Professional Development Opinion

Building Opportunities

By AAEE — April 15, 2014 2 min read
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What things have you been wanting to change or improve on lately? We want improvement, but we do not necessarily know how to get that improvement. For most of us, the difficulty probably lies in getting started. Perhaps we are afraid of what might come from change or maybe we lack the resources or momentum to build the right circumstances for change. Oftentimes, the idea of change will feel like it threatens the existing balance and routine in place, but think about what good might come from change. Even when it does not feel like there is time to make steps towards the change or dedicate the time for development, think about what would help you get started. The nature of growth and learning requires change; and when we expand our horizons, new opportunities are available.

Earlier in my career when I facilitated adventure programs at summer camps, I learned of a principle called “Challenge by Choice.” To give a very bare bones summary of Challenge by Choice, a participant would voluntarily, intentionally, and actively choose a level of challenge for an activity appropriate for the individual, and have the support of the group, even if a choice is to sit out from an event. This philosophy shares how there are different levels and scales of challenges. Some activities might not provide enough of a challenge (green zone), while other activities create a challenge we see as being unbearable and too much for us to handle (red zone). In between those ends, however, is the yellow zone - the area where the most amount of growth occurs. Within this framework and aim, a group can challenge and support individual needs and goals while an individual challenges him- or herself by their own choosing and comfort level.

Similar to Challenge by Choice, individuals and groups can set intentional and targeted goals in the effort of self-improvement and professional development. We might not have a clear vision of end results, but by envisioning the planned path and the steps needed to accomplish goals, one can strive and work towards overcoming challenges.

In career terms, think of the challenges ahead of you. What is the next step in your career? Do you have difficulty in interacting with others or knowing how to face difficult situations? What resources, relationships, and groups help give you the confidence to face tests and trials? Here are a few ideas of possible goals you can set for anyone at any stage of his or her career:

  • Carve out thirty minutes each week for the purpose of re-centering yourself and find rejuvenation.
  • Read a book which may expand your knowledge or uplift your spirits. FISH! by John Christensen, Stephen C. Lundin, and Harry Paul and Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson are neat books about facing change.
  • Take some time to volunteer at an event or non-profit organization.
  • Find some articles or internet pages which help give you creativity for your own work or classroom.
  • Introduce yourself to someone you do not know and try to strike up a short conversation.
  • Join a professional group or organization and build more contacts.

Whether you are just getting started or you have been building for a longer time, do not be afraid to keep building new opportunities. It can make a difference.

Matthew Pouss

Assistant Director/Internship Coordinator

Mount St. Mary’s University (Maryland)

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