Rekindle the Flame

Bob Zastany '88, Howard Berchtold '86

Welcome to the inaugural Fellows Column! We wish to thank ICM for initiating this newsletter during the past year and now for including a column devoted to us, the Fellows. This is your column; individuals, groups, classes are encouraged to write future columns. We are honored to have been asked to author the first and have chosen to focus on you and where you are with your career!

We are among more than 1,200 court professionals that have achieved the status of “Fellow” in the United States and abroad. Regardless of whether retired, between jobs, currently employed in the field or just beginning the ascent on your career ladder, there is a common bond we “Fellows” possess:  the camaraderie of taking the path of self-improvement and the commitment to improve the administration of justice.

Fellows, the alumni if you will, are a powerful force in furthering the development of the ICM mission – To educate, inform, and support current and next generation management and leadership of the state courts. We believe that the purpose of a Fellow’s alumni group is to: provide a sustainable and efficient means of engaging Fellows by improving communication (this newsletter and the new NCSC Connected Community and ICM Fellows Community are great vehicles); provide Fellows and future Fellows with a sustainable means to implement the concepts and ideas they explored during their training experience through research and course development; and, enhance the spirit of collegiality among the members of the alumni group by providing education and social sessions at national, state, and local events.  Alumni foster a sense of prestige by associating themselves closely with a truly unique, world-class Institute, and encourage others to join the ranks. With that said, let us focus on this article’s purpose, you.

Keeping your professional progress continuous

Individuals are constantly being assessed on their knowledge, skills, and abilities.  So how can we stay on top of our game?  Learning and development are key to career progression.

Do you remember leaving school and thinking that exams and assessments would be a thing of the past?  It does not take long to realize that the workplace can be an equally intense and competitive learning environment.  Obtaining a status of “Fellow” does not end our learning process. It is important to continue to learn and enhance our skill sets.

For better or worse, our capabilities are being continually assessed.  And, unlike studying for a qualification, the crossbars in the workplace keep moving. New technology, customer demands, legislation, and new leadership or changing visions are only a few of the challenges we contend with daily.  Every change invariably has implications for us.

Some court organizations are good at providing learning opportunities when they see a direct benefit to the organization.  What is offered, however, may not always be congruent with what you want or really need for your career.  Therefore, to protect your employability you need to take charge of your personal development.

Human Capital experts tell us that there is a strong correlation between learning and sustained employment.  Staff that undertake learning activities are more able to adapt to the changing requirements of an organization and gain a competitive edge in the job market, both internal and external.  Individuals who demonstrate that they are conscientious about their personal development are likely to be seen as highly motivated and engaged.  Their openness to learning also suggests they are flexible, adaptable and will bring a continuous improvement ethos to the court organization – all of which is appealing to a chief judge or chief administrator.

Keeping this in mind, here are some suggestions on ways to start thinking about your own learning and development.

Enhancing your performance

What areas of your position do you find most difficult or want to improve?  Improving the areas you identify may mean going to a course or workshop, or you may find that mentoring, guided reading, work-shadowing, or online study is more relevant. Seek advice from those whose skills or career you wish to emulate.

Benchmarking the job market

When you are busy at work it is easy to lose sight of the changing needs of the job market, which translates to out of date skill sets. Periodically check out job postings for desired skills or specific training certification for roles that are either similar to yours or are compatible with the role you are looking for next.  Do you have everything they are looking for?  For instance, are your project management skills up to scratch?  Could the lack of a professional qualification or training in this area be an issue if every employer seems to be asking for it?

Knowledge updating to include softer skills

Some professions require a certain amount of professional development every year to retain your status.  There is no such requirement for maintaining your “Fellows” distinction.  It is up to you make sure you are up-to-date with what is happening in our field.  You can keep updated by reading professional journals or trade press, attending conferences, and workshops. With the rise of webinars, e-newsletters and online forums it's easier than ever to participate in learning from your office desk or at home.

Learning and development takes time and energy, and it will sometimes take you out of your comfort zone.  If you can keep the learning habit throughout your career, however, you are far more likely to extend your career longevity, mitigate any risks, and improve your employability.

The bottom line: stay engaged with the many offerings of ICM, become active in your professional associations, and rekindle the passion that you had when you received your Fellow award at the U.S. Supreme Court – no matter how long ago it was.