Professional Development: How to find your path by Kellie Brungard, GPC

Do you find yourself coming away from Grant Professionals Association (GPA) National Conference with new tips and tricks you want to explore or apply to your work? Did you attend a session that made you realize you wanted to know more about this topic? This morning, as I reflected on the past week, I found myself inspired by the knowledge and generosity shared in our professional community and a little lost as to what steps to take next. It’s the perfect time to reflect on the past year and ponder what you want out of the coming one. Let’s start with a general understanding of why professional development is more than a great trip to bourbon country, look at resources to help guide your path, and create tangible steps for you to grow with purpose in 2023.

Why Do I Need to Keep Learning?

Professional development is a significant part of eligibility if you are considering becoming a certified grant professional (GPC). Once you earn your GPC, continuing education is equally important. Aside from being a requirement, continuing to learn about developing trends and addressing areas you have identified for personal growth helps you produce top-notch proposals for your clients. Professional development is written into GPA’s Code of Ethics, ensuring we continually improve our professional knowledge and skills.

Grant writing appeals to me because there are endless ways to specialize and develop new skills while staying within the same industry. That same thought can sometimes be overwhelming, especially to those new to grant writing. Have you ever thought to yourself, “where do I begin?”

How Do I Make a Plan?

Alas! Like all good things in grant writing, it helps to start with a goal and a plan. This time of year is perfect for sitting by the fire and reflecting on where you want to grow.

  1. Define your goals – Identify two or three areas you want to focus on in the coming year. If you aren’t sure where to start, Assel Grant Services has a self-assessment survey that explores the various GPC competencies to identify areas of improvement.
  2. Determine your resources – Does your organization have a professional development budget? Will progress towards your goal require a more extensive training program, or would exploring the various resources associated with GPA membership (such as finding a GPA mentor) be more in line?
  3. Create action steps – Once you understand your resources and what might be needed, write down two steps you could reasonably take this year to help you reach each goal. Look into scholarship opportunities for exams and conferences or talk with your supervisor about allocating time to attend webinars or work on new projects that might help you gain experience.
  4. Review your plan – Talk with someone in your professional circle about your goals.

What Can I Do Next?

Atomic Habits author James Clear writes that the difference between motivation and intention is creating a plan. In a small study, participants were all given the same presentation focused on building better exercise habits. The participants created a plan identifying when, where, and how they would exercise. These individuals had a 91% success rate of upholding their habits, versus 35% of the group who identified their motivation with no direct plan. So how do you turn your professional development plan into action? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. As GPA members, we have access to the webinar archive with over 100 live and on-demand options approved for continuing education credits. Select a few that apply to your goals and schedule a time to watch.
  2. Check out this Foundant webinar, “Planning Your Pathway to Grant Guru,” presented by Julie Assel, GPC, CGMS, and President/CEO of Assel Grant Services, for information on managing your professional path.
  3. Assel Grant Services also has a variety of on-demand training courses covering federal grants, logic models, partnerships, evidence-based programming, and more. These can be individual courses or customized training series, depending on your needs.
  4. Update your CMP tracking form to check your progress toward maintaining certification. This can be used as a tool to make sure you are on track with education credits.

These are just a few ideas to get you started on how to take that inspiration from national conference and turn it into a concrete plan. And as for me, my next steps are to talk with my supervisor about working on skills within my current client projects, and schedule webinars for next year that align with my goals.

This blog post is aligned with the Grant Professional Certification Institute’s Competencies and Skills.

Competency #7: Knowledge of practices and services that raise the level of professionalism of grant developers

Skill 7.1: Identify advantages of participating in continuing education and various grant review processes

Skill 7.2: Identify advantages of participating in professional organizations that offer grant developers growth opportunities and advance the profession