An old friend came to stay with me this past week, someone I love dearly but hadn't seen in about five years. We had a wonderful time catching up, and one topic kept recurring in almost every one of our conversations: community.
In particular, I found myself talking about all the professional communities I rely on daily to learn new things, get inspiration, and find support. I guess this would be my personal learning network. I wrote about these communities on my blog and want to share some of them, and why they are important, with you here.
Why this community matters: A good team at the office is better than gold. After all, you spend most of your waking hours with these people. Colleagues serve an important role in professional development. Your team can serve as your support system, encourage growth, advocate for you, help relieve stress (as opposed to adding more stress), and become great friends.
What this community offers that others don't: This community can offer personalized support and feedback, and can be your advocates in the workplace.
Graduate and Certificate Programs
Why this community matters: One of the great benefits of obtaining an advanced degree is not only the new skills you will learn, but also the connections you make in your field. If you are considering an advanced degree or certificate program, I would encourage you to talk with some alumni about the community and the connections they made in the program. If you are already an alumna/alumnus of a great program, make use of the resources at your disposal, such as job boards and student/alumni events, to make connections with other professionals in the field, who can help you land a dream job.
What this community offers that others don't: A community of graduates can offer a push outside of your comfort zone in conjunction with a safe place to fail, and professional connections who know the quality of your work.
ATD National and Local Chapters
Why this community matters: To be honest, it took a long time for me to be convinced of the worth of professional communities. Then I realized I wasn't really engaging with the community. So this year I vowed to get more involved and it has really paid off! I have attended some local meetings where I have made new connections in my area and learned some great information. I attended ASTD 2014 in May, where I served on a panel. I have also started writing blog posts, like this one, for the ATD blogs.
What this community offers that others don't: This community offers a wealth of professional resources and tools for staying current in the field. It’s also a great way to make professional connections that currently live and work near you.
Product Specific Forums
Why this community matters: As an e-learning developer, one of my tools is Articulate Storyline. It’s a great tool, but the reason I love it most is the E-Learning Heroes website that is full of forums, blogs, and resources. Through active participation in this site I have virtually met some really talented e-learning designers/developers, learned lots of new tricks, and really improved the quality of my work.
What this community offers that others don't: This online community offers specific support for your tools and feedback on your work. It’s also a chance to build your skills by helping others.
All of these communities are awesome; they offer laughter, insight, feedback, and support. Learning designers and developers often produce proprietary products, but amazingly are some of the most open, sharing, supportive folks in any profession. I love what I do, because it is creative and scientific; but mostly because I always feel like I am a part of something larger.
What communities have been important to you? Am I missing any that I should be sure to check out? Please share!