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Next Best Practices in Professional Development

As data management professionals advance in their career journeys, professional development should be prioritized. There are several areas that contribute to career growth and maintaining relevancy.

Professional development should be a priority for all data management professionals, no matter where they are in their careers. Emerging professionals can build their credibility and demonstrate a commitment to the industry by undertaking additional educational and networking opportunities. Mid-career professionals are able to fill in any skill gaps and expand their resources and networks. Even those in leadership roles can benefit from ongoing development, be it through executive coaches, thought leadership opportunities or board seats.

As the business world evolves and presents new challenges, individuals must refresh their approach to professional development. For instance, rather than taking a pause if traditional activities are unavailable, seek out opportunities to be creative and proactively leverage digital channels.

There are several facets that make up the kaleidoscope of career development. As individuals adapt to an ever-shifting environment, the following areas contribute to maintaining relevancy and professional momentum.

Adjusted Goals

Many individuals set goals around professional development at the start of the year. If certain tactics for attaining those goals are no longer possible, the goal should evolve, rather than be abandoned. By focusing on longer term career goals, professionals can get creative in moving their careers forward. For instance, if taking an in-person course was a goal for the year, there may be similar online options. Face-to-face networking events may need to evolve into virtual lunches or coffees, rather than being postponed. Depending on the situation, goals can even be reset completely, to account for the tools and opportunities at one’s disposal. By keeping goals fluid, individuals can still strive for attainable improvement regardless of external factors and barriers.

Mentorship

Both in person and virtual mentoring can make a great impact on one’s career. By seeking out mentors and building strong working relationships, individuals will have access to a wealth of insight and perspective as they move through their professional journeys. These relationships can be formed with individuals within one’s own organization or with others both inside and outside of the industry. Mentors who have overcome similar career experiences can help mentees navigate through difficult situations or professional hurdles, while challenging and inspiring them. By coming into the relationship with a clear strategy and set objectives, individuals can gain the insight needed to propel their careers.

Social Media

Individuals who aren’t currently active on social media platforms such as LinkedIn are missing out on a great opportunity to grow their online brands. By connecting with peers and acquaintances, individuals can stay in touch with their networks with minimal time commitment. Additionally, this provides an opportunity to connect with industry colleagues across geography to gain insight and discuss pressing topics. Joining professional groups on LinkedIn can further these connections and unite individuals through similar interests and passions. By sharing articles and insights, commenting on posts and connecting with others, individuals can grow their networks and build their brands.

Industry Conferences

Industry conferences are a wonderful way to learn, while also connecting with peers. Often these events have forward-thinking speakers who can share fresh insights and perspectives.  Many organizations are arranging virtual events to complement or replace in-person sessions. Logging into these webinars is an easy way to stay current on industry trends and can challenge ways of thinking about current projects and even daily activities.

Formal and Informal Training

There is much value in formal continuing education and certification programs. If individuals lack certain skills or knowledge needed for career progression, this type of training provides tangible evidence of proficiency. These programs can also assist professionals wanting to expand their skillsets or specialize in a certain area. If brick and mortar classes are not available, many organizations are offering free online courses. Additionally, while formal training is valuable, individuals may also want to think more abstractly about skill development. Classes such as creative writing or improv can encourage new ways of thinking and indirectly impact success. Individuals may also want to consider gaining real-world experience by volunteering for reach projects and responsibilities. This can often provide an opportunity to learn in a low-risk setting.

Thought Leadership

With many organizations focusing on ways to leverage data to better their businesses, data professionals are in a unique position to provide insight, advice and best practices. Individuals can further build their professional brands and industry authority by sharing their perspectives with a broader audience. This could mean reaching out to applicable industry publications and writing articles that are valuable to their readership. Professionals can also propose topics for speaking opportunities and virtual seminars to share their expertise while growing their presentation skills.

Virtual Platforms

Video conferencing and remote meetings are popular and may be a permanent method of communication. As the world has gotten comfortable with these virtual formats, a number of unspoken rules and protocols have emerged. Fumbling with technology or having a disheveled background are not acceptable. Whether a meeting is for work or networking purposes, individuals should present themselves in a professional manner. Dress smartly, in a crisp shirt or blouse that complements your background. If you wear makeup, try to make it natural and camera-friendly. This is an important part of maintaining a personal brand.

Logging in early, checking lighting, and testing camera and microphone settings are vital. Backgrounds should be tidy and professional. While the current work-from-home culture seems a bit less formal, individuals should strive to make virtual meetings mirror a face-to-face situation as much as possible. Noise from kids and pets is not acceptable and meetings should be scheduled during times when interruptions are unlikely to occur. Practicing video conferencing with friends or colleagues can provide insight into how one comes across on the screen and help ensure facial expression and hand gestures are effective.

Conclusion

Whether in-person or virtual, there is a wealth of opportunity for data management professionals to build intentional and impressive careers. By defining goals, calibrating them to the current business climate and continually seeking out opportunities for improvement, individuals will remain relevant while growing their professional footprints.

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Margaret Resce Milkint

Margaret Resce Milkint is a talent strategist and diversity catalyst, focused on delivering top c-suite executives to the insurance industry. As a leader of the firm’s executive search practice, she handles executive talent searches on a global basis in the areas of life, property and casualty, healthcare, reinsurance, and consulting. Margaret is dedicated to relationship-building, collaboration, ambassadorship, inclusion and innovation in search/recruiting, insurance and data management. She has served as a trustee for The Actuarial Foundation, a board member for the Illinois Technology Foundation, and a member of the Society of Actuaries’ Employers Council and the Chicago Finance Exchange. Additionally, she co-founded the Women’s Insurance Networking Group, a platform for networking and career development among female and enlightened male insurance professionals, and serves in leadership roles for several inclusion and diversity-focused organizations including Million Women Mentors and STEMconnector.

Margaret received her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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