For Heather Welzant, dean of the School of Public Service & Education at Capella University, each day begins essentially the same way—with a quick shot of professional development.
She starts with reading Education Dive, a daily e-newsletter that provides her with easy-to-digest, relevant headlines about trends in the education industry. That e-newsletter is just one of several daily e-newsletters on Welzant’s subscription list. After reading the headlines, she then scrolls through her LinkedIn feed to scan for articles and conversations on key developments in the field of education. It only takes a matter of minutes, but it keeps Welzant feeling fresh and current.
“As an educator, if you want to be successful and relevant, you need to be continually educating yourself and keep on top of best practices and trends in the industry,” Welzant says. “There is no career where this is more important than the field of education. After all, by the nature of what we do, we are setting an example for others to follow.”
Make It Easy on Yourself
Welzant is a big believer in making professional development easy and convenient for educators. To say the least, educators are busy. Add in personal responsibilities and family commitments and time can be a precious commodity. That’s why Welzant advocates for educators to bring professional development to them.
“For a busy education professional, subscribing to daily e-blasts about key developments in the field can provide you with the snippets you need to know without weighing you down,” Welzant says. “You can learn a lot reading through a few brief articles. Even just five minutes a day can do a lot of good in keeping you informed. Make an effort to carve out that time on your calendar.”
She adds that it is
also important for educators to pay it forward with what they learn. In other
words, take the extra second or two to share the most relevant news with your
“If you found something helpful and informative, there is a good chance your colleagues will appreciate it as well, so why not share it with them?” Welzant asks. “Hopefully, they will do the same for you, which creates a virtuous cycle.”
LinkedIn Is About More Than Just Virtual Resumes
LinkedIn has come a long way in recent years. Gone are the days when it served only as a virtual resume. Today, it is a powerful thought leadership platform, both for learning about best practices and trends in education and sharing your own perspective and expertise.
“Educators today simply must have a presence on LinkedIn,” Welzant says. “That said, many educators need to rethink how they use LinkedIn. It’s not a site you visit once a year to make sure your profile is up to date. It’s a resource you should access daily to read through thought leadership articles, engage with groups of like-minded professionals, and share out your own perspectives. The wealth of information in the industry is huge.”
There are many education-related groups on LinkedIn that Welzant recommends exploring, including Competency Based Learning, Blackboard, Education Week, and Educause. She also follows influencers such as Sir Ken Robinson, Jack Welch, and John Maxwell.
“The amount and diversity of thought leadership on LinkedIn is tremendous,” Welzant says. “It truly is key to developing your personal professional brand. But remember, it’s about more than just taking in knowledge, but it’s about giving back and sharing.”
Explore an Advanced Degree
As helpful and efficient as social media and e-mail newsletters can be in keeping educators engaged with industry trends, those quick hits can’t replace the depth of knowledge and critical-thinking skills that can be gained by pursuing an advanced degree. Earning those advanced credentials, such as a Doctor of Education degree, is more accessible than ever with high-quality online universities like Capella.
“Educators today can benefit in so many ways by exploring an advanced degree,” Welzant says. “It doesn’t necessarily even have to be in the field of education. For example, earning an MBA could be very useful to an educator who has their eyes on a superintendent role.”
Don’t Forget the Real World
In addition to online professional development options, it is also important for educators to seek out opportunities for advancement. Of course, many educators participate in traditional in-person professional development settings such as conferences, seminars, and workshops. However, Welzant believes it’s important to be more than a passive participant.
“Don’t be just a listener, but rather raise your hand and share your knowledge,” Welzant says.
“You have to stretch yourself. You need to seek opportunities to go beyond your comfort zone. Present. Sit on a panel. Every educator has something to share.”
For example, a couple of years ago at the Online Learning Consortium’s Accelerate conference, Welzant raised her hand to participate in the Iron Chef Battle as part of the Technology Test Kitchen. With a full crowd of onlookers, she and her team had just 10 minutes to solve a particularly pressing education technology issue. She loved it.
“Doing this type of thing gives you confidence, inspiration, and ideas that you can bring back to your organization or school to inspire others,” Welzant says.
She also advocates for finding more informal interpersonal development opportunities, namely mentorships. Mentors can be more seasoned educators, but also people from other industries who can inspire you to think outside the box.
“In addition to those in your field, connect with people who have the expertise you don’t have—a lawyer, a doctor, a business leader,” Welzant says. “Use that fresh perspective to re-invigorate your world view. If you limit networking only to people in education, you risk being in an echo chamber.”
Welzant concludes by reiterating that you can’t have a successful career as an educator without continually reinvesting in yourself and your knowledge base.
“Plus, it can be wonderfully energizing and remind you why you love being an educator.”
Take your professional development to the next level with an online education degree from Capella University.