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6 things you must do after a professional development event

You owe it to both your employer and your career to make the most of your professional development opportunities.

Your company just paid for you to attend a conference, training session or professional development course. Now that you're back, what do you do with what you've learned? If you're like many workers, the answer is, "Not much." In the crush of catching up and daily responsibilities, the motivation to do something with your newly gained knowledge falls to the wayside.

Don't let that happen to you. You owe it to both your employer and your career to make the most of your professional development opportunities. Here are some concrete steps you can take when you get back to the office:

1. Brief your team
Your manager will most likely ask you to give the team a run-down, so be prepared. You can go as low-key or high-tech as appropriate. Some suggestions:

  • List the top three trends you gleaned from the conference, and give supporting details for each.
  • Put together a slide show of innovative products and services on display at the trade show.
  • Give colleagues the condensed version of your professional development course. Handing them an outline or copies of the workshop materials can help them apply the lessons in their own work.

2. Keep the social media flame alive
You've returned home with a dozen new Twitter followers and LinkedIn connections, so stay in touch with them. Tweet about what you learned from the speakers, and be sure to cite them — they'll appreciate the acknowledgment. When a new contact posts an exciting career announcement, send a personalized congratulation. Start a LinkedIn group, invite the folks you just met and share ideas on that professional development topic. Not only will you strengthen your network, you'll help everyone — yourself included — keep that conference excitement alive.

3. Follow through with new contacts
At professional development events, people say they'll do this or that but often don't make good on their word. Be that person who follows through by making notes of what you and others commit to. If you promise to introduce a new contact to your manager, write that email. If you say you'll check out someone's blog, set aside some time to read it — and then add an insightful comment. Or if a fellow attendee said he'd give you more details about an exciting new job opening, send a quick message to jog his memory.

Keep in mind that, like you, most conference attendees come back to a stuffed inbox, so wait a few days before emailing as a courtesy — and to make sure your message isn't lost in the crowd.

4. Do post-conference homework
You attended some fascinating sessions and found certain speakers to be particularly inspirational. Now that you're back, take some time to find out more about their work. Read the articles, blog posts and books they've written, and add that information to what you learned during your professional development course.

5. Give feedback
Many professional development events ask you to fill out an online survey to let them know what they did well and what they can improve on for the next session. Rather than automatically deleting that email, open it up. Giving thoughtful comments is a good way of reminding yourself of what you got out of the session. It's also the best way to help make next year's event even better.

6. Use conferences as a source of fresh ideas
After several days in a different venue and meeting new people, returning to the office and the same faces can feel like a letdown. Use what you just learned to breathe life into the "same old same old." During a brainstorming session, dig into your memory and notes to come up with novel approaches. When a co-worker complains yet again about the glitchy software, recommend that she check out a new app you heard about during the workshop.

Conferences and professional development courses are enjoyable and effective ways to inject excitement into your job, but it doesn't do you or your employer any good if what happened in Vegas — or Chicago or Boston — stays there. When you come back, work hard to share what you've learned and apply your new knowledge. Doing so is a great way to make your boss's investment pay off tenfold — and to make sure she sends you to next year's event.

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