Owning a small business doesn’t exactly lend itself to ongoing education. Your to-do list is a mile and a half long. Your budget for conferences and travel is tiny. And your extra time is… well… you don’t even know the meaning of “extra time.” So why bother with networking and professional development? Is it really that important to get to conferences and events?
Yes. It is. And here’s why:
You need to remember that you’re not alone. I was attempting an online training and certification, and I actually failed one of the early tests. I felt awful. I mean, I am a total geek and the last test I failed was in junior high. I was so tempted to quit. Instead, I attended the Digital Toolbox workshop in Indianapolis where one of the speakers gave a great flyover of the information I was attempting to learn on my own. Afterwards, I sought her out for a few questions about the online training. Her question back was, “did you fail one of those early tests?” Very embarrassed, I nodded. She quickly responded, “So did I! Everyone does the first time. Keep trying!” Those words helped me past a major hurdle.
The world is changing. Imagine that. Can you think of any industry that’s the same now as it was 10 years ago? Don’t be the person who is hanging on to the past and pretending to be an expert when you aren’t keeping up with your industry’s trends. Attending workshops is an ideal way to stay up-to-date, but you can also listen to podcasts, watch webinars, and subscribe to informative emails. Here are some of my favorites.
Keep your connections fresh. Just because someone met you at a networking event six months ago doesn’t mean that you’ll be the first person that comes to mind when the perfect project rolls around. Personally, I’ve found it beneficial to join a BNI Chapter and also stay active in our area’s Chamber of Commerce. Foster and grow good connections and be a good connection point for other people.
You need a break. The world needs your skills and and services, but you can’t give what you don’t have to give. Working long hours and never letting off the gas pedal sounds very noble, but chances are you are heading for burnout. Take a break and get refreshed with some new knowledge, new connections, and new energy.
It can be fun. Choose a well-reviewed conference so you can make the most of your time away. Find a friend to go with you to a networking event. If you cannot be doing what you love, the next best thing is learning about it. Anticipate these opportunities instead of dreading them.
So, get out from behind your desk and find out what’s happening around you. Sharpen those skills and meet some new people. Who knows what might be ahead?