Finding Inspiration in New Places

By: Ellen (career counselor & guest blog poster)

Even after you graduate from college and start your career, you should keep learning. The best way to move up in your career path is to learn and practice new skills. Those of us already out in the “real world” call it professional development. During the course of a regular year, I attend conferences, training sessions for specific topics, and webinars. I also read. A lot. I read books, blogs, social media, journal articles, and more. I’m still a newish professional in my field of Higher Education, so a lot of my professional development centers around Career Services and Higher Education related topics.

I’m now reaching a point of intentionally looking outside the field of Higher Education for professional development opportunities.  The benefit of seeking professional development outside of your chosen field is simple: you are exposed to new ways of thinking.

Last week, I attended a new conference called Tech Cities hosted at the Carlson School of Management on the UMN Twin Cities campus. It was just a half-day event, which can sometimes be better than a 3-day conference. The purpose of the event according to the conference website was to “share research findings, business breakthroughs, and diverse perspectives on the state of Minnesota tech, including wins, opportunities and challenges.” I thought it looked fun and interesting, so I asked if I could attend. While this conference wasn’t career or higher ed related, it was still semi-related to work I do in the office (social media) and my background (Communication and Business). So it was new without being completely out in left field.

I attended 2 awesome breakout sessions: Women in Tech panel and The Practice of Innovation and Invention. Here are some snippets from the notes I took during the sessions.

  • Women are leaving the tech field because of the environment at the organizations, not because of the work they are doing.
  • Research shows that companies with women in leadership roles do better financially.
  • Geek Feminism is a thing. So cool.
  • When you are the only woman in the room, there is such a higher expectation to succeed. Others could “prove” why women shouldn’t do X (insert a variety of tasks here), if you happen to fail. [My Note: while this is wildly unfair, it is sadly a reality in a lot of companies. My challenge to the fabulous women out there who are currently in college and starting in their career fields is this: keep challenging the norms, break barriers and ceilings, and do the best you can.]
  • Be able to describe what you want in clear language for your career path and your next goal.
  • Innovation should be at the heart of everyone’s job.
  • There are 5 habits of innovators:
    • Be interested (but not solely in yourself)
    • Look outward
    • Invite and tolerate creative people
    • Suspend disbelief
    • Bet the garden, not the farm (work on a lot of small ideas)
  • The art of the pause. Take a beat, or two, before reacting to something.

So what is our lesson for today? Looking outside your professional field for learning opportunities can lead you to some amazing insights about your own work. If you’re currently a student, use your elective classes to test an area outside of your major. Need an example? If your major is English, take a class in coding. With that combo, you could build a website that showcases your writing.

Where are you going to look for inspiration?

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