Development: The process of developing or being developed

So, if you don’t know my feelings on definitions like the one above, I’ll lay it out for you; smart people don’t define a word using another form of that word. It’s like describing water as being “watery.”  UGH!!  So I looked up “develop” and got, “To grow or cause to grow and become more mature, advanced, or elaborate.”  Cool.  So a better definition of development might be, “The process of growing and becoming more mature, advanced, and elaborate.”  Synonyms include, evolution, growth, maturation, expansion, and enlargement.

Why does this matter? Because I teach “professional development” classes and recently got a comment:  If I were to start a petition to get rid of these GEB classes, or at least make them optional, would anybody join me? I haven’t gotten anything out of them, they take time away from my study and work time, they cost money, and they lower my GPA because the quizzes are misleading. Just venting frustration but these courses are unfair.

This frustrated comment was made by a student who entered the college recently and is in the second of four, one-credit professional development classes that junior and senior students in UCFs College of Business are required to take. The short-term goal of the series of classes is that students will either be employed in an entry-level professional job at graduation, or prepared to be promoted or grow in the job they already have.  To accomplish this goal, students are required to complete a series of career development activities of their choosing from a list of over 60 activities that includes everything from attending workshops and networking events to mentoring others and starting student organizations.  I received this comment the same week that a team of his classmates were being recognized for starting one of the first undergraduate Prospanica student chapters in the country AND placing first in a case competition where they were the only undergraduate students, all of the other 40+ teams were made up of MBA students!

One of the facets of these classes that throws students off is that I don’t assign their activity. Instead, I empower students to choose what they want to do.  But as Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben teaches us, with great power comes great responsibility.  Many choose activities the same way they buy groceries the first semester they move into an apartment; quick, easy stuff that may or may not have the best career nutrition value.  As students go through the classes they get better at making choices that better meet their career needs.  This process of decision making maturation (whether in my class or at the grocery store) is an example of development.

Discussing the student’s comment with Dean Jarley, he made the observation that professional development is not an example of instant gratification.  In other words, it takes time and effort to develop.  Sometimes you get frustrated.  Sometimes you have to fail.  But as I’ve written before (, the “penalty” for struggling in these classes is not as high as some people would think.  You can even get it to pay off at a greater rate if you leverage the activities effectively.  It’s a particularly good deal if you consider the benefit of professional and career growth that you can get from learning to manage your time, activity, and propensity for public opines.

See, as a Human Resources professional with particular experience in labor organizing, I would say that publicly calling for a petition is a sure-fire way to put yourself on management’s bad side. What they don’t teach you in MAN 3301 is that most companies, especially those in right to work states, simply fire employees at the first sign of sympathy to a union.  Not fair, you say. Perhaps, but I’m not debating fairness here, I’m just telling you what I’ve seen over 25+ years in business.  See, I too was once naïve and thought that you could get your way by just saying something.  I learned over time that things were not that way.  If you wanted something to change, you couldn’t complain or throw stones.  You had to replace it with something better.  If that’s not something you have the power or capacity to do, then you either accept it or move on.

Also, speaking as a working professional who, in hindsight, would have benefitted greatly from these classes, I can tell you that removing our student’s choice to be active or not is intentional. Being active in your professional development in our College of Business is expected.  But you do get to choose what you’ll do.  If that’s not something that you want to do, then choosing a different program or school may be appropriate.  Same as choosing a different employer is appropriate if you don’t like the benefits, hours of work, or job assignment.

I won’t go so far as to target the student who made the comment for differential or disparate treatment in the class. But I will offer a bit of advice.  Whether you want to discover your career passion, foment revolution, change the world, or just get a job; DO something about it.  Preferably something constructive since you’ll have a higher probability of eliciting support from those who can help you succeed.  And though the gratification may not be immediate, the experience will help you grow, evolve, and develop into the professional that you’re capable of being.