Continuing Ed Outside Your Comfort Zone

This entry is part 7 of 10 in the series September 2018

Learn new skills by taking continuing education seriously.

Since its inception in the geomatics arena in the 1990s, the requirement for continuing education (also called continuing competency) has had the aura of a penalty rather than an opportunity. Obtaining legislative approval in many states for the continuing education requirement was difficult. Getting courses approved for credit in many states has been, and continues to be, a challenge.

But why? Are we so bold as to think we know all we ever need to know?

Over the years, I have heard most or all of the arguments against the concept:

  • I’ll learn what I need to know on my own.
  • Why do I need business courses? I paid all my bills last month.
  • Why do I need communication courses? I avoid talking to people, and I have voicemail.
  • It’s just the “good old boys” wanting to get my money for the society.
  • And on and on.

Unfortunately, many of the professionals who attend seminars or take online courses would be very willing to just send a check to get their credits without taking any courses. How sad and myopic. (I will save a discussion on the online courses for another day.)

Continuing education is not a penalty. It is not an unwanted tax. It is an opportunity to explore areas you know little about or are weak in.

It is also continuing education, not repeating education. Many folks take the same or similar technical courses over and over to avoid leaving their tiny comfort zone. Personally, I would like to see the states prohibit taking the same courses in successive renewal periods or limit the number of times a person can repeat a course.

Especially Communication

Continuing education opportunities are a wonderful chance to obtain direction outside your comfort zone. Unfortunately, some states frown on non-technical courses for credit: a significant mistake.

For example, across all industries, a major area of recruitment concern for most positions is oral communication skills. That is even more critical in the technical fields where little or no formal non-technical skills are addressed. Yet, most technical people would rather have a root canal than take a communications or business course.

As for you owners and managers, do you ask your staff on return from a seminar (that the firm most likely paid for) to “share with us what you learned and how we can apply it to better our methods?”

In a 1999 survey of all state boards, 80% of the citizen complaints against land surveyors were on business practices. My daily experience would lead me to believe that fatal flaw has not changed. Yet, at any conference, the classes on deed retracement will have 120 attendees, while the business or communications class next door will have 20.

While my experience is primarily with surveyors, I believe the approach to continuing education is similar in other geomatics specialties, whether it is a requirement or not. And company size doesn’t matter. Whether you’re in a one-person operation or a large firm, non-geomatics skills are a necessity.

A fine young surveyor in one of my seminars once asked, “What use is all this management stuff to me? I’m a one-man operation.”

My answer was, “Most of it will have no use at all, unless someday you would like to be more than a one-person operation.”

To end this rant, I would like to caution all in the geomatics world about technological isolation. For thousands of years, isolation has been a form of torture to alter the mental state of a captive by creating depression. Today, many in the technology world are voluntarily isolating themselves from human contact. Yet, humans thrive on, and need, personal contact.

So, with the next opportunity, attend that seminar outside your comfort zone. Talk to all your attending peers about what they are working on or suggest a course to the sponsoring group.

If all that fails, call me—we’ll talk.

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