Are you making the most of social media to drive your own professional development in the L&D space? Possibly not. Consultant Fiona McBride offers her personal tips and ideas for getting more from your social networks.
I love helping people learn, that’s my thing and as someone who supports and helps others to grow and develop, I believe it’s imperative that I make time to reflect and develop too.
It is so important to me, if I want to be effective and credible in my work, that I regularly learn and develop my own skill set to ensure I can do my best for others.
Like the safety demonstration tells us: “put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others”.
The life of an L&D professional is a busy one and I see so often my clients and fellow L&D colleagues putting the needs and requirements of others before their own.
That is one of the key reasons I find social media such a wonderful place to go to for my own development. It is there when I need it, I can dip in and out of it quickly.
Often at that crucial point in time when I need to look up something to support a client or when I have scheduled time aside to explore or further my understanding on a new topic.
Social media has and is enabling me to learn, grow and network much more efficiently and effectively than I ever could have without it.
In this article I will give you an insight into some of the ways I utilise social media for professional development. It is based on my experience and what I’ve found works well for my clients. I hope it is useful and gives you an idea or two for you to take away.
It’s about the people
I follow lots of people on social media. I think it is important to hear different voices and different experiences. There are a number of people I follow who I can guarantee will challenge my thinking on the ‘usual’ learning and development stuff.
I listen to individuals who believe evidence-based practice to be important in our profession. There are others who I seek out and listen, who are good at sharing the latest thinking in L&D.
For my own development and to work well for my clients I make sure I’m listening and reading thoughts and examples from others who are exploring and studying in the spaces I’m not, such as virtual reality.
Look out for interesting practitioners on social media: those who are always exploring and then sharing how new ideas have informed their practice.
Notice others around you who you trust and find credible, look at who they interact with and who they follow – this can be a good starting point to exploring social media.
There when you need it
As I mentioned earlier, social media is there when I need it and I can dip in and out of it quickly. It really can be that ‘just in time’ learning tool.
Applications like LinkedIn, Twitter, Wordpress for blogs and websites are free and there to access 24/7. This means I don’t have to wait for a course to come up or someone else to be available: it is all there when I need it.
Whether that’s for a quick 5 minute search for something I need to find out more about or an hour spent getting involved in a Twitter chat around the subject related to the current work I’m doing.
Having all this amazing content at our fingertips can also be quite overwhelming. Where do you even begin? Who to follow first?
I’d suggest you go in with a specific ‘something’ you are looking for. This will enable you to narrow your focus and keep the flow of information one that is useful and not too overwhelming.
Maybe search on a subject you know something about already and see if there are different perspectives out there. Set yourself a time limit, how many interesting points or different perspectives can you find in 15 minutes?
Then sit back and reflect on what you find, how does it fit with your current thinking? Where are these individuals working? What industry do they work in?
A variety of opinions and experiences
The beauty of having access to such a wide range of information, knowledge and ideas means it can bring a variety of opinions and perspectives.
As learning professionals we should be regularly looking to different sources and points of view to help us learn.
It’s healthy to hear an opposing argument or a different perspective. How else can we learn and grow our own understanding?
Make sure you are seeking views different to your own. Don’t let a bubble of voices, which always echo similar thoughts and opinions to you be the only ones you pay attention to and engage with.
Make sure you follow, read posts from and interact with those who come at things differently.
Social media is out there and available to access whenever we like. That is a wonderful thing, however what is even more wonderful is that it is completely interactive too.
So as great as it is to lurk online, reading blogs, tweets and articles the next step is to get involved!
Getting a discussion going around a subject is a great way to learn and grow your knowledge.
There are many ways to get involved in discussions online, quickly and easily. LinkedIn have discussion groups by interest area e.g coaching groups, freelance groups, mentoring groups etc.
Over on Twitter there are regular Twitter chats such as #LDInsight, #LDNights, #HRHour, #LeadersHour, #FacilitationFriday. All of these invite ideas and questions from anyone interested in discussing L&D related topics.
If you read an article or blog that you agree with, why not engage with the author, ask them a question or share your thoughts in response to what they’ve spoken about? Why not share it out to your network, ask your network if they have any comments on it?
When sharing others ideas and work it is important to acknowledge the source.
About Fiona McBride
I am a freelance Learning & Development Consultant and Director of Fiona McBride Consulting Limited. For over 15 years, I have supported staff and managers at various stages of their career development. I design, develop and deliver numerous training programmes and learning solutions that support staff development.
I am a Chartered Member of the CIPD and currently Vice-Chair of the Central London Branch committee. I am an advocate for continued professional development and believe that to be effective in our roles, we should always be reflecting on our professional practice and looking for ways to learn and grow.
I am a huge social media fan and you can find me on Twitter @fionamcbride.