I just hung up the phone with a technology professional who stated, “I can only get management to agree to send me to a vendor conference if I can justify the ROI.” Another leader recently communicated his expectation that team members spend eight hours a month on professional development. According to a recent survey by Spiceworks, 45% of technology professionals plan to look for another job this year and the number one reason they are looking, at 69%, is to advance their skills. Are individuals responsible for justifying professional growth opportunities? Should training be mandated by the leader? Should organizations promote growth opportunities as a retention effort?

While all the above are legitimate approaches to personal growth, the ultimate responsibility lies with you. Your Career. Your Growth. Your Initiative. How committed are you to your own professional growth? What initiative have you taken recently to improve your professional clout and become more valuable to those around you?

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A colleague and I were having drinks at a technology industry event last week when we were joined by student, Sheldon. Currently stationed at Ft Hood in Killeen, scheduled for discharge this fall and attending Western Governor’s University, Sheldon paid his own admission to the convention and clearly is committed to his own personal growth. At lunch the day before, I met Skyelar, a Texas A&M engineering student attending from of his own ambition. These two students personify commitment to their own personal growth.

How can you be more like Sheldon and Skyelar, driven to improve your professional standing? A few of my favorite inspirational approaches to expanding your skills are volunteering for a leadership position in a professional or non-profit organization, investing in yourself by hiring a coach, or growing your skills by mentoring a new leader in your field. It’s your career and your growth. What is the one step you can take today to grow personally or professionally?