Sometimes Professional Development Goals Just Don’t Happen

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It’s August 5th. I haven’t written a blog since May. We have a baby “due” in a week. I’m running on all cylinders to get my day time job, all my volunteer responsibilities (including chairing a large scale association committee), and a consulting project done.

With all of this, I can’t help but feel a little bit of failure. It is a failure that I have manifested in this pile:


This is my professional development reading pile that I’ve more or less collected since March. It was my summer reading – journal articles, monographs, reports, and even a whole book (which I at least have skimmed). It was my plan to stay on top of my career long practice of reading as much of the resources that come my way about this field of higher education and student affairs. I’ve never skipped (at least skimming) an entire issue of the research journals from all Associations to which I belong. The pile includes topics which with I am familiar and also new topics about which I want to learn. Reading has been pivotal to my professional development.

And I failed at it.

Or did I? I’m not sure. Maybe I’ve just had to rethink things. Maybe this isn’t an “I’m so busy – whoa is me” blog post. Maybe it’s really a “I’m rethinking – good for me” blog post.

Looking ahead, I know I will have to rethink my professional engagement outside of work. I resigned a committee role last week. I’m wrapping up that large scale association committee chair project. I have two other volunteer roles that I may have to skate through at least for a few months. I’m going to have to do what I can but not necessarily what I want on consulting projects. I’m deeply committed to staying on top of my CAS involvement but even in that role I’m going to need some patience for a little bit. I’m working collaboratively on a book and a monograph chapter (neither project I am rocking at the moment). Finally, there’s potential that my dissertation will finally see an article come to light – if I can take the time to revise as explained by a journal editorial board.

And that’s just for the things OUTSIDE of my job, which has become more demanding and exciting than ever before. By nature of what I am now doing, I am learning new and different things.  However, I know I need to wrap up or at least get things to a place that when Baby Bureau comes I can take a little time away and enjoy my life. This means cocurriculars and it means work.

Again, maybe this is a rethinking blog, not a whining student affairs “I’m so busy” blog.

I have to think about if I failed at my professional development goals or I had to change them to meet the demands of work and life. I wonder how often others examine how their needs for professional development have changed. For the first time in 18 years, I won’t attend the AFA Annual Meeting in December (more for personal obligations than for not seeing value, but still). I don’t plan on submitting workshop proposals for NASPA or ACPA, which means I likely may not be able to go to either of those conferences. I am also wondering, what would it look like to do my job REALLY well? I’m good at my job, but what if I focused on really doing my job exceptionally well and taking some of the time I’ve used to do other things to improve my practice in my primary professional role? That last question alone is a COMPLETE shift in thinking for me.

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably wondering “why did you take the 30 minutes to write the blog when you have so much other stuff to do” and you might even think “stop complaining and get on with what you have to do”. You’re a bit correct in that I could have done something else, but I felt the need to share the story because I bet someone else feels the same kind of dissonance around changing their approach to how they experience life as a student affairs professional. There’s a chance that someone else, like me, was feeling like a failure.

There’s also a chance that someone else, like me, decided to take these feelings of failure and to view them as a potential triumph in our effort to examine what we need to do versus what we’ve always done. It’s time to put that pile away and realize that things are changing for me. I’m kind of excited for that process. We’ll see how I do.

What professional practices do you need to change?

What professional goals do you have that might get in the way of doing what you do now really well?




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One thought on “Sometimes Professional Development Goals Just Don’t Happen

  1. Dan,

    Love this post. It doesn’t sound like whining; it sounds like you’re recognizing that as life priorities increase or change, to make room for new (or newly important) things, you have to shift some of your other roles. You can’t live the same life you lived, take the same roles/responsibilities you had, as a grad student know as a soon-to-be dad! I hear a lot of “Essentialism” in your thinking, and it’s something more of us in the field need to embrace.


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