3 Unique Ways To Enhance Your Professional Development

Humans have a unique capacity to continually learn and grow. As professionals working on college campuses, we strive to instill a commitment to this fact in our students. In order to connect and engage our students as best as we can, we need to develop ourselves as well.

We’ve covered some great, diverse ways to better ourselves professionally before, and we figured we’d try to come up with even more out of the box ideas to help give you more options as you do your everyday work but also think ahead to the next steps for your career.

Here are three ideas that will increase your marketability and transferable skills no matter where you are or where you’re headed.

Trying Improv

Probably the most unique suggestion from this post, taking time out to try out improv can be a great way to learn and grow.

Colleges and universities often offer courses as electives and may be affordable or free depending on your benefits. If looking outside of the realm of your campus, try a simple Google search, join Meetup.com, and ask community theaters if they’re interested in starting a group.


You have to think on your feet, listen, and play off someone else to keep the scene going. There are groups all across the country that you can join for a day or on a more regular basis to help develop these quick thinking, clever, interpersonal skills. Also, you can start to feel more comfortable presenting and speaking in front of crowds if you feel confident enough to do it for an audience. You’ll also have fun doing it! Think about possibly roping in the rest of your team to get everyone out of their comfort zone and building themselves individually as well as collectively sharing in the experience.

Listening to Podcasts

Something I personally love to engage with for different ideas and stories is podcasts. They’re great for engaging an audience since you really connect with what is being said and the medium allows for deeper exploration of the chosen topic. Podcasts also are very comprehensive; if you can think of something you’re interested in learning more about, there is definitely a podcast about it already.

With their deep, comprehensive breadth, you can grow through hearing the firsthand experiences and stories of diverse people you might never meet. You can learn more about the world around you (both past and present). You can just generally become more thoughtful and curious knowing there is context and background to all the things around us. Bringing this mindset to your work with the students at your campus will be invaluable as you work to support, engage, and develop them each day.

I’ve had a wealth of experience working with the Student Affairs Collective recording over 100+ podcasts and I consistently hear about their value to our audience of student affairs and higher education professionals. Consider starting your own podcast with these tips!

Changing Habits

As much as humans are curious creatures capable of learning, we also like patterns and can easily suffer from inertia.

Back in 1903, author and psychologist B.R. Andrews defined a habit as,

“A fixed way of thinking, willing, or feeling, acquired through previous repetition of a mental experience.”

Whether it is getting into a workout routine, eating well, or the way we get ready and go to work, we can get stuck in our ways sometimes. This is limiting since it holds us back from our potential to be as energetic, productive, positive, as possible as well as our ability to look at things from a new perspective. You might never have noticed a great place to eat or an awesome view, for example, if you always traveled work the same way each day.

The first step in breaking a bad work habit is through awareness of the habit. Understand what you truly get out of your habits and feel better by breaking a false sense of productivity. Instead, write down a replacement routine that will make you feel better.

What I’ve found through changing a lot of my own habits is that once you start realizing the positive impact you can have on yourself and others by making a change, you just generally become more confident. You also become more optimistic about the possibilities of life and work. We could all use a bit more hope these days as well as new, creative ideas and the energy to make them happen. I’ve come to realize that we are the cause of many of our own problems as humans, but we also have the capacity to solve all those problems, and that gives me hope. We just need to fight inertia and get out of our own ways sometimes to accomplish things.

Planning Your Development

These unconventional ideas start to get you thinking of your own project or adventures that can help you personally grow, better work with your colleagues, and serve your students to the best of your ability.

Your development as a student affairs and higher education leader is a short and long-term investment that requires careful planning. Consider creating a professional development template like we’ve provided in this post based on the ACPA/NASPA competencies.

With a new year upon us and the constant need to iterate ourselves, planning out our needs and habits will allow us successfully move to the next level of development – that means pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone.

Let us know what you currently do or are planning to do to help yourself grow in unique ways. Tweet us @themoderncampus and  @HigherEd_Geek with your thoughts!

Have fun and be good to each other!

Dustin Ramsdell

About the author: Dustin Ramsdell (he/him) is a graduate of the Rutgers University College Student Affairs Ed.M Program. He is a proud nerd and self-affirmed "Higher Ed Geek" who is excited to connect with folks who share his love of deep conversations. Learn how we can help get your students involved.