Professional Development: Immersing Yourself in the Marketplace of Ideas

By Alex Moore

Today I take a break from my line of the political #HotTake furnace to discuss a specific aspect of professional development that I feel as though is an easy way to better yourself in your given realm of expertise. While it may seem self evident and obvious, becoming a prolific reader of all content in your field of choice is a great way to better yourself professionally and excel at whatever field you choose.

Immersing yourself in all of the content published relating to your specific field is absolutely imperative. You should be well versed in everything. This will obviously vary depending on what your area of expertise is, so I will use myself as an example. One of the areas within the counterterrorism field that has received intense scrutiny over the past decade or so is the radicalization and deradicalization process. Currently, there is literally no consensus whatsoever on the radicalization process and nobody has concrete answers. Nonetheless, it is imperative that I familiarize myself with all theories in this given area so that I am able to provide fresh and pragmatic solutions down the road as an analyst. If you follow CEO Sellers on Twitter you’ll see that he often retweets articles that relate to the tech industry, it’s the same concept.

All of this may seem obvious, but you will truly set yourself apart by being an avid consumer of content within your field. The reason you’re hired at your job is not to be an echo chamber but to push and challenge your superiors and coworkers by being well versed in the literature field and presenting fresh and new ideas. Moreover, it is important to be up to date on the disagreements within the field because these same disagreements may come up in whatever it is that you do. By knowing all of the different arguments, you’ll be in a better position to offer both a nuanced answer to a given problem as well as effectively challenge the positions of those who disagree with you. I cannot stress this enough. Do not simply feed your own personal echo chamber of biases. Challenge yourself to be well acquainted with all sides of a given argument, no matter how much you may disagree with it.

Other benefits of being an avid reader are that it will vastly improve your vernacular, as you will undoubtedly come across words that you don’t know and be forced to look up the definition. Moreover, your writing ability will improve as you read work from others who are superior writers. If you are in college and think you’re decided on a career path, read about it! If you don’t find yourself immersed in the content, maybe you should consider another path.

I promise you that one of the best ways to excel at whatever you choose is to walk in the door well versed in the marketplace of ideas and posses the ability to articulate it. Once again, you are hired for a reason, and that reason is probably not to simply echo the thoughts of your superiors but instead to move their thoughts further by presenting fresh and new ideas. You will differentiate yourself from the pack if you can do this.

Photo Credit: Lee Chapman