How to be a relevant employee or boss AND up your own professional game

Photo by by Seattle Municipal Archives via Flickr

Photo by by Seattle Municipal Archives via Flickr

On Tuesday, I gave a talk at the Positive Business DC meetup in the suburbs of DC about ways to develop employees outside the classroom and on a tight budget. It was anchored in my book, Employee Development on a Shoestring. The audience members were highly engaged and enjoyed the interactive exercises and small group discussions. I'm pleased that this talk has resulted in two different reviews on two blogs, and thought I'd share them here with you.

The first blog, titled "How to Be Relevant in Today's Workplace," reviewed the presentation as a whole and covered the main points really well. Here's my favorite excerpt:

Azulay shared some of the secrets to Employee Development on A Shoestring at the Positive Business DC Meetup last night, and it’s not what you might think. If you’re an employer or manager, her insight could help you foster a dynamic, engaged, relevant workforce without breaking the bank. If you’re a job seeker or currently employed, her insight can help you not only stay at the top of your game or get a job, it can help you climb the corporate ladder.


Originally, I had planned to provide some of the examples and exercises Azulay had Positive Business DC members work through last night. But, on second thought, if you’re interested, I urge you to check out her book. And, if you’re really intrigued, there’s a 1½ day workshop March 13-14. Based on what I saw last night, the workshop will be killer. And, for those of you who are counting, the workshop falls within the 10% noted above.

The second blog post was titled "How to Up Your Professional Game" narrowed in on the author's favorite 'out-of-the-classroom' development method I described, Volunteering. Here's an excerpt:

Most organizations look at volunteering from a different lens than the opportunity to build skills. Maybe it’s an ongoing initiative to establish goodwill. Or perhaps they give employees a day a year to contribute to the community. But what if they looked at as a way to help employees grow personally and professionally?

It doesn't matter how much time a person has have to offer. It can be a little or a lot. And, since nonprofits have such a wide spectrum of unmet needs, volunteers can essentially define their own jobs. From IT to marketing and and finance and everything in between, you can probably find a nonprofit with a mission the employee really cares about. Benefits to volunteering with this perspective in mind include:

  1. The employee builds skills they can apply in the workplace.
  2. The employee learns a completely new set of competencies.
  3. The employee teaches or mentors others during the volunteering process, which means they’ll want to up their game beforehand.

Here’s a sticking point. To be a truly voluntary activity, the employee must really want to do it. No mandates. Of course, the decision to volunteer to build skill sets doesn't have to be driven by the company. Anyone with a desire to grow can pursue this path of learning.

If you like this idea, too, I've written elsewhere about volunteering in greater detail. The most recent I've written about volunteering was a guest post for the official ASTD blog describing a specific example of how volunteering can be a great way to develop employees outside the classroom. I excerpted one of the several case studies featured in my book, Employee Development on a Shoestring. This case features the personal volunteer experience stories of two of the three PricewaterhouseCoopers employees I interviewed and wrote about in my book - it describes the ways in which they developed multiple competencies by volunteering to teach and build playgrounds in poor schools in Belize.

You might also really enjoy of some of the other posts I've written about the value of volunteering as an employee development approach herehere, and here.

It's nice to have nice reviews. I love to hear from participants in my workshops and programs about their experience. And I'd love to hear more from you about what you want to hear more about - add a comment with your thoughts in the comments below!

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