The Non-Linear Journey of Professional Development

By Rachel Yoka, CAPP, LEED AP BD+C, WELL AP

There is something to be said for learning new things.

From a “light” interest in exploring new and wide-ranging topics through books, podcasts, or TED Talks, to the pursuit of a new academic or professional credential, these experiences challenge and change us, mostly for the better.  Research has shown that keeping your mind sharp has a decided effect on physical and emotional wellbeing throughout life (not to mention continued professional and career success).  A new intellectual pursuit may enable us to confront new and possibly unfamiliar, even difficult concepts – it forces our brains to tackle new challenges and, quite literally, grow. (Recent studies cite language acquisition as a powerful way to do just this.) Dedicating ourselves to a new intellectual challenge may even force us to reevaluate how we spend our free time (Netflix, anyone?).

Maintaining a professional credential can have the same effect. Every few years I choose to maintain my LEED AP BD+C credential through continuing education.  And our colleagues with AIAs, PEs, and CAPPs choose to maintain their credentials in much the same way.  It’s not just the pursuit of letters after one’s name; it’s the opportunity and the desire to stay relevant and up to date in industries that change and advance rapidly. And to learn, expand, and grow as a professional and a person.

That said, the journey is not always a linear one. My story is convoluted; at different stages of life I studied to be a veterinarian, a historian, a Foreign Service Officer, a Certified Professional Services Marketer (CPSM), a LEED AP, a CAPP, and now a WELL AP.  If your journey is anything like mine, you didn’t go to school to become a parking, transportation, and mobility professional either!  I have come to realize and recognize that the non-linear path is no less valuable than the path taken by the kid who dreams of being a doctor and pursues that MD as quickly as possible. The value can be derived by engaging in lifelong learning in a wide range of areas, and continuing to be open to the next topic or challenge or whatever kindles something special for you.

I would offer the following (short-term) ideas to spark your interest and commit you to learning something new this year:

  • Submit to present at one of our state and regional association conferences on a topic a bit out of your regular wheelhouse.
  • Propose an article on a new topic for our magazine.
  • Dig into a new topic for our blog or Forum, or start a conversation to find like-minded people who want to connect on a topic.
  • Develop a new reading list (or podcast recommendations) on topics that spark your interest, and commit to a book a month or a regular time and day to explore your interest.

I leave you with the absolute best of the best on learning and all things new and creative, Dr. Seuss:

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Here are a few references, in case you are interested in digging a little deeper into the topic, and learning something new today!