19 November 2015

A gen Y’s perspective on professional development

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If, like me, you are gen-Y and searching for your place in a corporate jungle that seems to be spinning madly on, then I hope that this post will offer some relief that you are not alone. I am here to offer my two cents’ worth on professional development as the newest member of the Akolade team.

In the past year or so, I have lamented that I don’t really have a roadmap for my career. Having graduated with an Arts degree in International Studies and Economics, I originally wanted to be a journalist or end up in foreign affairs. Somehow, I found myself working in different roles within the state public sector, and recently started at Akolade producing conferences.

"You will find that professional development isn’t square, and neither should you be."

Along this journey, I started to question what it is that I really want out of my career, but have ended up a little stumped. Maybe it’s because I’m fickle, maybe it’s because despite the abundance of choices in this day and age, security and certainty are dwindling standards; and I want too much out of life to settle.

Through it all, I have started changing my tune with a little advice from people who have gone ahead of myself. Instead of deciding on the one thing that I want to do for the rest of my life, I have come to embrace the richness of a career that is peppered by experiences in different industries, and learning that I am developing professionally through this.

The competencies I’ve gained, the people I’ve met and the challenges I’ve learnt from in my past roles have all added to the skill set I now have to be able to produce conferences effectively. I find that the tasks I now do on a regular basis here at Akolade are all assisted by previous employment in different industries – skills like negotiation, organisation, critical thinking and policy analysis have only been honed through my previous work experiences.

So the point I am making is this – professional development is not a one-size-fits-all category. It can often by construed as activities like attending courses and conferences, completing formal coursework and engaging in mentoring activities. However, I propose that professional development can also come in the form of the school of hard knocks – learning from and working in a wide base of industries to hone your core personal skills and develop your strength of character.

A Director once said to me that it is better to cast a wide net and pick up as many skills as you can while you can, than to worry about specialising too quickly in one thing and hence limiting yourself.


I am now passing on this nugget of wisdom, and suggesting that in chasing after formal methods of professional development, you do not discount the value of developing your core skills through different experiences – corporate, cultural or otherwise.  You will find that professional development isn’t square, and neither should you be.


Su grew up dreaming of being a journalist, dodging bullets and gunfire with a camera thrust in front of her reporting from a war zone. Having realised that she is not really as agile as she thought, she has settled for dodging cockroaches in metropolitan Sydney as her adrenaline fix. Su is inquisitive and loves a good challenge, which is why she has chosen to produce conferences at Akolade. In her spare time, Su likes to read, drink green tea, and fantasise about making the world a better place; getting rid of the need for war journalists entirely.

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