This fall, I’m going to do something I’ve been planning to do for a long time: I’ve registered for a program that will offer me the training I need to be formally credentialed as an executive coach.

I’ve actually had a coaching practice for several years now, both as part of my side business and part of my previous work in faculty development. Offering individual consultation and coaching to faculty members and higher education administrators has always been one of the most fulfilling parts of my work.

Much of my training in coaching, however, has been on-the-job. While I had an apprenticeship in instructional consultation as a graduate student, most of what I know about coaching has been picked up through experience, reading, and informal workshops at conferences.

After joining an online community of self-employed PhDs, many of whom are practicing coaches, and after interviewing some coaches to profile in my forthcoming book, I was inspired to look into the credentials.

And, since I’m all about lifelong learning and professional development, I decided to go ahead and enroll.

Over the next year, I’ll be committing part of my weekends and evenings to becoming officially certified as a coach through a training that is recognized by the International Coach Federation. This training requires online course work, readings, active coaching, being mentored by a master coach, logging a certain number of coaching hours, and taking an exam, among other tasks.

Choosing to complete this training is not just an investment in my own professional development, but it’s also an investment in my business. Not only will this coaching credential allow me to better serve my clients, but it will also allow me to have more credibility for those potential clients who may not be familiar with working with a coach (i.e. many skeptical academics).

Making this decision has also made me think about the other kinds of professional development experiences I’ve invested in, both in terms of time and money, that have been impactful for my career.

Here are just a few:

The HERS Leadership Program for women administrators in higher education. I had the pleasure of participating in this program while I worked for Suffolk University in Boston, which sponsored me to attend, and it was one of the best leadership training experiences I’ve ever had. The program is designed to help women in higher education learn more about top-level university positions and explore what it means to set yourself on a career path that might lead to a college presidency. The most beneficial part of this program for me was the section on financial literacy.

The Creative Class and Chimp Essentials, both online courses by Paul Jarvis. I purchased these courses at the very beginning of my small business journey to learn more about what it meant to be a creative entrepreneur. I first learned of Paul’s work through his Freelancer podcast (now re-branded as Sunday Dispatches) and through his online writing. Both of these courses, which focus on small business and email newsletters, respectively, have given me a great overview of the things I need to be thinking about as I grow my small business.

Self-Employed PhD Online Community. This online community, hosted by Jen Polk of Beyond the Professoriate and From PhD to Life, is a fee-based community for small business owners who also have PhDs. Many of the people in this community are solely employed by their own business, but some, like me, also work full-time. This community has been such a helpful place to gather ideas, request feedback, and be held accountable for all kinds of different aspects of my business. It’s been a great investment so far.

In terms of some of the professional development that has only required my time, here are a couple of my favorites:

Podcasts. This should not be a surprise at all. I love listening to podcasts to learn more about topics that are new to me. You can learn about some of my current favorites on the about page of my professional website.

Books. There are really too many of these to list, but some of my recent favorites are Playing Big by Tara Mohr and What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith.

My mastermind group. This small group of academic side-giggers and entrepreneurs inspires me every month on our hour-long phone calls. I talked more about setting up a mastermind in this podcast episode, and I would highly recommend it if you need a space to share ideas, get feedback, troubleshoot issues or problems, and learn from your peers.

I’m constantly amazed that we live in a time and space where there is so much free knowledge available about pretty much anything that you might want to learn about.

When it comes to lifelong learning, I’m never going to be satisfied.

To think on:

  • What area(s) of your professional life have you always wanted to develop more?
  • What’s the best professional development experience you’ve ever had?