Harnessing the Power of Technology for Professional Development

In December of last year, I was fortunate enough to be asked by the St. Elizabeth Chapter of Joseph’s People to speak about using technology for professional development. When I mentioned my presentation on Twitter, there was some interest in seeing a blog post that covered the key talking points from my presentation. I meant to get this post online back in December 2013, but the Fates conspired against. Hence, I’m publishing it now, in April 2014.

I appreciate that all the apps, social media outlets and technologies shared below wont’ be for everyone — and that’s okay. I also appreciate that my approach or system might not be a good fit for everyone else. That’s okay too. Lastly, I am all too aware that my list is very short. There is a never-ending stream of new apps, websites and technologies that we can use to be more efficient in our professional development. I am listing what works for me with the hopes that it might also work for someone else.

Okay, let’s get started.

1. Our Smart Phones

In our pockets, and often in our hands, we have more computing power than that which put Neil Armstrong on the moon. As such, we really need to think about using that technology in a more productive and more efficient way. Yes, we can browse sports scores, check Facebook updates, and flip through the latest musings on Twitter but we can do much more than that. We can make better use of our downtime (in doctor’s waiting offices, while riding the train, etc.) to enable ourselves to lead a better life.

TOOLS: Your smart phone

2. Get your Tasks Done!

As a practitioner of David Allen’s GTD, I am committed to getting all of my to do list items out of my head into a system that tracks them. I use an app called ToodleDo. Admittedly, the app doesn’t have the greatest user-interface, but it is very functional, very powerful and easy to access via my iPhone, iPad and laptop.

TOOLS: ToodleDo

3. Keep Yourself Informed

Through RSS, we can find the news and blog sites that cover the topics and industries that are relevant to our careers. Spend some time subscribing to the content that we should know, we want to know and really, we have to know. By aggregating those blog feeds in a single location, we avoid having to remember which sites to check. We can then organize our blog feeds by topic, by industry, by sport … in whatever way makes most sense to us as individuals.

TOOLS: I use Feedly and Pocket, while others recommend Flipboard and Zite.

4. Turn On and Tune In

Fact: podcasts are a great way to learn a lot of information about practically every topic under the sun. Podcasts are little radio programs or shows that typically last between 5-30 minutes and cover a very specific topic.

TOOLS: iTunes, Podcast app

On a side note, I previously wrote about some quality podcasts that are well worth a listen.

5. Adding to Your Reading List

Finding, downloading and reading relevant white papers are a great way to find industry insight, practices and trends. Often, companies and thought leaders will give away white papers in exchange for our willingness to join a distribution list – or to at least submit our email address. White papers are typically distributed in PDF format so we can read them on just about any computer device we have.

If we find a particularly good white paper, we can always consider engaging with the author through email or social media. Most authors (all authors?) love feedback about their work, so by submitting thoughtful and intelligent feedback (both positive or negative), we can work to grow our network with industry thought leaders.

TOOLS: white papers, PDF reader (on a smart phone, iPad, laptop)

6. Note Everything: Evernote

Evernote is a great cross-device for capturing and storing all sorts of information: client information, business data that needs to be accessed now-again-again. It’s also great for personal information: recipes, cocktails, scans of our child’s homework assignment. Evernote allows for different notebooks (e.g., one for each project, each client, each of our children, etc.), is searchable (entries can be tagged) and can store all sorts of file types (images, Word documents, PDFs, etc.)

For great tips and advice about how to use Evernote in creative and effective way, check out the Evernote blog.

TOOLS: Evernote

7. Charge Your Pen!

Livescribe is a digital pen that records what we have written on papers and electronically transcribes that for storing in Evernote. So, what we write, sketch or note down on a paper notebook become accessible, shareable and searchable on our phones, tablets and computers.

Perhaps ever more cool is that Livescribe can audio record our conversations or the presentation we’re attending and will sync that audio recording with our notes. Livescribe enables users to capture not only our own interpretations of content we’re consuming (through our handwritten notes), but also the original content itself (through the recorded audio.)

With Livescribe, seminars, client meetings, creative brainstorming sessions can be easily and conveniently be better recorded in an unintrusive manner.

TOOLS: Livescribe, Evernote

8. Email

In an age where email seems like old technology, it’s important to appreciate that it’s a hugely powerful tool for connecting with people. Everyone checks their own email, so if we have access to that email address, then we can bring ourselves to the attention of someone who matters to us. Remember: we don’t have to know someone to email them. No, I am not suggesting that we spam people, but a well-crafted, personal note sent via email can be a great way to engage with someone.

It’s definitely worth researching how to craft introductory emails. Do your research so as to put the best foot forward.

TOOLS: Email regardless of the program or app

9. Twitter

Just like email, Twitter is not something people outsource except for maybe Justin Beiber and Tom Cruise. We can use Twitter to connect with the thought leaders, key influencers and others in our industry. We can use Twitter as a communication tool to follow and engage with those outside of our network.

TOOLS: Twitter

10. LinkedIn

So much has been written about how all professionals must be on LinkedIn. I won’t rehash those conversations here, but I can state that I have picked up work projects through LinkedIn. It has been worthwhile to make sure that my profile is updated and that I use LinkedIn to post the occasional status update.

TOOLS: LinkedIn

11. Blog it, Baby!

As I discussed with Joe McGonigal on The Dental Sales podcast, a personal website or blog can be a fantastic way to grow an online brand or reputation. We can use a blog to share our own thoughts on an industry trend, to discuss a hot topic and to share other content that we feel our network would find interesting or of value.

TOOLS: WordPress (either WordPress.com or WordPress.org)

12. Going Old School: The Phone

If email is considered an old technology, then the telephone is absolutely ancient. Yet, few communication tools enable such a strong connection like a telephone. The human voice with its inflection, its tone, its unique sound, has a way of making itself understood in ways that the written word cannot. Sometimes, a quick telephone call can do more to build trust, deepen a relationship and strengthen a business relationship than an email, tweet or online status update.

TOOLS: Telephone

13. Skype and Google+

If the telephone is the tried and true medium of communication for the human voice, then Skype and Google+ are the ones to take us that much closer to an in-person meeting. With the ability to speak over our computer, to use of webcams to see each other and to share our computer screens (for online collaboration), these two applications are profoundly changing the way that we can connect with each other remotely. Each technology has its own set of rules of etiquette, so it’s worth spending some time to see how others are using them. (When in doubt, Google it first.)

TOOLS: Skype, Google+

Harnessing Technology: The Slides

If you’re after the slides from my talk about technology for professional development, they are below.

What did I miss?

Lastly, please take a moment to let me know what technologies I missed. Do you use something else? Do you use one of the technologies listed above in a particularly cool or efficient way? Let me know!