Human beings are great at telling other people how to do things. But when it comes to being self-aware of our own shortcomings or detecting how we could improve with professional development, the picture often gets blurry.

Of course, this is nothing new – as evidenced by old sayings such as, ‘it’s the carpenter’s door that doesn’t close properly’. We are also typically at ease in our own routines, our own way of accomplishing work and setting our own standards for what ‘good’ looks like.

But, here’s the thing: the day you think you’ve delivered a ‘good’ learning solution is the day you should chuck your laptop and walk away. Why? Because, in that moment, you will have relinquished your potential for doing better next time – and even better the time after that…


It’s about cultivating a sense of positive self- reflection which you can use to your advantage.

Every project comes with deadlines, quality requirements and cost constraints so, naturally, we have to draw a line in the sand somewhere to deliver and we may think, ‘this has got to be good enough now’ – that’s the nature of the beast. However, with every project and every task comes a chance to learn and improve. Greatness is in the eye of the beholder.

So, what are some ways to make sure you enter a cycle of continuous improvement for greatness?

01. Become a fan of your progress

Every month or so, pick up a project you worked on a year ago and evaluate it in terms of what you did, how you did it and whether your work delivered the desired outcomes and measured up to best practice.

Leveraging hindsight, what would you do differently if you had a chance to do it again, given what you know now? Make notes and plan how you can implement these improvements in upcoming projects.

There are always new ways to do existing tasks

02. Get external feedback from different angles

While reviewing older projects, it is also a great time to get back in touch with other project stakeholders to get feedback on the impact your work – and the project itself – had. Did you hit the target? If not, why not? If yes, what got you there?

Frequently liaise with people from other related professions to learn how and where they source new ideas or ways of completing work. There may be newly developed tools intended for other areas that could also help you in your role. Even in the project initiation stage, it can be a good idea to brainstorm with people from totally different professions to get fresh insights.

03. Networking and professional development

In a profession like ours, geared towards changing people’s behaviours, we must – wait for it – spend time with people! Nothing will replace real-life interaction so you should build it into your planned work schedule.

People applauding at a professional development seminar

Thankfully, organisations like the Australian Institute of Training and Development, for whom I write this very article, make that exercise and professional development easy and achievable. From short topical courses to conferences and networking events, all it takes is your membership and your active commitment to prioritise your own professional development. In addition, networking can help you build relationships with potential employers or clients. These connections can lead to job opportunities, new projects or referrals.

When you go to events that have a speaker, it’s not enough to hop in and out of sessions and take notes. Instead, it would help if you internalised the content, reframed it into your own context and found a way to talk directly to that speaker. That’s when you see the deep and meaningful experience behind it; the one that sticks.

04. Lose your fear of new technologies

Technology is nothing to be afraid of; it is here to make our lives easier. For example, need I mention the washing machine and its benefits? There are always new ways to do existing tasks and regularly exploring new tools can save you time or money.

There are plenty of resources to help you get started and, with a bit of effort, you can learn anything you need to know. Plan for that time to research and learn new tools – and make it a habit. Some tools will stay with you, some you will use on a needs basis and some you will let go again.

05. Throw away your laurels

Chances are you finished a formal degree or qualification to enter your job role. However, like me, you may have learnt about adult learning theory, for example, and this has become a somewhat hazy concept by now.

Knowing about something is the mere baseline fundamental but learning how to apply it successfully in different contexts is where the true art of L&D lies. And that only happens with experience and by keeping up the hard work of life-long learning and ongoing professional development.

Take pride in knowing you can always learn more and you can always find a way to enhance the learning experiences you create for others. You are only as good as the last job you did, but there is always a chance to make the next one even better.

by Melany Blackwell

This article originally appeared in Training & Development magazine, June 2022 Vol. 49 No. 2, published by the Australian Institute of Training and Development.