A 4-Step Plan on Personal Development

You may actually find yourself a step behind if you don’t take advantage of professional development opportunities.

Research documenting the benefits of lifelong learning for individuals and organizations is overwhelming. An EvoLLLution report spelled out these benefits in a survey of employers:
  • 96% said continuing education has a positive impact on job performance.
  • 78% said it factors into promotion and advancement on the job.
  • 87% said it affects compensation and salary.
You may need to ask your manager for investment in your professional development, but there is a good chance the conversation won’t be uncomfortable. Plenty of organizations place a high value on lifelong learning and have programs in place to support employees who want to grow their knowledge base— especially within our industry. As you craft a pitch to pursue an insurance designation or another form of professional development, here’s our four-step guide to help you get started: Step 1 – See what your company offers At organizations that understand the value of continuing education, you may actually find yourself a step behind if you don’t take advantage of professional development opportunities. Check with human resources for a specific process for pursuing education before you approach your boss. You may find that HR has a learning and development program you hadn’t known about. See also: How to Develop an Innovation Perspective   Don’t forget about continuing education credits. Too often these credit hours are an afterthought that are more about checking a box before an imminent deadline than real professional growth—but they don’t have to be. There are lots of ways to make the time spent earning those credits worthwhile. If you’re required to complete continuing education, make part of your pitch explaining why the professional development you’re interested in will help to grow your skillset, being sure to mention that it will also count toward fulfilling your CE credit requirements. Step 2 – Start small It’s unreasonable to expect your organization to pay for an MBA after just a week on the job. Start pursuing professional development by asking for something that won’t require big changes or a significant financial commitment from your organization. Request approval to subscribe to a trade publication, to sign up for a webinar or to attend a local conference. Professional development is a career-long process. As such, you should incorporate education into discussions with your supervisor as you’re discussing career goals, aligning education goals with your career objectives. For example, if you want to gain a strong foundation in general insurance concepts, talk about AINS as a way to build that knowledge base. Step 3 – Prepare your pitch Once you’ve successfully received buy-in for a few smaller investments in continuing education, you can plan a discussion for more significant professional development. Your conversation should be professional and compelling. A couple of tips:
  • Rehearse—Structure your pitch to be as convincing as possible and practice it until you’re able to present your case with confidence and passion.
  • Ask for approval with confidence—You know this professional development will benefit you and the organization. Work off the assumption that your boss agrees.
  • Choose the right time—In some organizations, a performance review is the right time to bring up professional development, but that’s not always the case. Choosing the right time and circumstances may increase your chances of gaining approval for the request.
Step 4 – Spell out the benefits Professional development should go both ways—it should benefit the professional and the organization. Explain how a selected professional development opportunity will improve your skills and improve the organization. Try to do this as specifically as possible: Instead of saying, “AINS will broaden my general insurance knowledge,” consider, instead, “AINS will allow me to be more knowledgeable on coverage options and how we differ from our competitors when I talk to customers.” See also: Getting Back in Step With People’s Needs   Here’s one particularly effective way to increase the benefits your organization will see from your professional development: offer to share your new knowledge with co-workers. Host a few lunches summarizing this knowledge or simply pass along articles, white papers or other materials. You won’t be able to share all of your knowledge, but your efforts will show your boss that you’re committed to maximizing the value your organization will get from your newfound know-how. What tips have you used to get your boss to buy into your passion for lifelong learning? Tell us below!

Susan Crowe

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Susan Crowe

Susan Crowe, MBA, CPCU, ARM, ARe, AIC, API, is a director of content development at The Institutes. She is also a member of the Philadelphia CPCU Society Chapter and of the Reinsurance Interest Group committee.


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