Why Professional Development can be Magical

Maybe it’s because I am watching the Disney episode of Dancing with the Stars, or that I spent some time this week at a Disney attraction, but conferences can be magical.

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The past six months have been difficult for me at work. The duties have increased, and it seems that there is never a slow time to catch my breath. I feel some days that I am drowning in meetings and there is never time to do the tasks that come from those meetings.

I have always been firm that I don’t want to work from home after hours, and once I get home to be strictly about my family. But I have found more and more days where I have pulled out my computer after the kids go to bed, or I stayed late to cross things off the to-do lists. And I am always in early to get a head start.

I try to build times into my schedule to do the tasks, but to be honest they often get scheduled over. I hate to think that this will become my norm as a Director, but it has been my current reality. I also feel like you can’t really talk about it or complain about being busy because everyone is and there is the expectation to just get all the things done. I also think it can be difficult to talk about this at your own campus so you don’t let others see you feeling like you aren’t measuring up to your role. Imposter syndrome at it’s finest.

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So I very much needed this conference. I needed a break.

The thing is I love the work that I do. I really find value in what my office is doing, and feel that our initiatives are extremely valuable. I also love the collaborative nature of my role. Reaching across all the tables to see how we can make improvements for the student experience is fun for me. I love to strategically talk through what is happening and brainstorm plans to make things better.

However I was starting to get tunnel vision and worn out from my schedule.

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Professional development is often forgotten or not prioritized, but it is so important. I try to take advantage of things that happen around campus or free webinars, and I have been strategic this year about building intentional PD into my staff dynamic, but there is something about going away to a conference that can bring life back into your work. It does some magic to my soul.

  • When I explain all the things that come from my office to other schools, I am reminded of how proud I am of what we accomplish which is no small feat.
  • It provides an opportunity to hear from leaders in the field and be inspired.
  • It helps you to not feel so isolated in your experience.
  • You are just free to think and brainstorm, which can be magical.
  • I am in my element taking notes and outlining, so it always grounds me.
  • It allows you to not directly look at a problem but take a side view with some outsiders helping you process.
  • I am not expected to be an expert or have to respond. I can just truly be in the moment and soak it all in.
  • It is an opportunity to not reinvent the wheel. There is something about the element of sharing that I get jazzed about. As higher ed institutions we are often in competition, but at these conferences there is a sense of care to help each other, and we share our struggles and wins so we can learn from one another. Again something magical.
  • The chance to engage with colleagues across the nation in general is a surreal experience. I am always amazed at all that we do in Higher Ed. We are changing the world and improving lives.
  • It is a very intentional time to be consumed with my work but not consumed by my job.

The root of it is returning to my why and the intention of this profession. I get all nerdy about all the things. And whereas I was definitely ready to put my out of office up last week, I am ready to get back to it this week and move forward. I don’t have a magical wand, but I am ready to help create a whole new world.

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And having a bed to myself and eating meals at my own pace wasn’t bad either for this worn out soul.

Why do you like conferences?

I would love to hear your thoughts!

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