When asked about professional development, most people immediately think about conferences, certifications or advanced degree programs. While those are valuable, there are so many opportunities for you to pursue personal development outside of these traditional offerings. A commitment to lifelong learning is demonstrated in the small steps you take regularly to push yourself to learn new things, explore different concepts and discover ideas that can help take your work to the next level. And more often than not, this doesn’t have to come with a significant investment of time or money, but instead requires a genuine curiosity and a creative approach to find content that will stretch your thinking.
Cultivate your curiosity – Curiosity is a driver for innovative and creative thinking. By asking questions, leaders are able to learn from new perspectives, challenge the “way it’s always been done”, and facilitate a space where you can try new things. It will be these new ideas that allow you to develop creative solutions to your business challenges and meet the needs of members and stakeholders.
I once heard a guest speaker at an Alpha Chi Omega alumnae event share about the power of curiosity as a leadership skill. She quoted Andy Fromm, the author of The Curiosity Muscle, saying: “Psychologically, success can be dangerous because it tricks us into thinking of ourselves as experts and kills our curiosity.” Fueling your own curiosity starts with reminding yourself that you don’t have all the answers. While you may have great experience and knowledge that has led to success in your career, curiosity means that you do not see yourself as the absolute expert – you are open to learning and you know that innovation and creativity starts with curiosity.
Inspire your creativity– Think outside the box! While sharing ideas within our association and field is important, it is also essential that we get creative with our learning and seek content outside our industry to learn from. Other associations that may be outside of fraternity and sorority life but have shared interests in the success of students and alumni are a great place to start. Two associations I have found value in following include NACE (National Association for Colleges and Employers) and CASE (Council for Advancement and Support of Education). Association publications often include articles, data and more to highlight trends impacting the industry.
Other companies offering learning opportunities in adjacent spaces that I’ve found beneficial include The Training Industry and DonorSearch, particularly their Mastermind Series. While these may feel outside fraternity and sorority life, the professional skills addressed are transferable to our work and the trends impacting outside industries ripple into our work too.
Working for a nonprofit member organization, I find value in engaging with similar organizations like The Girl Scouts or the Association of Junior Leagues International. What can I learn from the way they communicate with members that I can apply to my own writing? I think about what programming seems to be successful and how could that translate to Alpha Chi Omega’s member programming.
Are you a book lover? What is out there that speaks to the topics that interest you most? I’m looking forward to diving into The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip and Dan Heath and Unreasonable Hospitality: The Remarkable Power of Giving People More Than They Expect by Will Guidara. I hope I’ll be able to tie what I learn from these two books to the work I do in inspiring alumnae to engage in their membership experience. What books are out there that interest you?
Are you more into podcasts? I first found IDEO U when learning about design thinking and I’ve enjoyed staying plugged into their content since. IDEO U “is an online school that equips you with skills, mindsets and tools to help you stay relevant and adaptive in our modern world.” One of my favorite offerings by IDEO U is the Creative Confidence Podcast. The podcast, which you can attend live webinar-style or listen to audio-only, features thought leaders and change makers in conversation about a wide variety of topics. Not only do I take away great content from the episode, I also often leave with a new leader that I can then follow and learn from after listening.
Speaking of thought leaders, who are the people you are following online? Who are you allowing in your digital space to “speak” to you? I’m a big fan of following thought leaders on LinkedIn for bite-size learning content. Speaker and corporate trainer Lindsay Boccardo posts short micro-trainings that can quickly help you grow a skill with actionable steps to put it into practice. Jess Ekstrom is a speaker and nonprofit founder I follow online, and I’ve enjoyed subscribing to her Monday motivational hype texts. Finding leaders who inspire and interest you to connect with online can put learning content at your fingertips while expanding your network!
Each week you make choices about the content you are listening to and reading. What if we all took these next few months to get creative in those choices to bring new perspectives and ideas to our work? How would we feel inspired? What project would we advance because we are excited by a fresh idea we can contribute? How could this new learning reinvigorate and motivate us? No matter how long you’ve been in the field, there is still more to learn. And it will be the creativity and the curiosity professionals bring to this industry that continues making the fraternity and sorority experience relevant for generations to come.
About the author:
Arianna Bradley currently works as the Director of Lifetime Engagement at Alpha Chi Omega headquarters. Her role centers on fostering alumnae relations, engagement and programming, all with a focused mission of delivering the lifelong Real. Strong. Women.® Experience to members. Arianna holds a bachelor’s degree in communication arts and public relations from the University of West Florida and a master’s degree in higher education administration from Florida State University.