Suggestion 7. Recommend that students learn by doing—volunteering that is.

One of the reasons that so many training and development professionals advocate for informal learning is because it provides such powerful developmental experiences.

Although attending and speaking at conferences, and reading and writing for publications promotes informal learning, some of the most powerful learning experiences for aspiring training and development professionals come from working on training and development projects, and overseeing professional organizations.

Volunteering for community and professional organizations provides such powerful experiences to these aspiring professionals.

The types of experiences most appropriate for a given student depend on the interests and long-term goals of that student.  Students planning professional careers might benefit from volunteer opportunities that let them plan, design, and facilitate programs.  In contrast, students planning academic careers might benefit from volunteer opportunities that let them participate in the peer-review process, as well as lead professional activities.

Table 1 offers suggestions of volunteer opportunities that students with particular types of goals might consider.

Table 1: Volunteer Opportunities that Might Help Students Prepare for Particular Opportunities

To develop design and facilitation skills:
  • Develop learning programs for a nonprofit
  • Deliver learning programs for a nonprofit
  • Take training courses (to develop tools skills, to get a feel for training in this area)
  • Design a technology implementation
  • Your suggestions
To develop managerial and leadership skills:
  • Serve as an officer, manager or committee member for a local chapter of a professional association or community organization.
  • Plan and implement a complex project, like a conference or  a seminar series.
  • Your suggestions
To develop contacts and skills for the professional world (appropriate for students who plan to start or continue their career upon graduating):
  • Serve as an officer, manager or committee member for a local chapter of a professional association
  • Serve on the program committee for a conference (use list above for a list of conferences).
  • Organize a conference (usually requires previous experience on a program committee).
  • Your suggestions
To develop contacts and skills for the academic world (appropriate for students who plan to continue their studies at the PhD level):
  • Serve as an officer or manager or member of a Society-side committee for a  professional association.
  • Organize a conference (usually requires previous experience on a program committee).
  • Serve on the organizing  committee for a conference (use list above for a list of conferences).
  • Serve on for a peer-reviewed journal (use list above as a suggestion).
  • Serve as a reviewer for a conference (use list above for a list of conferences).
  • Your suggestions

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