A huge challenge for everyone is to stay current and engaged in your work day to day, year after year. It can be relatively easy to become complacent about how you are doing, but that’s really dangerous in a world that is constantly changing as never before. How does one achieve the highest performance levels in this environment and not get left behind? There are a lot of things one can do. This is the first of two posts covering things I suggest in response to this challenge.
Network! I cannot emphasize enough the value of regularly networking with other court professionals. Immerse yourself in their ideas, knowledge, and points of view and you will greatly expand your horizons and enhance your work performance and opportunities. How can you do this? Here are a few suggestions:
Participate at work in efforts that go beyond your basic job duties. Volunteer for projects, committees, etc., even if they are in the realm of social activities outside of normal work hours. This will enable you to associate with staff from other parts of your organization. You will learn a lot, and who knows when these contacts will come back to help you in some fashion?
Join and be an active member of professional associations – there is no doubt in my mind that my career was greatly enhanced by doing this. Associations provide a unique, rich platform to share knowledge with a wide variety of peers. Such associations can be local, regional, national, or even international. Join committees that interest you and show initiative as a regular contributor – even join a board of directors. Attend association education conferences (more on this in Part 2 of this post). In sum, join and be an active member that gets the most out of membership.
In my career I found that the most worthwhile court administration associations were the National Association for Court Management (NACM, https://nacmnet.org/), the International Association for Court Administration (IACA, http://www.iaca.ws/), the National Conference of Bankruptcy Clerks (NCBC, http://www.ncbcweb.com/home/), the Federal Court Clerks Association (http://www.fcca.ws/), and back in my state court days, the Oregon Association for Court Administration (https://www.oaca.org/).
Other valuable networking tools are social media, where you can easily interact with literally thousands of court professionals. The obvious platforms are LinkedIn and Facebook, but there are others that can be valuable, such as Twitter. I recommend using LinkedIn as a base, creating a professional profile, reaching out to “connect” with peers you know, sharing items of interest, and joining/following groups/organizations to get their latest updates (e.g., I do so with NACM, IACA, U.S. Dept. of State and USAID, JMI, International Institute for Justice Excellence, the ABA Journal, and the Harvard Business Review). However, please be very careful how you use social media and adhere to applicable work policies, codes of conduct/ethics, and laws.
The last networking area I recommend is the NCSC’s “Connected Community” (http://connected.ncsc.org/home), a private social media platform. This is a fabulous forum directly aimed at courts, providing a place where you can ask questions, post information, respond to others, and so on in either general or specific topic areas (e.g., I created a social media area). To participate you either need to be a member of a court-related organization that the NCSC serves (such as NACM), be a subscriber to an NCSC listserv, or you can contact the NCSC to become a participant.
Mentoring. An often neglected avenue for staying professionally current is to connect one-on-one with another person. This works both ways, since both the mentor and mentee gain from the experience (although admittedly, the benefit is skewed towards the mentee). At several key points in my career I was tremendously helped by mentors (thank you!), and more recently, by my mentoring others. I encourage everyone to engage in such a relationship, whether it is informal or formal, inside or outside of your organization. NACM https://nacmnet.org/join-us/mentor-program/ and NCBC (http://www.ncbcweb.com/mentor-program) have mentor programs to match members – another reason to join these associations.
Next week, in Part 2 of this post I will cover two other key areas to staying professionally fresh: reading and continuing education. Meanwhile, begin taking the time to evaluate what you are doing keep yourself professionally fresh. How can you do better? Set a goal to pursue a few new steps each month — you owe it to yourself to invest the time it takes to develop yourself to be the best you can be.
As always, comments are welcome. In particular, what might I have left out — did I miss another way to stay current or a good source of professional development? Let me know, and thanks in advance for your help.