An Option or a Must?  Top tips for deciding if you may need Professional 
Development with Dr. Charuni Senanayake.
I see coaching as professional mind training, or a training on learning on Mind SHIFT,
which you can apply to your personal or professional life equally to
get better benefits.  The following quotes have been taken from end-of-course evaluation
forms of an accredited Coach Training program::
  • ‘’When I enrolled for it, I just did it for the sake of learning  something new. But it changed the way I think now, it changed my life’’
  • ‘’I never knew I had so much to learn’’
  • ‘’It was the best thing that happened to me’’
From a trainer’s perspective, these comments by the participants have
and will always remind me to be the best in what I do and give me
courage and motivation to be even better next time!
From the trainee’s perspective, the program has obviously been a valuable professional development
encounter in their lives.
According to Canada Eco “professional development offers a person an
opportunity to sharpen their knowledge, develop their skills, keep
up-to-date with latest trends of the profession, networking
opportunities as well as revitalize some of their ideas for projects
etc. “.
Kaplan Financial also reported in an article recently about the
benefits of professional development in a business setting as
“increasing retention, building confidence and credibility, making
succession planning easier, re-energising the staff and improving the
efficiency in the business as whole”.
Evidently, there are lots of tools for professional development available to us today. They range
from books, video tutorials, webinars, online courses, face-to-face
courses, seminars, networking events, websites, programs on TV and radio.
All provide general learning support to a wider community.  Support also comes in the form of hiring a Coach/Mentor, which
means specifically addressing you and your needs.
In order to be an effective, efficient thought manager in a highly
competitive world, where your workforce is more knowledgeable than
ever, and old management techniques are no longer appropriate, then coaching is increasingly seen as an absolute necessity.
Coaching further helps you to
communicate your views / needs more effectively to others, it helps create harmony and excellence in the workplace, meaning
meeting different viewpoints without conflict is easier to achieve.  Also, when evaluating yourself and your situation, you can use coaching to more easily adapt and
adjust to your situation with consciously.
Professional development depends on chosen method and may need
finances, time, commitment and application of what you
have learnt in order to fully benefit. Further you need to trust the change it can bring to you,
be brave to use it in every opportunity, evaluate outcomes and adjust
to reap its maximum benefits. All this starts with the decision that you
need professional development to achieve faster with a coach than you could on your own.
Some people do it automatically as it is
arranged by their company, some do it because they have to (a manager
has requested you seek a practitioners support as part of  your performance management and
development at work), others think or talk about doing it with
friends and colleagues,  some know they should do it, but don’t instead, they
seek encouragement and opinions from others, finally, there are those who are oblivious to the benefits of coaching and or mentoring so struggle on alone.
When you are already running thin on your time with multitasking many
activities, when your finance budget for training comes from your own
pocket or limited budget from your company, how would you decide on
the need for professional development for yourself?
1. Feelings stuck / unmotivated
If you feel a little rusty for a while it may mean you need a boost
in your work, or new ideas to work on, new people to be inspired by
etc. People sometimes go through different phases in life, the need
for breaking monotonous patterns to feel engaged at work. Exploring an
area where you can sharpen your knowledge or develop additional skills
may be a good way to break out of the rut you are in.
When I was
feeling a bit low, monotonous for a while despite being in a highly
rated career, instead of ignoring it, I took it as a sign for looking
around for something interesting where I can apply my background and
skills for better human development. As I looked around vigorously, I
found out about coaching as a relatively new field which can branch
out to many areas –  I ended up taking a full course on coaching in the
UK, which formed my next career move a year and a half after the
2. Continuous lagging behind in an area important for your work
If your team has been constantly been behind in meeting deadlines or
management of work load etc. maybe it is worth considering improvement
in team management skills or increasing team performance and
effectiveness. Every time after a presentation at work, if you felt
‘’you could have done better’’, maybe it’s worth exploring a course in
improving your presentation skills. If your business is not generating
adequate clients, maybe it is worth hiring a marketing person or
taking a course on branding, social media marketing etc. If you felt
you are not a strong enough negotiator and it has cost you a few deals, a
negotiation course may be worth the investment.
Coming from a medical field, I
had to improve lots of skills in project management to serve at the
job I did in the UN. My attempts at self-study as well as being part
of trainings provided by the UN for employee development offered me a
greater platform to upgrade needed skills as well as on the job learning’s.
3. Considering a career change or a transition
If you already know which area you would like to step into, it may be
worth spending time on self-study or taking a few courses in the
specific area to get your knowledge and skills upgraded or a
combination of both. Sometimes taking a course may offer the best
alternative if a time constraint is involved.
It took me a great
effort to keep my interest in medicine until I decided to make a
career move to coaching. Today as I head back home after my lecturing
sessions for training new coaches the thought of ‘this is what I love
doing’ has crossed my mind a million times.
4. Planning your next promotion
It is important to be prepared for the next big move in your career.
It may be good to study the differences of responsibilities you have
with the current work responsibilities and try to build your capacity
in the area which can have significant impact in your new post. For
example, if you have been a technical person with lesser management
responsibilities, but your next promotion involves you to handle a team, it may be best you undertake a course on brushing up your
management skills.
I always tried to be pre-prepared with the
knowledge I needed for each different project, from donor reporting,
to publications, to strategic planning to planning a retreat.
5. Sudden development of a strong interest or a desire in a new area
When we work in an area where you enjoy working, it goes beyond
just working for money. But you need the courage to explore that
nagging message reminding you of the interest coming from inside your
brain. You may find your life long success path or you may simply
find your career path changes.
I remember as I started learning about coaching, it kept ringing in my head for a long time, before I
took the initiative to enrol for the summer program in UK. A website
I had looked at previously kept coming back to me many times at
different occasions until finally, I made an inquiry about the course and
before I knew it, I have enrolled for it.
In the end, if the professional development is ‘optional or a must’ it is
the choice of each person. But one thing is for certain. If you have
managed to choose the right path of professional development, it can
upgrade your situation as well as maybe make a life changing
experience for you. Therefore, I urge you to think seriously about professional
development in every aspect before deciding on it, from the area you
are interested in, global trends of the profession, the availability and suitability of the
courses, making sure your choice includes accredited training providers, supported y testimonials of those who have undergone
it, the financial aspects etc. There is a free downloadable guide here for you that can  help you make the right choice
More importantly trust yourself, the little
clues you get prompted upon or within yourself, as I know and believe the
best things for each one of us, comes from our very own self.
Dr. Charuni Senanayake
(This article was originally published in Amarantine magazine)