How IDEAS Cultivates Professional Development

Jul 29, 2019 9:12:21 AM Sarah Rymer

According to a 2012 Gallup report, only 13% of employees worldwide feel engaged at work. This means that only one in eight workers are psychologically committed to their jobs and likely to make positive contributions to their organizations.


Three years later in 2015 the numbers had not changed significantly.

When I first joined IDEAS, I was unsure of what the next five years of my professional life would look like. I kept hearing the lie in my head that said people might think I was giving up on my professional development because I could not find a job in America. This lie came from the fear of the unknown about my future. The truth was that I could find work in America but decided the time was right to move overseas.

Continuing my professional development is precisely why I had joined IDEAS in the first place! I was invited to move abroad and work in my field of expertise. My education background is in public health. The project I work with trains rural villagers in southeast Asia to become physician assistants. I wanted to do something that I was passionate about and good at. I also knew that IDEAS projects would allow me to work alongside people groups that are marginalized. I would now get to hear their stories.

Once overseas, I learned quickly that my work had become much more difficult. I had to consider new languages and translations, new cultures, new resources, and new social norms. I discovered that I had to develop my adaptation skills immensely. This gave me an impetus to learn new life skills and grow in ways I did not believe were possible!

As I reflect on these last five years, I can see how much my confidence has grown in specific areas. I am much more comfortable in the unknown, which has stretched me in the following ways:

  • Improved ability to connect with others across cultures
  • Increased confidence when having crucial conversations
  • Finishing an Olympic-distance triathlon
  • Learning to pause for translators
  • Driving a manual car on the left side of the road using my left hand, even though I’m naturally right-handed
  • Developing an ability to enjoy eating very spicy food

I have been afforded the opportunity to cultivate new skills, such as blog writing, video editing, and language learning. My credentials give me options to work within universities and research institutions. IDEAS encourages me to explore and develop new skills because they know this makes me a better professional. Even though these opportunities have been outside my project work overseas, they equip me with fresh ideas. These fresh perspectives give me renewed energy to improve the quality of my product.

Forbes identifies 8 key tactics for developing employees:

  • Create individual development plans
  • Provide performance metrics
  • Provide opportunities outside job function
  • Give constructive feedback
  • Remove barriers
  • Link to a professional network
  • Outlay resources
  • Set the example

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my employer was already implementing these tactics. IDEAS provides individual development plans, shares performance metrics, outlays resources, and provides links to professional networks. If I were to return to the American workforce today, I would do so knowing that my growth as a professional has been cultivated beyond what I expected.

What is the next step in your professional development? Discover how you can cultivate your skills, network globally, and grow cross-culturally through IDEAS. 


About the Author: Sheldon and his wife joined IDEAS in 2014. They work with a partner project that trains rural villagers in southeast Asia to become physician assistants. Sheldon is the Director of Curriculum Development and Year 1 Teacher and has lived in southeast Asia since 2015. Click here to read more about how IDEAS can be part of your professional development.


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