Every fall I struggle with the professional development plan I’m required to submit to my employer. My first decade in editing was brimming with formal and informal professional development, and my professional growth was steep. Fourteen years into my career, how can I rise above the PD plateau and continue to grow?
Of course, in editing there’s always more to learn. Editors need to keep up with language change and technology, and to adapt to the style conventions and accepted jargon in various fields. Every assignment brings new problems and new opportunities to learn. By mid-career, however, this learning has become a natural part of our daily work, not something we can anticipate and put into a formal, yearlong PD plan.
Perhaps the better question mid-career is not “What do I need to know?” but, rather, “How can I share my knowledge with others?” As editors, we spend much time in our own heads (and in the heads of our authors and imagined readers)—and we tend to like it that way. Editors are a generous lot, though, and sharing our knowledge benefits beginning editors and the profession. It also has at least three PD benefits for mid-career editors:
- We may revive languished skills and develop new ones. Through EAC projects, we can try our hand at copywriting, developmental editing, presenting, or writing a blog post.
- Sharing knowledge forces us to assess our knowledge and clearly articulate it. The best test of our own understanding is whether we can teach a concept to someone else—such as a beginning editor. Also, like writing can help us clarify our thoughts, sharing knowledge can help us refine that knowledge.
- Perhaps most important, through sharing we can learn much from others. When we work with experienced editors, we benefit from their wisdom, while new editors offer us fresh perspectives and pose difficult questions. An unexpected source of insight is interested non-editors, who can challenge us to explain and re-evaluate our editorial stances.
Sharing knowledge, therefore, is itself a valid PD strategy—one I’ve included in my PD plan in the form of mentoring and EAC projects.
In the spirit of sharing knowledge, what other PD strategies can you recommend to this mid-career editor?