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Taking risks with professional development

3 min read

Career-Technical Education

As part of SmartBrief Education’s coverage of Path to Workforce, we’ve teamed with the Association for Career and Technical Education to share CTE articles written by educators, for educators.  In this blog post, guest blogger Leslie Bleskachek examines risk-taking and professional development.

I have had the great opportunity to participate in some wonderful professional development, particularly in the past few years. After talking with many students about their work aspirations, I am grateful for these chances to plan ahead for a career path of my own.

I find there are a couple of components that have really helped me focus my thoughts. The first is to choose a mentor, and maybe more than one. As I piece together the various experiences that have helped me succeed, I find that in many cases I had the guidance of a mentor. I usually sought people who had expertise in an area where I was not as strong. While this is good, I also have discovered the value in seeking a mentor who is high on the organizational chart who has a temperament much like your own. This person can help identify pitfalls or blind spots that you might encounter. You can learn from their mistakes and hindsight.

Another strategy is to recognize the non-linear opportunities. So few of us planned from the start to be where we are today. Nonetheless, we find ourselves, through a series of choices and risks, in our current roles. I find many successes were due to risks I took, and that not taking the risk ended up being even more risky in hindsight as jobs were absorbed by companies or merged into another area. It is good to look laterally, or sometimes outside your organization for the stepping stones that allow you to grow professionally.

Finally, don’t forget to take advantage of opportunities available through organizations. Serving on committees allows you to network and to try new skills. Formal professional development through the various modes (state leadership training, fellows, regional offices) allows you to stretch your boundaries and experiment on a national level. This builds skill, confidence and a group of professional peers.

Wherever your career map leads, there are always people and opportunities along the way who can help — don’t be afraid to take a risk! You have everything to gain.

Leslie Bleskachek is the vice president of Academic Affairs at Southeast Technical in Red Wing, Minn. She also is the 2015 Region III Fellow for ACTE.

This content is crossposted on ACTE’s Educators in Action site.

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