I’ve been getting a few questions lately about how to grow as a technical leader. Most center around which conferences to attend, or college programs to take. As you might expect, I have a few thoughts on this.
First of all, I take personal and professional development very seriously. I am convinced that part of the reason I am where I am today is because I never stop learning. I read voraciously and talk to as many smart people as will tolerate me. I also attend 3-5 conferences/trade shows per year, sit in on online webinars, and listen to podcasts.
You might be thinking, “Wow, it must be nice to work for a church that lets you do all that.” And while I do work for a good church, you should also know that up until recently, any conference or show I went to was vacation time, and I have and continue to pay for all of it myself.
Here’s the thing; most churches (and most companies for that matter), don’t really care that much about their employees personal and professional growth. Well, they may care, but they don’t prioritize it over other things—which means they won’t spend any money on it. This is especially true for support positions like the TD and other technical staff. If you are a pastor and want to go back to school to get a masters or doctorate, there’s a good chance you’d get help. But a tech wanting to go to SMARRT training? Good luck.
This is not a pity party, it’s just the way it is. We can complain about it, or we can do something about it. I’ve chosen to do something about it.
Take control of your own growth.
I’ve chosen to make my professional development a priority, regardless of how much or how little my church supports me. That’s why I spend the money to go to the shows and conferences. The way I’ve chosen to pay for it is by trading ad space on our videos for travel expenses. That’s one way to do it. I know other guys who will go and shoot for another organization, or speak on a panel, or what have you. There are plenty of ways to get creative there.
The means is not as important is the fact that you get out and do it. If you feel you need additional training, find a way to make it happen. Read, listen to podcasts, talk to people, find a mentor, take a class, register for a seminar. Do what you have to do to keep growing. Most organizations (churches are no exception) don’t properly value motivated, engaged and growing employees. The result is that you can get stuck in rut in any job, and suddenly wake up and realize you’ve spent 10 years at a place doing the same thing and you’re sick of it.
Or, you can continue to grow, and watch opportunities appear before your eyes. Even if I wasn’t working for a church, I would be doing the same thing I’m doing now. Never stop growing, and don’t make excuses as to why you can’t.
Your church will not feel responsible for you.
This is not exclusive to churches; most companies don’t feel responsible for you either. You were hired to do a job; you’re expected to do it well and on time. That’s it. Again, this is not a “woe is me” diatribe; it’s the way it is. It is a rare organization—church or not—that takes an active role in investing in it’s people. Those are the companies, churches and organizations we ultimately want to work for (or run), and the only way to get there is to continue to grow and develop.
Yes, this will cost you money. It will cost you time. You may even have to change jobs once in a while. But don’t short-change yourself because your travel and conference budget gets cut every year (mine has been cut three years running, even though I continue to request money for it).
How have you chosen to continue to grow and develop as a technical artist?