Choose learning

We’re all busy with our personal and professional lives, but that doesn’t mean we should stop educating ourselves.

I have spent a good portion of the last eight months crisscrossing the country training professionals in the AEC industry on a variety of topics including leadership, project management, hiring and keeping great talent, professional speaking, and communication. It never gets old. I enjoy helping others polish the diamond within themselves.

Einstein said it best: “All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual.”

We are all given options to advance ourselves, improve our calling, and contribute to society in a meaningful way. Our careers and chosen professions can provide us with a chance to make a mark that stands the test of time.

I remember when I graduated from college I swore up and down that I would never pick up a book again. Boy, was I wrong! I quickly developed a curiosity for learning that has pushed me into the unchartered waters of education, waters that started out as cold as the San Francisco Bay but ended up as warm as a South Beach Miami breeze.

So many of us have been there in our careers where we kind of limp along, just getting by but never really jump-starting our appetite for learning. We forget to stoke our curiosity.

This learning deficit happens because we have so much on our plates and not enough time in the day to get all of it done. Couple that with our inability to prioritize those things that we deem essential, and you have a recipe for professional development purgatory.

Okay, maybe it’s not that bad, but you get the picture I’m trying to paint. If you don’t take the time to develop yourself, no one else will do it for you.

Learning is one of those things that we either choose to do, or choose not to do, while we keep ourselves busy with everything else. My challenge to you is to figure out a way to do it all.

Work hard, play hard, and most importantly, learn new things!

And, I might add, it’s not just a matter of getting PDHs or CEUs to maintain your professional license. That’s a part of it, but it’s certainly not everything.

Here are three things you can do right now to get your professional and personal development off the ground.

  1. Take a quality speed-reading course. I used to laugh at the idea of speeding up my reading ability, but then I looked at the numbers. I could increase my reading words per minute from 200, with about 60 percent comprehension, to 550 to 600, with 85 percent comprehension. I noticed that books that used to take me several days to read now took a day or two, and my retention was much higher. And Bill Gates reading a book a week? I thought that was crazy, but now I know that with proper training, it’s possible for anyone – including you – to do.
  2. Sign up for quality online educational training. These include great programs like Udemy, Coursera, Lynda.com, and, of course, ZLearning – Zweig Group’s online continuing education program. You can brush up on quality subjects and exciting topics that allow you to develop stronger skills and abilities that will take you further along in your career. The beauty of online education today is that for the most part it’s portable and can be consumed whenever and wherever you want. Plus, a lot of the professional development training that you take for work can end up helping your personal development, too!
  3. Develop your communication skills. Whether speaking in public or writing effectively, there is always room to improve your ability to communicate. A lot of engineers and architects struggle unnecessarily in this area. Based on my project management training classes, effective communication is lacking in most firms, especially when it comes to working with the client. Communication problems are one of the biggest reasons for scope creep.

You can join Toastmasters or a similar group to develop your ability to communicate ideas effectively through the spoken word. Learning to employ simple things like pace, pitch, and tone can help, and creating messages with a beginning, middle, and end is immensely beneficial. Telling stories early and often, and knowing your audience and the message you hope to deliver, can help you to become someone that people want to listen to. Oh, and of course, practice makes perfect so you have to jump at every speaking opportunity that you can find.

When it comes to the written word, get someone that writes well to critique your work. Also get an online editor like grammarly.com, which is what I’m using right now as I write this article. Of course, I will have a great editor read through this before you see the finished product, but Grammarly does the heavy lifting, gently reminding me of all those things I forgot from Mr. Bogans, my eighth grade English teacher.

Chad Clinehens, our fearless leader here at Zweig Group, recently talked about Elevating the Industry at our annual Hot Firm + AEC Industry Awards Conference in Dallas. For Clinehens, it begins and ends with education. We all have to do better to be better. It starts with every individual in the design industry working to improve themselves.

Whether you are speaking, writing, reading, or taking courses online, there is so much more that you can do to improve yourself. It’s not hard. If you put your mind to it, you can make it happen. If you are looking for ideas or inspiration on where to start, feel free to email me and we can talk more about what you hope to accomplish and how Zweig Group can help.

Randy Wilburn is Zweig Group’s director of education. He can be reached at rwilburn@zweiggroup.com.

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Posted in Articles | November 26th, 2018 by