Grab Your Oxygen Mask!

The Value of Ongoing Professional Development

By Jennifer L. Hipple, Communications Consultant



When was the last time you took a flight somewhere? Whether you travel once a week or once a year, you’ve probably created a nice little routine for yourself once you’ve boarded, stowed your carry-on, and taken your seat. Like the pilot, you’ve got your checklist of things to do to prepare for your flight: You pull out the anti-bacterial wipes and give your teeny-tiny personal space a once-over. You put in your ear buds. You busy yourself with some electronic device. As the aircraft backs away from the gate and the flight attendants give everyone “the safety talk” you tune out as they drone on about seat belts, tray tables, and emergency exits. And yes, you know your seat cushion can double as a flotation device in the unlikely event of a water landing between Minneapolis and Topeka. And yes, should there be a loss of cabin pressure you put your own mask on first before helping someone else. Did you know this safety measure also applies to your professional life?

Regardless where we are on our career path, we can likely look back to a leader or boss who really believed in us (thank you, Larry), whom we greatly respected, someone whose example we learned from (thank you, Marilyn!), someone who gave us an opportunity or a break when we really needed it (thank you, Joe and Kelly!). They encouraged us to set goals for ourselves, to learn, and to grow. Do you remember the energy and excitement you felt working with them? They were very likely people who knew the importance of making time for and investing in their own professional development and growth, and they provided their team members with opportunities to do the same.

Whether you’re a Baby Boomer wanting to start a different chapter in your career, a Gen Xer ready to make a move into a different specialty area, or a Millennial moving into a supervisory or management role, making time for ongoing professional development—applying your oxygen mask—is essential for not only positioning yourself for new challenges and opportunities but for the contributions you can make to your organization.

To put a finer point on it, the need for training and ongoing professional development across the nonprofit sector is rising as the need for nonprofit services grows at an ever-increasing rate. Whether your role is in strategic planning, fundraising, grant writing, human resources, marketing, or a leadership position, we all need to continue learning, growing, and strengthening our skills. So, look for ongoing training and skills development opportunities to invest in yourself, your career and what you have to offer, and grab that oxygen mask!