- isolation from old colleagues, friends and support networks;
- being the sole professional in your field at your company;
- lack of local industry/networking groups and regional events; and
- shortages of relevant formal/informal learning opportunities.
Fear not! Living and working regionally doesn’t mean you have to miss out. I’ve summarised the best strategies I’ve used to successfully continue professional development despite being ‘out bush’.
Plan & Prioritise:
Professional development takes commitment and planning. Create annual CPD goals, then develop strategies to meet them. Joining a professional association particularly with accreditation requirements can be a good motivator but generally before I pack my bags for anywhere I’ve already researched events/networking opportunities and tried to incorporate them into my plans. Participation, industry shows and old colleague catch ups can have the added bonus of being able to claim travel expenses as tax deductions.
Embrace the face
No longer being a city slicker doesn’t mean you have to be a hermit. It’s easy to keep in touch with your network via email, social media, and even by bush telegraph (phone). Where I am in regional Western Australia, has the highest number of ‘interest groups’ on Facebook in Australia. Search for groups or events in your area. Failing that, create your own!
While we’re on Tech savvy…
If your employer or professional body has relevant major city based groups/networks, find out if you are able to participate remotely. Don’t be afraid of attending networking meetings or courses via videoconference or Skype. Also there are many online CPD opportunities available. Enquire about online training and webinars through your HR department or professional bodies.
Think Outside the Box
Consider alternative networking opportunities both internally and externally. Its worth keeping your ‘ear to the ground’ for opportunities within your company such as special projects, courses or event involvement. Regional towns often have many social, sporting and volunteer groups you can join. Find something of interest and sign up! Also look at other businesses or government. Even, If the industry connection is tenuous, you can still add strings to your bow. Local hospitals, councils, small business networks all run training programmes where you may make valuable contacts and further expand your skillset.
Unfortunately, out of sight can be out of mind. So make the effort to keep in touch with the bodies you want to be involved with and ask for more support. Encourage them to develop strategies to meet the needs of regional workers and to include them in planning. Volunteer to establish a regional branch or host a regional event, as the saying goes: “be the change you want to see”. I also rely on the support of my Perth-based mentor though emails and phone calls. If you don’t have a mentor/mentee there are many programs to connect you with like-minded people (check out your professional body or groups like WIMWA – Women in Mining WA) or be brave and approach someone from your work or LinkedIn.
Being a regional worker does not mean you have to be disadvantaged in your professional development. If you are proactive, committed and willing to be flexible you will continue to grow your career.
And Steel Heels says:
Most city dwellers like us are spoilt for choice when it comes to CPD opportunities. Funny thing is that despite this fact; and without the challenges of living regionally, the advice from our wise blogger still rings true. Planning, flexibility, social media savvy, and the ability to reach out to mentors and support groups are all key to realising future career potential and continuing to grow. Its easy for us all to get caught up in daily tasks and to lose touch. Effort is key or we will all be isolated.