Professional Development Means Life-Long Learning

By A. Grant Lee, M.C.Inst.M.

There was a time, perhaps, when professionals could build careers and successful businesses on the foundation of a single university degree program, articling and experience. Those days are long gone. Professionals must be more than technically competent in their calling. Future vision, marketing savvy, superior communications skills, appreciation of history, and leadership qualities are also demanded of professionals. These qualities are seldom learned in academia; they have to be seasoned with time and experience before professionals realize their full potential.

But one day, hopefully sooner than later, lightning will flash and a voice from deep within will cry, "Who are you?" The professional lurches from her/his paper-covered desk and computer (whose screen towers above the clutter of paper work ­ as the monolith of the new economy), and whispers, "uh?" The first step to professional development through life-long learning has begun.

This rather whimsical anecdote suggests that the need for life-long learning to develop a career is often a sudden revelation, that occurs after graduation and professional designation, when graduates become immersed in the routine drudgery of a "learned production line". The realization that there has to be more to a career than reports, plans, presentations, and hearings, along with high-stress levels, yet not enough time for anything creative, often comes with a sudden thirst for new intellectual skills or challenges. When professionals become aware of the career potential unleashed by an explosion of technology, the challenge becomes which direction to take on the new information highways.

Life-long learning is now an absolute necessity to keep pace with changing technology. It should also be a requirement to maintain professional status. The level of knowledge needed by professionals must be replenished constantly, or they quickly end up being a 19th century person in the new millennium. One does not have to look far, no matter what the profession, to see the dinosaurs. Besides the threat of extinction, they are also a threat to our credibility as marketing professionals, and the obligation to the public good.

Private and public sector interests are rising to the challenge to offer meaningful continuous education programs to professionals. Like the new technology, we should embrace these offerings. There is much more at stake than the designation of "professional" by a governing body. What is at stake is the depth of purpose and the ability of a few to build the future of our civilization.

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