambition is to work 20 hours a week while spending the rest of your time with your family — that’s fantastic! There are no wrong answers here. 

Next, think about what you need to do to get from where you are now to where you want to be five, ten, or fifteen years from now. It sounds basic, but so many of us never do this kind of career planning. There are obstacles standing in between you and where you want to be — what are they, and what’s your strategy for getting around them? These are your professional development goals, and overcoming them is your path to creating the career you want. 

Professional Development Goals Examples

If there’s a dream job you’d like to have, what experience do you need to have under your belt before you can do that job? What’s holding you back from getting that experience? The answer may be building certain skills so that you can get ahead at work. Or, maybe you need to change careers entirely. Start breaking your big plan down into smaller steps, and then breaking those steps down into substeps. 

Here are a few examples of professional development goals you may need to achieve in order to move forward: 

  1. Building your emotional intelligence — The benefits of emotional intelligence are endless. Especially if you want to move from an “executing” role where you’re producing something, to a leadership role where you’re using soft skills to manage others, building your emotional intelligence with intention can be the key to moving forward. 
  1. Becoming more organized — To accomplish complex goals that take careful planning and coordination, you need to be organized. Organization skills come easily for some people, but not for everyone. Becoming more organized can help you be more productive, less stressed, and can inspire confidence in the people you work with that you’ve got it all under control. 
  1. Cultivating good working relationships — We all have different work styles, and some of us would prefer to keep our heads down and focus on getting stuff done. But having good connections with the people you’re working with can be an important part of getting ahead. If you need to grow in this area in order to succeed, spend some time thinking about ways you could expand and strengthen your professional network. 
  1. Earning credentials or certifications — In many fields, having a bachelor’s degree is no longer enough to make you a truly competitive candidate. Completing additional courses, programs, or professional certifications can not only help you do your job at a higher level, it can show employers that you take your ongoing professional development seriously, giving you an edge over other candidates. 
  1. Building your technical skills — Are there specific skills you need to learn before you can advance? Be proactive about learning them and you’ll be prepared to seize opportunities to step into roles with greater responsibility. 

Creating Your Professional Development Plan

Don’t get too hung up on creating the One Final Plan that you will follow to a T, because everyone’s career path involves some twists and turns. You will run into obstacles that you can’t predict from your current vantage point, and you’ll discover strengths inside of yourself that will lead you in new directions. 

You will also, in all likelihood, stumble on opportunities that you didn’t plan for, but that just feel right. It’s okay to create your professional development plan, and then radically revise it every year or so as you learn more about yourself and about what opportunities are available for you. That’s part of the fun of having a career; you never know exactly where it will take you. What matters is that, as your plan evolves, you’re being led by your own career values and priorities, rather than someone else’s. 

Support for Your Career Growth

It’s one thing to make a plan, and another thing to put it into action. 

A good career coach can help you get clear about your career goals and what you need to do to accomplish them, and then support you as you begin your journey. You’ll have someone to help you stay motivated, strategic, and focused as you build a career you love.

If you’d like to work with a career development expert on our team, I invite you to schedule a free consultation. 

With love, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

P.S. — If you’d like more articles and podcasts on building your career, check out our “professional growth” collection of articles and podcasts.

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Why You Need a Professional Development Plan

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Music in this episode is by Best Fern with their song “Arrive.” You can support them and their work by visiting their Bandcamp page here: https://bestfern.bandcamp.com/. Under the circumstance of use of music, each portion of used music within this current episode fits under Section 107 of the Copyright Act, i.e., Fair Use. Please refer to copyright.gov if further questions are prompted.

Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and you’re listening to the Love, Happiness and Success podcast. What are your wildest career dreams? More importantly, what do you want your whole life to be about?  Most importantly, what is your plan for making either of those things, your reality? Today’s episode is all about how to get in tune with who you really are, what you really want out of your life and career, and how to make those things happen for yourself. So you can live every day with the confidence that you are in the right place and doing what you are put here to do. That’s today’s show. And I’m glad you’re here to join us.

We are listening to a fantastic example of some people who figured out their place in the world. And what they were put here to do. This is the band, Best Fern, the song is Arrive. I thought it was a beautiful song by a gorgeous band to really set the stage for us because we’re talking today about figuring out your gifts, your purpose, your direction, and then also figuring out how to make those things happen for yourself. These two did it, Alexis and Nick. Alexis and Nick, you can learn more about them on their Bandcamp page, bestfern.bandcamp.com.

On today’s episode of the podcast, we are talking about a subject that I know can be a little mystifying sometimes, which is how to make a plan for your ongoing professional growth, like your trajectory, not just what you want to do next, but like where you want to end up. It’s professional development plans — what they are, why they matter, and why you should probably have one, if you don’t already. That is our topic today.

What do I mean when I say professional development? Let us define that term. I’m not talking about promotions or raises although that can certainly be part of it. Those can be milestones along your career path. What we’re really talking about is this personal growth process that is interconnected with your career, your aspirations, your passions, and how that personal growth process is a fundamental part of figuring out how to get from where you are now to where you want to go, where you would like to have your life be in 15-20 years but to create a reality that’s really based on authentic self awareness, self knowledge, your core values and strengths.

Just transparently, I think most of us don’t give this a ton of thought, until it becomes a problem, until we’re living in a way that is disconnected from our values and what it is that we really want. We are in a career and a job and it doesn’t feel good and it’s only then that we begin to ask ourselves those questions. It’s understandable that that happens.

I think it’s very normal, there’s- take an early career job that you may sort of expect will naturally lead to advancement or meaning or satisfaction. But if we don’t have a clear plan for building certain skills, that career growth can be slow. Sometimes it’s only until we begin experiencing ourselves in different environments, different situations that we’re able to understand ourselves better because of those experiences. I mean, that is part of the growth process. You kind of have to get out into the world a little bit before you have that.

It’s when we start feeling a little unsatisfied with our jobs, or maybe even wondering why other people seem to be moving ahead and having a better time that we begin to just sit with, “Okay, what is going on? I feel stuck. Why is that?” We can all be forgiven for stumbling around in the dark for a little while here. I mean, I can tell you I spent too many years working as a waitress before I figured myself out. Nobody teaches us how to do this unless you are lucky enough to have an amazing mentor, a teacher who can guide you, help you have the growth experiences that you need to have.

That is what we’re going to be doing today. I have with me a career counselor and a career coach who is on our team here at Growing Self. Her name is Ronni and she has so much professional and also personal wisdom to share. She and I are going to be talking about how you can become the author of your career story and create a plan for building the career path that carries you forward. Ronni, thank you for doing this with me.

Ronni: Thank you for the opportunity.

Lisa: I know that we have a lot of specific things to talk about. I mean, that, you know, just in the introduction, like hitting on a lot of these highlights. I actually was wondering if we could begin our interview today with — if you don’t mind — sharing a little bit about your own story, because, you know, one of the reasons I was so excited to talk with you about this is that in addition to being a professional career counselor and career coach, you had this professional development journey that I think makes the advice, the wisdom, the perspective that you bring to the situation that much more meaningful. Would you mind sharing just a little bit about how you got to be a career counselor?

Ronni: It goes back to college, I was a first generation, I am a first generation person.  I was told to go to college. I had absolutely no guidance at all, I grew up in a rural area in a rural town. I didn’t have a plan. I was told to be a teacher by my parents. In my junior year of college, it was a hot summer day. I stood in line and I was also last minute at signing up for classes. I was standing in line for three hours to sign up for my classes for the summer, which started the next day, I think.

I got to the front of the line and the man said, “You can’t register because you’re a junior, and you have to declare a major.” He said, “You can go to the Career Center,” which I had not heard of, which was way across campus, “or you can just declare your major now.” I turned around, I looked at the line and looked at how far the career center may be, I couldn’t even see it. 

I thought I’m not going to the back of the line. I said “I’ll be a teacher.” So then they said, “Well, what do you want to be” and I really loved math and psychology and that, if I were to do it again, that summer, I would have done that. But I didn’t know what I could do with math and psychology. I said, I’ll be an elementary teacher, which I enjoyed and circled around.

Many years later, after many careers, I had been a flight attendant at United Airlines. After 911, which some of you will have heard about, some of you won’t. It just didn’t fit in. Being a flight attendant didn’t fit into my life anymore. I just there’s a theory by John Krumboltz, and it’s called happenstance. I happen to fall into a job at a community college — Red Rocks Community College in the Denver area — as an academic advisor, and within about three weeks, I thought this is my calling.

It wasn’t just about selecting classes and getting the students out of there in 15 minutes, I looked at their whole life, you know, the personal piece. But career I’ve always thought is important, because it’s probably at least a third of your life — most people, not everybody — a third of your life, sleeping is a third and then your private life is the other third.

I started honing my career skills right away, and became involved in the Colorado Career Development Association. I took certifications in the Myers Briggs, if you know what that is, and Strong Interest Inventory and other things. As I was approaching retirement age, people started asking me when I was going to retire, and I thought, Gosh, I’m not ready to do that.

It wasn’t a word that I really liked It’s okay, now I accept it. For some people, it’s a great thing.  I thought, I’m gonna keep doing things. And in some within this, it was probably a five year time period. I process this, and I thought, “Gosh, here’s my theory on life. We all are going to die someday. We don’t know when. But until we do, just keep doing what you want to do until you can’t.”

I’ve always wanted to get a master’s degree but life had gotten in the way.  Then of course, career counseling just became the center of my life. I wasn’t accepted. We were just talking about the universe. I wasn’t accepted to the first school which was close to my home — I could ride my bike to it. I was very disappointed. But then it took me to the program at CSU and it’s one of the only ones in the country that has counseling with a career development emphasis. I went to that program, took the summer off because I’d worked since I was 16, then I found you guys, and I’m so happy to be here.

Lisa: Wow. Going back just a little bit so you began your career as a teacher because like, that was something that was available and especially for, you know, women at that time, our career options were nurse, secretary, or teacher, pretty much, right?

Ronni: And stewardess, but you had to quit when you married.

Lisa: Really?

Ronni: Yeah. I was a flight attendant. Which, I became a flight attendant, one of the first older new hires later in life and did that for 14 years.  

Lisa: Okay. You taught for some time then what else did you do? What were all of the different chapters of your own career development process?

Ronni: Well, I taught, I moved from the farm in the Midwest, to California, which was always my dream. I used to sit on the farm and watch the sunset, and say, “Someday, I’m going to California.” A job just landed in my lap. An older gentleman helped me get there. And I taught in the Bay Area, at the San Francisco Bay Area for five years. And then I decided I wanted to travel in Europe, so I did. I had my- then, there were no cell phones or computers. I think I had like 100 dollars and my book on how to travel in Europe on $5 a day or something like that, which would be impossible right now.

I did that and gained an incredible amount of confidence, you know, mastering the subway in Paris, and my mother made me get a Eurail pass and a round trip ticket so I could get home and travel freely. I would just decide the night before where I was gonna go. I went to Germany, Switzerland. You know, I think I was there about eight weeks.

I didn’t call my mother and she was just about horrified because she said, “Oh, my God,” I called her on Christmas Eve, and I was coming back the next day. Then I decided to drop out. You mentioned being a waitress. I always had to pay my rent and pay my own bills. I had to work, which was a good thing. I was a waitress in a fun place until I figured it out. 

I applied to be an FBI agent. Again, this goes back to happenstance. You know, you talked about having a trajectory of what you want, which I did not, and which I love helping people get. I think it’s like a big GPS, no one. No, I don’t think people relate to maps much anymore. So GPS of generally where you’re going, but you can take different routes, and you’ll still get there.

With happenstance, one of the things was I applied to be an FBI agent, and I was in and I was one of 50 in the country that I would be in. They had done all the background, they had a background check about, it was pretty sick. I had gotten classes, I’d been through the physical, everything. Ready to go. They called me every day. I was going to go to Quantico, Virginia, to train and I had been running and keeping up my training.  Two weeks before I was supposed to go, they called and they said there was a freeze on hiring, which is part of happenstance.

It’s called, it’s actually his learning theory of career development. And your environment, you know, there are things in your environment that will either bring to you change, and affects your choices. That was a huge disappointment. I put all my eggs in that basket.

Then there were other things. I applied to IBM and I was, I knew someone close to the people making the decision. They decided to go to the male, because they were afraid I’d quit and have children. which I never had children and I didn’t marry until much later in life. those things formulated throughout my life. I became a-

Lisa: I have to say how ridiculous that was that the powers that were in that organization already decided that you were going to have children, therefore they were going to mitigate that. Okay, sorry, calming down. Thank you. Go ahead.

Ronni: I had to write a career autobiography for one of my classes at CSU. I had to put it in 10 pages. Now most of the students were 20s and 30s, maybe a couple in their 40s and I had been working since I was 16. It took a lot and I did get it in 10 pages. By doing that, I understood some things that were going on, you know. I had in the beginning I had to work three jobs because I was single to just pay the rent, because, you know, the salaries weren’t as great as well.

To make a long story short, I’ve had several careers, by happenstance, I’ve fallen into all of them. What I want to give people and this is where, where I feel like it’s my calling, is I want to give others, and it doesn’t matter how old they are, I’ve worked with people, 14 years old to 80 years old. I want to help them make that big picture of where they want to be, you know, family.  There’s some life planning in it, too.

One of the theories is Mark Savickas, who does this narrative, and he uses your stories, and you create, you design your life doing this, and it’s very effective. I want to help people design their life, which includes, a big part of it for most people: career. At the same time, environment is going to, you know, come into play, sometimes there’ll be more opportunities, sometimes something will happen like it did when I was to go into the FBI and there was a freeze for two years on that.

I want to help people do that. There’s nothing that gives me greater joy. I think sense of purpose is so important. As I was thinking about getting my masters, a big part of that was purpose, and giving back to our society. I think purpose is important. I like to help people find their sense of purpose.

Lisa: That’s so phenomenal that you ultimately landed in a place that brought all of those different life experiences together. I’m also so grateful right now that you’re talking about — I think this is part of the reason that I had wanted you to talk about, like, your own path, because on the one hand, I think it is so helpful for all of us to be doing work around self awareness, self development, having goals, you know, figuring out what you need to do to achieve those goals. Just feeling like you have control over where you end up, eventually, like that, that’s all really positive and important.

I’m also so glad that you’re talking about the reality that I think everybody can relate to, which is that we do kind of get blown around by different places, different situations. You know, when I think back about the weird little cul-de-sacs and, you know, jobs that I had before I found my ultimate career path, like, they were all so valuable in their own way.

I picked up a new thing or life experience or, or just understanding that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Even though at the time was like, “Why am I doing this?” you know, looking back now, it was also positive, and that you are kind of eventually led, you know that, but I’m hearing like in your story that you were always very open, that you had this part of yourself that was in addition to, you know, thinking and making intentional decisions, an openness and this faith of being able to take the next step, and this confidence that it was heading in the right direction, ultimately, like, there’s a lot of courage and wisdom in that as opposed to trying to control everything, you know,? Like, there’s balance there. Using the Force.

Ronni: Yes, the Force.

Lisa: Jedi approach to careers.

Ronni: Yes.

Lisa: Okay. Well, that’s great. Okay, well, thank you for bringing that perspective into the conversation. And, you know, I hear that now in your role, what you’re really focusing on is helping people do that growth work, finding that clarity, finding that intention, sooner, right, that, you know, like, making that kind of happen faster for people.

When you think about the professional development process of how somebody, you know, maybe not even so much chooses a career, but like, grows into mastery and like, evolves in a career. What are some of the things that you like to talk with, with clients about and I ask for the benefit of our listeners, you know, if they were to be thinking about some of these things on their own, what are some of the things you would want to do?

Ronni: Well, I use the term throwing darts at the board, and that’s how I made my career decision initially.  I’ve actually seen that today as well. You know, going maybe all the way through a masters in that particular field and then finding out that, oh my gosh, I really don’t have any interest in this, but I’m really good at performing. I have, maybe grit is the word I like.

I like to begin with a little of the history of the person. Because I think our background plays such a big role in that. We get messages from our parents or grandparents, maybe to school, all kinds of messages. I like to hear what these messages were. Then I like to delve into their current, if they’re in a, you know, they’ve been in a position or even if they’re coming right out of college or high school, what they like and love, I like the word love, I don’t like I mean, like is okay.

Lisa: It’s not good enough.

Ronnie:  I don’t like the word fine. “Oh, that’s fine.” Because then I think, oh my gosh, that’s not good enough. Because I think life is a gift. I want everything I can get out of it, and give. I want that for the people I work with. I want that for everybody actually. Then I look at things that they love, and what they’re doing, and I start with the work. And then sometimes we go into life things that they love.  I look at the things that are more challenging to them, or it just drains them to do those things and after we talk sometimes, and it totally depends on the individual.

Sometimes people have put their true self down to, you know, they kind of stuffed it to perform in the job that they don’t really love. Helping them get in touch with those feelings is one thing. Generally people are pretty eager to talk about it and pretty good at getting in touch. And then once we’ve discovered those things together, side by side, that’s my theory, I help guide them, they help tell me what they need and want. I help to guide them and then there’s a plethora — I love that word by the way — there’s a plethora of tools out there to use, depending on the person.

One person, it might be the narrative that I talked about, where you use your stories when you were young. Then together the client and I, we create a new story.  We make a design out of their life with that. Just part of one tool we would use. There are assessments. One I like is YouScience. It’s a newer one, which combines the MBTI, Myers-Briggs, and the Strong Interest. There’s a lot of different things in it. It’s easy to take. It’s not expensive. It gives us a talking point, it talks about the person’s strengths, talks about the person’s challenges, and how to deal with different people with these.

It talks about what kind of career might fit with this particular individual, interests, career, challenges, and love of doing things. Then at the end of it, you get about 500 different jobs. You can actually go on and look, look up the jobs or the careers.  I like to think that every job you mentioned — being a waitress, I was a waitress. I actually loved it.

Lisa:  I was the worst waitress in the history of the world. Well, I’m glad you liked it. I still have nightmares.

Ronni: I work for a place that let me be myself. They liked us to put our personality in, it was kind of the place to go at the time. It was fun. Now I got off track. I’m sorry. But anyway, so then there are tools to use to explore and figure out together with the client, what their purpose is, hopefully, their purpose, and what they like to do, et cetera. Because you know, you spend a third of your life doing this, you want to love it, you don’t want to just like it, you don’t want to be okay.

Then we make a plan of how to put this into action. Then we may be looking at resumes, cover letters, we may even do mock interviews, to help that person achieve their goal and career and in life might not just be about career.

Lisa: Thank you for bringing that up because I think that you know, as with many career paths, there are important considerations, impacts for the quality of your life and life experience that you have. If it’s traveling a lot, if it’s working a lot of weird hours. I mean, it can definitely impact relationships and other other things. I’m glad that you’re that holistic approach.

Ronni: That’s the approach I like to take and that’s when I first developed the interest in this particular field, even as an academic advisor, sometimes to the dismay of those I worked with, because I spent a lot of time with my students, but the holistic approach and for instance, you might be a young parent in a marriage. You like to fly all over the world, and your job takes you there. But it’s not good for your marriage or your children.  Then those are the things that we consider and yet at the same time, one of my favorite sayings is make lemonade out of lemons. You take those parameters in, and you still can build a wonderful career in life for yourself.

Lisa: Okay, here’s a question that’s coming up for me. I think, you know, there’s a lot of assessment and really valuable exploration that can help clarify a career path. At the same time, the you know, there are, so there’s so much uncertainty, and, and I think, at least this is my own observation, and also my own life experience.

It’s like, you don’t really know what is involved, or what the real gross requirements of a certain role or job will be until you really get there in some ways. Sometimes we can be proactive about it and kind of thinking in advance, okay, here are the skills I am going to need to have. I think that this is several questions rolled into one. Let me slow down and ask them one at a time.

How would you help someone get clarity and kind of a realistic understanding of the ultimate kind of destination, okay, say, somebody is thinking, I would like to be a nurse, I’m going to go to nursing school, I’m going to do that. But I think my ultimate goal is to be a senior RN, you know, maybe being a supervisor or a teacher of other nurses like this is what I aspire to. But without really knowing what that 20 years later kind of senior RN experience is going to be like.

Because of that, how would they know what kinds of things they would need to be doing, developing, understanding, in terms of skills in terms of strengths and you know, so many of these things are like soft skills like emotional intelligence based because in our theoretical example, being a senior RN, who is a supervisor and a teacher, mentor to other nurses, may be doing a lot less nursing in terms of the technical knowledge and a lot more almost like a counseling role, a teaching role, which is a totally different skill set than than nursing. This is a big question.

But it’s like, to be successful in a long term career trajectory, how can you begin to understand what the skills are and how to develop them, you know, 10 years ahead of time, in order to help your future self be successful?

Ronni: That’s a great question. There are many tools to do that. One of the first that came to mind, maybe for a beginner, is to do some informational interviewing. Just find a person that’s in that position, and email them, whatever is the best way to contact them, and see if you can have an informational interview about their job. I think that’s a very good place to start. There are other things like O*Net, which is a government website that has tons and tons of information.

Even though I’m in the business, it’s sometimes overwhelming to me, but there’s tons of information on that on salaries, different places in the country. What the job description is like, so you can research places like that. They’re also well, it wouldn’t be so much assessing. I guess, you would assess to see if you have the skills for those. At the same time, one would probably want to maybe look up. I’m just trying to think of others, pull up on the internet.

Lisa: Research. Researching.

Ronni: Yes. Thank you. Research.

Lisa: Thinking about what the kind of final destination so like, Okay, I think I want to be a software engineer, what does the top of that mountain look like, and then start researching it and talking to people and learning more about it. It’s through that you can begin to think about and develop the skills that would get you there. Is that it?

Ronni: Thank you for finding the word for me. I was trying to give examples and I was stuck. Yes, that’s exactly right.  As a counselor slash coach,  what I would do is guide that person on finding places to do the research, helping them do it themselves, because another thing I believe, is teach them to fish, and not give them a fish. So that they can learn how to do these things themselves as well. It takes some work on their part.

Lisa: It really does and then that’s just figuring out where you have to grow, you know, personally or in skills, and then it’s doing  the work and I just, I feel compelled to share that, in my experience, this never ends, you know, I mean, even personally.  I went to counseling school to be a therapist, and then I went to be a coach like all these kinds of things, and then got into private practice.

Now, I am in a position where I am actively learning how to be a good podcast host trying to figure out how the heck to be a CEO of a growing company with all these people running around. I am still putting so much time and energy and investing into learning how to do these things. But it feels a little bit sometimes like building the go kart as you are speeding down the hill at 50 miles an hour, taping the doors shut.

But it’s never ending, truly. I still learn new things every week. I’m like, “Oh, I wish I’d known that sooner.” But I don’t know. It’s there’s this as up in your experience? Has that been part of your experience in helping people with their career development parts?

Ronni: Oh, my gosh, yes, including myself. I’m just amazed at what I learn every day. I love learning. I just love, love, love learning. That’s a good thing. Because every day I have an opportunity to learn something new. I would wish that for everybody that they are open to learning new things and stress even.

I think learning, starting new things. Starting my new career, even though I’ve had a ton of experience with helping people in this field. It’s stressful for me to start this new career because it’s new. I want to be good at it. It’s not fun starting at the bottom again, and then going to the top. But yeah, I think there’s learning every day. And I hope that’s one thing that people will be open to.

Lisa: I mean, even just talking about this with you and thinking about it, I think that is the almost the fundamental core requirement really is learning, like if you want to develop professionally and develop a career, I think requires an investment in learning if it’s researching different things, but then actively like going to trainings, reading books, listening to podcasts, going to seminars, and conferences, like there are so many different sources of learning. Then there’s also the self development parts of it, holy cow, I mean, like, probably 75% of my real growth issues, Ronni, are related to you know, not acquiring knowledge, right?

Ronni: Stuff.

Lisa: Yeah, self awareness stuff that’s really central to the whole experience. Perhaps one takeaway is that if you do feel stuck, or stalled or unclear about anything related to your career, professional development, that’s a really important signal that it’s time to learn something.

Ronni: Yes, absolutely. I constantly go to conferences. I go to the National Career Development Conference, I read. And I think that’s a huge thing for anybody in any career is to constantly, I can relate it to maybe a hairstylist. I hope no one’s offended by this. But there are some people that are creative in that work and there’s some people that get their basic knowledge, then they just do hair.

Then there are other people that they’re always learning new hairstyles, new things about color, new things about cutting new trends and hairstyles, and they’re always up on the latest.  I always think of that, and I think of any career, it’s kind of like that. Whether it’s nursing, whether it’s being a lawyer, whether it’s a hands-on job, there are always newer and better ways to do things. And I think it’s wonderful to learn those things. It keeps you at the top of your game.

Lisa: Yeah, I feel like it’s energizing. But I also love learning too. That’s like in the Strengths Finder. That’s my number one strength.

Ronni: Okay, it’s up there for me too.

Lisa: Yeah, that’s really interesting. I think it’s also reasonable, and we should say this, that not everybody is careerist. It doesn’t have to be that your career is kind of at the center of your life, many people choose to prioritize other things and just find something basic that they can do that’s good enough to pay the bills, and really their meaning, their purpose, their life satisfaction is not coming from their professional life. There’s also no pressure to do this or be excited about your career, if that’s just how you’re organizing your life. You know, like, that needs to be okay, too, I think.

Ronni: Absolutely. I was thinking about that, when I was talking about learning, there are some people that like simpler things, and then building this big career and their identity, I think identity is a huge factor in life.

So many people, I think, put their identity in their career, which, you know, there’s, as again, taking the holistic point of view, and designing your life, which career is a big part of most people, not everybody, I think one of the most important careers is being a mother or a father, I don’t know that there’s a more important job on earth than that. It might not be considered a career, but so your identity, I think, is a huge factor, and then figuring out what that identity is what that looks like.

Lisa: That’s really important. It’s like, who am I? What do I want to really in some ways build, build my life around, have be at the center of that? Those are important questions to ask, because depending on the answer, your life could really go in a lot of very different directions.

Ronni: There might be different ways of making your life whole, again, the environment and what the environment brings to you might have a factor. But I think you can still make that wonderful life out of, again, back to making lemon lemonade out of lemons, you think you can have a wonderful life and design. I like the word design, or invent your life. I think if you’re not happy with the way it is, and your career, your job, that you can reinvent that, and you can do it, and you can accomplish it. That’s what I love helping people do.

Lisa: ​​Well, you mentioned your love of learning, and that you’re a big reader. I’m imagining right now that that some of the listeners, I feel like you’re kind of in the room with us right now, maybe thinking this, I mean, if if somebody hasn’t had the opportunity, or think been invited to think about their identity and that kind of central, what do I want to build my life around?

Are there books or ideas or even like journaling questions that you might invite that person to consider? I mean, if somebody’s genuinely like, I don’t know the answer to that question. I’ve never thought about it before. The way that emerges, is usually just a feeling of dissatisfaction. Like what I’m doing right now is not filling whatever need but like, I don’t even know what that need is, I don’t know my identity yet. I don’t know what to do differently. I just know that this isn’t, this doesn’t feel great.

Where will they even start that exploration? Because it may not – the answer may not be career.

Ronni: Exactly. It might be being a parent or a partner or someone who is taking, you know, making a statement in the world society or in their little community, whatever it might be. I think depending on the person you mentioned, creative, some people are creative. I mean, we all have different strengths. There are assessments for that. Certainly, coaching and counseling is not all about assessments. They are just one tool.

I think a great- you mentioned journaling, I think a great way is to maybe make a list of your strengths, make a list of of the things you like, starting there, there are assessments about your values, and I think looking at your values is a big part of that. It may take a while to figure that out. But I think keeping that open mind and then there are tons of books to read about everything.

If you’re a reader and not everybody is, maybe it’s a podcast, maybe it’s YouTube, you know, there’s so many resources out there that you would probably want to look at some of those depending on how you learn and how you take in information.

Lisa: Do you have a favorite? It speaks to that idea of connecting with that, like, sorry to put you on the spot. 

Ronni: Yeah. 

Lisa: You’ll email me, like three days later be like, what were you thinking?

Ronni: No.

Lisa: I was just wondering, you know,

Ronni: There is one book, I like, Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.

Lisa: Oh, that’s a good one.

Ronni: He was a prisoner in the Holocaust. He was also one of the founders of existential philosophy. That’s just a very simple little book. That’s one. it’s so simple, and has a lot of, it’s profound in my being, but I think I take information in. I just get it from all kinds of places and all kinds of books. Then my brain doesn’t work like that book. It’s like, it’s like a big universe of books, and information from all those books. That’s how my brain works. And I’ve developed those philosophies from all those various sources.

Lisa: Yeah, but that’s also I think, really important takeaway is that there really isn’t one source of truth, when it comes to really understanding yourself and what your life is about and who you are, it’s almost like you need to develop this web, this cognitive web, and if it comes from reading, you know, 1000 different books and thinking in these ideas, but also, I think that for many people, it comes from having different life experiences, and being able to reflect on those life experiences and learn from them around what feels good for you what doesn’t feel good for you.

I mean, that’s such an important part of identity development. I’m thinking right now of adolescence. I think, you know, I have a teenager. Part of the job of that is really helping him have many different kinds of life experiences, like, because their job is like to try on different identities over a bit, because that’s kind of how they start to figure out who they are and what they like and what they want. It was kind of, here’s a buffet, like start sampling everything.

I think that not everybody had a chance to do that during adolescence and early adulthood for a variety of reasons. Maybe they were in a situation where there weren’t a lot of opportunities to do different kinds of things. Or maybe they got kind of put into a, a track, you know, maybe they were signed up for basketball, and just only did that. Then there are so many opportunities for learning experiences, and everything’s but I think it’s never too late to begin experimenting, and exploring and learning and thinking about things differently. I mean, you can still do that, even if you’re 50.

Ronni: Absolutely. That’s one of my beliefs in life. And I guess a lot of my philosophies, my identity has come from all my experiences. I grew up I think I said earlier, I grew up on a farm. We took one vacation as a family when I was young. Because my dad worked seven days a week, and it was all about work. I went to a one room country school with 11 kids, no running water in the beginning. My world opened up when it closed because then there were when I transferred to the, I call it the town school.

They opened up and maybe that was one of the gifts that life gave me because I just never, ever get tired of new experiences, new opportunities. Life is always exciting to me. I hope I can share that excitement about life with people. I think that was a gift not having those because once I got away from the farm, anything that opened up to me, I wanted to travel well, I got jobs where I could travel, I became a flight attendant, I would do anything to travel, I get jobs to learn.

I’ve worked at a racetrack and learned about betting. I taught betting and I never won a bet in my life. I learned I learned through a lot of my jobs and I learned a lot and so those experiences as you said they help formulate who I am in my identity and where I’m going.

Lisa: Definitely but I totally get that and that didn’t know this like gratitude and appreciation for all the different life circumstances. I think that, you know, what we’re talking now is really about like that mindset. You know, there’s so many different and equally true ways of looking at every life experience. Not looking at the early years on the farm as being deprived in any way but but rather really looking at those and making this connection to this excitement to be just like in the world and doing all kinds and like saying yes to all these different life experiences, like that’s such an important part of what made you who you are.

Ronni: My husband says “Rhonda does not know how to say no, she always says yes.” You hit that one on the spot. 

Lisa: Yeah.

Ronni: I do say yes.

Lisa: It’s more fun.

Ronni: Absolutely. Absolutely. Just say yes.

Lisa: Well, my growth work right now, Ronni is trying to figure out how to say no more. 

Ronni: Well, yes.

Lisa: That’s for another episode.

Ronni: The one thing I started learning, I didn’t know, when I was an advisor at Red Rocks, or boundaries, I’d go oh, if you need just knock on my door. One of the things in my master’s program at CSU was boundaries, they were teaching us boundaries.  I’m still learning that. 

Lisa: See, that’s the thing. It’s like you get into a career, you get into a career path. There are these just new things that are oftentimes very much connected to ways of being, like boundaries, or for me, you know, practicing more constrained than I usually do like learning how to manage people more actively. It’s really like only once you’re in that role, do you really almost have the need, the opportunity to do that kind of learning.

Can I just mention, though, before we wrap up, as we were talking earlier as I was asking you for some resources, I actually thought of one of the most fascinating learning experiences, it’s like connected to the self awareness that we’ve been talking about. I’ve never taken it before. I’d always heard people talk about it. But it was really only fairly recently that I did this myself. There is an assessment. It’s put out by Gallup Strength Finder.

Ronni: Oh, yes.

Lisa: Have you taken? I had never taken it before.

Ronni: I have.

Lisa: I’m in no way a representative or, you know, paid person for this. But I went to their website, and I think it was like, I mean, it’s not like cheap, it was 60 bucks or something. But so it’s the Strengths Finder assessment. you know, like, if somebody had asked me my strengths previously, I would probably not have listed most of what came up on it. But as I was reading the report, I was like, “Oh, my gosh, are these people watching me?” Like it was, it was creepy, how accurate it was.

I mean, after taking that assessment, it has changed my identity. It has helped me, I think, embrace some of these things about myself that I wasn’t fully even conscious of. But it’s really helped me grow a lot in terms of my own professional development. I just wanted to mention that as a resource for people who are sort of seeking, exploring.

Ronni: I did take a training on that, several years ago now and took the assessment for the training, obviously. It is an eye opener, and there are other things. There are Knowles values, and they have value cards and different cards, there are so many different tools. And that’s a big one, I think, that helped you. Even you, with all of your experience, all of your, you know, you’ve got, you’ve gone to about the highest level of achievement of education. Although we always learn. I’m sure that that’s only the base for you, you know, your education is a base, your experience probably will just continue forever.

It does even for someone like you. For me when I took the YouScience, which is another tool. I did it in a hurry one night because I wanted to use it in one of my classes. And I thought, well, I need to experience this before I use it because I’d heard about it from his name is Rich Feller, and he’s a big. He started the program at CSU. He’s big nationally with career and one of his associates which I can’t think the name and I was typical me I was like, it was late, which I function better early in the morning. 

I’m going to click click, click, click click and it I don’t know how long it took me. For that kind of an assessment, it was pretty short, but maybe an hour, two hours, I don’t remember. Then I had the results right away. It was kind of like you, it’s like, “Are these people watching me?” It was so spot on.

Lisa: That’s wonderful.

Ronni: But it also, those kinds of things, I think help you realize, “Oh my gosh, yes, that’s true. I am that way I am. I am an internal learner, or I am a person, an inclusive person,” all of those things. I think those tools, and that’s a big one Strengths Finder, strengths, the Gallup one.

Lisa: What was the one that you said that you took?

Ronni: It’s called, it’s a newer one and we used it — I was also a counselor intern at CU Boulder in the career counseling center. They had lots of tools. That was one they had that was free for the students. It was easy for the students. We did in person and online. So you could do it either way. And it’s just a good kind of a base point.

Lisa: What was it called?

Ronni: YouScience.

Lisa: YouScience. Okay, I’m so sorry. I think you mentioned that before. But I just wanted to make because I wanted to be sure to link to it in the post that goes with this podcast, but like, Would it be a publicly available thing that anybody could take?

Ronni: Actually I’m going to purchase it myself, if it would be maybe a good thing for Growing Self to purchase.

Lisa: Let’s talk about that. Let’s get access to it. 

Ronni: You do have to purchase it. It’s not very expensive. I think it’s like $12.50 an assessment or it’s not very expensive. 

Lisa: We’ll figure that out. 

Ronni: But anyway, that’s one and there are so many I mean, that’s one I’ve used a lot recently. Again, it works. It just totally depends on the individual.

Lisa: Okay, wow. Well, this has been such an informative conversation. I love the way it went, because I think we came in being like, okay, let’s figure out how to thoughtfully construct a specific career path. What the conversation I think turned into is really more about what it is like, it’s about exploring, learning, being open to possibility, learning new things as they come up, you know, and  being able to just kind of gather the things that appear in front of you and add it to this experience, while also being reflective and self aware and thinking about who you are, what you really want, what you value, and then doing some growth work to figure out if it’s a match and to evolve yourself along the way.

Ronni: I totally agree.  I go back to yes, you know, we kind of- life happens.  We’re constantly having to adjust to that, you know, things are changing in our world so fast that we have to adjust to that. And I also think going back to where we started, instead of throwing darts at the board. being intentional. I like the word intentional about looking for things and no, it’s not going to be one study.

It’s kind of like the stock market. The stock market goes up, it goes down. It’s not one steady line. Your life and your career won’t be but at the same time if you start looking and maybe making a life trajectory, or how you want life to look at the same time, so you have some kind of a guidance along the way while all these other things are going on. 

Lisa: Yeah. Definitely, and always learning. A story just flowed into my mind that I think I’ve probably shared this on other on another podcast, but I feel like it’s just so relevant to what we’re talking about, um, for a while, for a long time, actually, my son took karate, and he took it from a karate studio in a town where we live that was run by a elderly Japanese man who was, I think he probably came to the States when he was in his 30s or his 40s. But at the time that he was my son’s teacher, he was probably in his 70s.

He had like a sixth degree black belt. I mean, like, in national competitions, like there were all these old photos of him all over the walls from like, you know, the 80s and the 90s, all these things that he’s won awards from all over the place of like, you could not get higher in karate than this man.

And you know, the belts that karate students wear, they’re different colors that sort of denote their status and the very first, the youngest, newest karate students are given a white belt, which kind of means beginner. Anyway, so this, the sensei, he had this black belt that he had had for so long that was so worn, that it was literally turning white. Like you could see where the stitching was like there was, you know, black like it had used to be black, but it was actually, it was white again.

I just thought that that was such a powerful symbol. And that’s like, also what we’re talking about, like, because when you are talking about me and like this, you know, education or whatever, like, I feel that way. I feel like a white belt in so many different things. I think that’s like part of the instruction almost from this super high level karate master of “Don’t forget to learn,” you know? Beginner all the time.

Ronni: I love that analogy. I love, love, love that analogy. I think it’s so true. Thank you for sharing that. Because I believe that also. You mentioned gratitude. I think looking at life with gratitude, and back to the farm, where my opportunities were very, some people would think they were limited.

The farm gave me such a base of go out, yeah. I faced all my fears. And believe me, I had plenty. Still do. But I just keep moving ahead and say, “Okay, you fear that, let’s, let’s go look at it so you don’t fear it anymore. Walk through the door.” It’s, you know, it’s even today starting a new career, it’s, you just keep going through those fears.

You’ll get where you want to be. But having gratitude, like that farm experience gave me community, it gave me a base of love. We were not wealthy, but the love — I still have that today. It gave me that sense of adventure, of wanting to go out and find things. I really attribute that again, I say, to my lust for life today. I’m so grateful for that. I think being grateful, and first things, for the learning opportunities.

Sometimes they may look like- the learning opportunities may not be what you want, you know, and they’re painful. Or you just don’t want that learning opportunity. But to be grateful for those learning opportunities and to do it. What a gift.

Lisa: Wow. Well, it’s so inspiring. Just you know, because your own story, I mean, I’m just sitting here thinking about the fact that without mentioning specific numbers, Ronni, but you know, you I mean, you’re at the stage of life where, you know, many people would have hung it up, you know, 10 years ago.

I’d be like, I’m gonna go play pickleball now, you know, I mean, you are going back to school and, you know, embarking on a career and I know, that you just started with, with Growing Self fairly recently, so like, you know, doing new things and challenging yourself to grow and like, grow professionally. I mean, it’s inspiring, I think, is what I’m trying to say.

Ronni: Thank you so much for saying that. You know, I hope I do inspire people. Not- I don’t need any glory. In fact, I kind of like to live under the radar in that sense. But I want to inspire people to keep living and, and enjoy this gift of life and keep learning so that I hope I do inspire people to do that. 

Lisa: Well, you inspired me today. Thank you so much for coming in and talking with me.

Ronni: Thank you for the opportunity. It was fun. It is fun. I want to do it tomorrow,

Lisa: Anytime. What a great conversation. I had the best time talking to Ronni, she’s so much fun. I hope you got a lot out of this too. Of course, if you are interested in talking with Ronni, you can learn more about her and book your free consultation with her at growingself.com

But also, there is so much more available for you. If you want to come to growingself.com, come to our blog and podcast page. It’s growingself.com/blog-podcast and from there, if you want to access more information, more resources, more ideas to help you find your way in this world, come to the Success Collection. There you’ll have access to podcast collections I put together for you on Spotify different — not just career advice, although we certainly talk about that — but I think personal growth advice like you might want to check out episodes around being honest with yourself, on how to gain insight into who you are, what it is that you want.

We have a Personal Growth collection. We have a holistic view Life Design Collection, and certainly more information about things like emotional intelligence, career exploration, professional development, all the things that you heard Ronni and I talking about today as well as links and resources that I’ve accumulated over the years to various assessments and sites that I hope you find helpful.

It is all there for you. It is all free. I hope you come take advantage of it. I’ll be in touch next time with another episode of the podcast and of course in the meantime, please enjoy more. Best Fern. See you later.

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