It’s that time of year, when you’re bombarded with training information, conference invitations, and certification opportunities on almost a daily basis. Your desk is covered with brochures about getting new skills to meet growing needs, and course offerings for continuing education credits. Or perhaps you’re trying to determine whether the university offering MOOC courses this spring is as credible as it seems.
With rising pressures for you and your teams to improve your skills for today’s publishing industry needs, these marketing materials should come as welcome notifications. However, with so many options for obtaining different certifications in Scholarly Publishing, how do you decide what is worthwhile for both your departmental and organizational strategic goals?
As a publishing professional, you understand that at any given time something like a new funder mandate might shift your entire business model and you want your team to be equipped. Determining where you should invest time and resources is difficult, but the problem is not that there are too many options; it’s deciding which options help you meet your goals. That said, you don’t want to waste your developmental budgets on skills that really don’t help you to get the results you need during crunch time.
There are far too many options to just sign up for anything. Taking a quick scroll through your inbox, you’ll likely see an overwhelming number of emails about how this or that organization can help develop and harness your talents. They offer to help you get the results you want, but you want to determine where should you should start.
So where do you begin? You start by identifying the goals you want to achieve. Take a look at what you want to be able to do before trying to determine what skills or tools are most useful. If you want to make more effective and data-driven decisions, then you should outline the skills that will help your team reach those goals. For example, pivot tables are a proven tool that when used effectively can help you to analyze your data and make well-informed decisions. Perhaps consider additional Excel training to help your team master pivot tables. Be sure to look for learning opportunities that offer the exact skills specific to the job needed.
After you outline your goals, determine whether the needed skills are for immediate or long-term usage. Doing this step will actually help you to narrow down your options greatly. Ask yourself, “Do I (or my team) need to know this information today; or, will this not likely be useful until we start that big project slated for next year?”
If you have an immediate need (critical developmental musts that should be tackled sooner rather than later), then perhaps consider signing up for easily accessible learning tools such as webinars . These types of online learning resources are frequently hosted by the most reliable industry professional organizations and offer a wide variety of practical information.
On the other hand, if your goal is to fulfill a more long-term need which requires a skillset that builds upon layers of learned knowledge, then you will want to make sure to establish a more comprehensive plan. Moreover, this might require you to invest in certification courses or advanced degree programs. You will want to find options that afford you the time needed to obtain a set of skills best acquired slowly over a lengthier period.
Before deciding on what new skills to gain, please don’t miss out on opportunities available to you with no added cost. Do not forget to properly assess your team’s current skill set. You would be surprised by how many skills go unannounced until you ask your team for an updated expertise list! And if you can’t ask everyone directly, there also tons of tools that you can use to survey your team. Once you assess what tools and skills you already have, then you can soundly begin to make a decision about exactly what you need or want to improve.
Before finalizing who goes where you may also want to consider setting up an internal system for your team to continuously monitor incoming opportunities — perhaps even start a list of staff rotations to any given conference or training so that year after year the decision is easier to make. This is even more important to do if you have a smaller travel budget and can only send a limited amount of staff certain places, or, if you find that the same people are going to same events every year. Try to get all members of your team involved in the process and start to create an environment where each person is responsible for their professional development. Keep in mind that having each member of your team develop their own network greatly enhances the overall network of the team. Develop a system where any member of your team is empowered to ask to attend a conference, and one that allows for an easy and democratic thumbs-up or -down decision.
There are several resources available to help you find training opportunities. The first may be to become a member of an organization that suits your needs. Even without membership, most of these societies have a listing of industry events on their websites including the Society of Scholarly Publishing (SSP), the Council of Science Editors (CSE), the STM Association (STM), The Association of Learned & Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP), and the International Society of Managing and Technical Editors (ISMTE).
Most of the organizations listed above also provide webinars and in-person training opportunities outside the annual meetings and conferences. Organizations such as COPE and Crossref are also good sources of educational offerings, often at no cost. In addition, many vendors typically provide a list of meetings they will be attending. The Sheridan Group even has a blog with useful links to industry conferences.
By this point you should have a solid list of exactly what skills you need, when you need to acquire them, and by whom, and you also have a list of reliable resources to choose from. So let’s move on to the fun part, deciding. Have your list right beside you as you round up all those brochures and e-alerts. Immediately toss, trash, and delete anything that does not check off all your requirements. Now with fewer options, you should be able to decide what is truly worthwhile for you and your team!
In order to fully utilize all your resources, you need to consider whether you are sending the right people to where they need go. And almost more important, that they are getting infused with ideas that will help navigate your team through any change of tide. This includes sending them to places that might be outside their comfort zones, or your own. If you’re in the editorial operations, perhaps that means attending a tech conference. As farfetched as that may sound, think about how insane Albert Einstein says it is to do the same thing over and over, but expect different results. Keep in mind the plans you’ve outlined for success and how much time is needed to get you to where you want to go, assess what you have and don’t be afraid to challenge yourself to step outside your area of expertise.