Use Curiosity to Drive Year-Long Professional Development

You would never exercise all day for a week and not lace up your sneakers the rest of the year, but we often approach professional development as a single injection of information and inspiration meant to last 12 months. A more regular learning habit can make it easier to track development and help you identify blind spots where progress may have stalled, according to author, innovation consultant and WFF Leadership Conference speaker, Diana Kander. The 2021 WFF Leadership Conference combines an immersive three-day learning experience with a full year of engaging content, connections and inspiration through your WFF membership.
  
Prioritizing professional development is one of the greatest investments you can make in your career. Expanding your skills and knowledge can enable you to excel in your current role and position you for the next step in your career. It also sends a clear signal to supervisors that you are interested in advancement and willing to do the work to get there.
 
“Most people have a sort of list in their head of things they want to improve on,” explains Diana Kander, entrepreneur, innovation consultant and author of The Curiosity Muscle. “We often assume we already know what we need to improve, but there can be other things we are not thinking about that would actually propel our career forward more forcefully and quickly,” she says. She will be a featured speaker at the 2021 WFF Leadership Conference with a session titled Why Curiosity is the Ultimate Competitive Advantage.
 
“When you think you already know the answer, you stop asking interesting questions,” Kander explains. “The opposite of curiosity is certainty. If everything is going according to plan, you haven’t been surprised in your professional development lately or you don’t have a sense of humility about your areas for development, getting more curious can help you ask better questions and open new directions and opportunities.”
 
She shares an experience from her own development to illustrate the point. “I wanted to become a better public speaker earlier in my career so I hired a professional comedian to help me write some jokes and anecdotes to engage the audience,” Kander explains. “What actually happened was a total overhaul of my presentation style. There were things I needed to improve that I was not aware of and were not yet part of my development goals. I had become too certain about what I needed and wasn’t being curious enough to ask powerful questions that would reveal greater areas for development.”
 
Four curious questions
Fortunately for Kander, her speech coach helped open her eyes to a broader range of improvements she could make. However, Kander says you can often serve as your own consultant by asking these four powerful questions.
• What are my blind spots?
• What can I try?
• How will I know if it’s not working?
• Who will hold me accountable?
 
Day in and day out
When you regularly apply those questions to your own learning and development, it can open new paths to discovery and growth within routine work weeks. A major conference is an outstanding way to jump start development efforts and tap into inspiring experts and role models, and then following “destination development” with daily actions makes an even more powerful combination. Some of the rewards of ongoing professional development include:
 
Content can be accessed in digestible chunks. While immersive conferences are outstanding learning opportunities, they can sometimes feel like drinking from a firehose. By combining the inspiration and wide range of ideas that come from an intense focus on professional development with follow-up in more bite-size chunks, you can increase your focus on implementation and apply a test and revise strategy.
 
You can explore the topics and skillsets you need at the moment when you have access to development content and resources throughout the year while on the job. Success today often relies on your ability to take advantage of unexpected opportunities as they arise and quickly develop new competencies to meet emerging challenges. You can better capitalize on those moments with constant access to targeted content for your career stage.
 
Ongoing connection and dialogue across a network of peers and role models creates another way to expand your knowledge and understanding. With a strong network, you can tap into expert advice or consultation on a tricky situation right when you need it. Especially in the era of remote work, an active network can be the difference between isolation and stagnation and capitalizing on emerging opportunities.
  
“When we learn to ask better questions on an ongoing basis, we get better results,” Kander says. “We can use curiosity to keep ourselves in that mode of learning and development every day of the year.”   
 
REGISTER for the WFF 2021 Leadership Conference to launch an invigorating deep dive into your professional development followed by a full year of content and connection that includes on-demand access to most Conference sessions, resources targeted to your career stage and members-only events with industry leaders and experts.

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