I recently had my first annual performance review.

The Alliance believes in professional development for all staff members. That’s why identifying professional development opportunities is a standard item for all employees to discuss with their supervisors during annual performance reviews.

Here’s how our employees explained, “What is The Alliance?” in one word (or two.)

Finding “Hidden Gems” through Professional Development

Professional development opportunities come in all shapes and sizes. And I needed some ideas on how to better enhance my skill set and grow with The Alliance to help move health care forward.

I spoke with some Alliance staff members who grew with our organization and earned promotions through a variety of different ways. They offered me suggestions on how to find professional development opportunities. And they explained how The Alliance supported their growth.

Here’s what my colleagues said:

Be punctual. Work hard. Speak up when you see something that you are interested in learning.

Creating trust takes time. When you’ve proven that you are a trusted resource, ask to learn more about other areas of your organization. No matter how long you’ve worked in a particular industry or company, there’s always new things to learn. Show that you are a life-long learner and that you wish to grow along with your organization.

One example is to interview colleagues in departments other than your own. You’ll gain a greater understanding of how the different pieces of your organization work together. And you’ll gather more information to help you determine professional development career goals that will best fit you and the growth of your organization.

Ask if you can help others. It’s all about teamwork. We work as a team – that’s how we get things done. When I saw an opportunity for a process improvement, I suggested it to leadership.

Teamwork is an important aspect for any organization and when management is open to feedback, it’s amazing to see how exceptional ideas flow from all areas of the organization.
Especially in smaller organizations, there typically aren’t many set career paths. When management is open to feedback, employees are empowered to share their insights and be a part of the decision-making process. Share your ideas with your supervisor and have an open discussion about your professional skills and the needs of the organization. Take the initiative to be an active participant in your organization.

Every claim that we process represents a person. We do what’s best for our member companies and their employees. I enjoy a challenge and saw opportunities to make things better. That’s how I grew with the organization into a new position.

At The Alliance, we are advocates for our member companies and their employees. When you work for a small organization, you need to be flexible. But flexibility also allows you to have a voice in shaping the future of the organization. When you see an internal job opening that fits your skill set, apply! If you have an idea to improve an existing process, suggest it! Flexibility allows for career growth in a direction where you have an interest.

Keep your eyes open. Look for personal growth opportunities that are applicable to your organization. Talk with your supervisor, they will help you identify your career goals and skill sets that need development. I’ve had supervisors do this for me and have found it very helpful.

Perhaps you know where you want your career to go, but are not sure what it will take to get there. Your supervisor can explain what job duties are required for a promotion and find a project or class for you to increase your skill set in that direction. Your supervisor may also have advice to offer on opportunities that may interest you. However, it’s important to remember that you are responsible for your own development and career path. Pursue learning opportunities that interest you.

Does your company offer a continuing education benefit? Use it!

Do you have career interests that expand farther than your current job title? Consider taking a class at a local (or online) school. Have an open dialog with your supervisor about educational ideas and opportunities. Taking a class now shows that you have the initiative to learn something new and grow with the company. Using your continuing education benefit will benefit you, your career and your organization.

Join an internal, cross-departmental committee. Networking with others will help you understand how your organization works and will increase your skill set by trying something new. This could also be an opportunity to manage a project, lead a team or speak at an event.

Growing your network is an excellent form of professional development. There are probably opportunities within your own organization. Look around. If you hear of a project that is searching for volunteers to join – speak up! Maybe there’s a wellness team, a charity committee or a project that needs your skills. Stretch your wings and try something new.

At The Alliance, it is important to be an active participant in finding professional development opportunities. Trying something new can be scary. But being a lifelong learner and an active participant in your own development can lead to endless possibilities.

I hope my colleagues’ stories gave you some new ideas on how to find professional development opportunities that could lead to bigger things. I found a few of my own.

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Lisa Wendorff

Lisa Wendorff

Marketing Communications Specialist at The Alliance
Lisa Wendorff joined The Alliance in 2015 and currently serves as the cooperative’s marketing communications specialist. Her responsibilities include the development of effective communications and marketing materials for Alliance members and business partners.

Previously, Lisa worked at a founding member of The Alliance for 17 years as a marketing specialist. Lisa received her master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in Communications with an emphasis in Corporate Communications.
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Lisa Wendorff

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