The CCA Professional Development Routine

One of Clear Crossing Academy’s goals is to provide professional development. In other words, we want your career to grow in a direction that you design and enjoy.

🚀 Our approach transcends specific industries. The ideas presented here can work for lawyers and authors alike. For chemists and public servants. From undergrads to senior execs.

🧱 Success in this area, like many things in life, revolves around consistency. It is less about raw output or high quality, high visibility work. Those things can help in the short term, but our approach is to develop a long-term routine.

🌱 We want to train you to do small, achievable stuff on a weekly basis. Over time, you’ll either be able to increase your frequency and intensity of the small, achievable stuff. Or you’ll be ready to take on medium-sized, achievable stuff. 

🏋🏽‍♀️ It’s a lot like a fitness routine. Spending one huge day at the gym every two weeks is way less effective than committing to getting your sweat on for 30 minutes a day, three times a week.

💸 Our ever evolving program is 100% free, forever. All the theory is posted publicly on our site. If you sign up for a free account, you’ll have access to an accountability crew, support network, and practice groups.

Page table of contents

The Basics of Professional Development

We’ve organized seven categories of professional development activities into three streams.

Stream 1: internal categories

Activities in these categories are about your mental health, your mindset and your attitude. You need a solid base of understanding and internal guidance in order to feel ownership and confidence in your routine.

They are:

  1. Goal setting
  2. Reflection
  3. Self-care

Stream 2: external categories

Activities in these categories impact the world around you. They are designed to create positive feedback loops of support and opportunity. Virtually no human achievement happens in a vacuum.

They are:

  1. Outreach
  2. Network nurturing
  3. Content creation

Stream 3: learning

Learning is so important that it gets its own stream. It is a hybrid between internal and external: what you learn and how you apply it is the basis for almost everything that you do in your career and in your everyday life. CCA has its own recommended learning program, but you should strive to find a method of learning that best suits your situation.

Designing your professional development routine

A professional development routine involves doing activities from each of the seven categories on a regular basis. 

Similar to how a fitness trainer tailors a workout routine to each client based on their experience, so too must we vary the frequency and intensity of a professional development routine. If you make it too hard, you’re more likely to quit and fail to achieve the most important aspect of all: consistency. If it’s too easy, you won’t notice any new results and are also likely to stop before the magic of consistency can appear.

Clear Crossing Academy starter routines

CCA has developed a range of recommended routines to attempt, based on your level of comfort and experience.

Adhering to your professional development routine

We will consistently mention consistency in this documentation, because it is by far the most important aspect of any routine.

It is one thing to design a ProDev routine, quite another to actually go out and do it—and stick to it.

An accountability group is one of the most effective ways to stay on track. Rather than relying solely on self discipline and intrinsic motivation, you’ll have a crew of individuals who will shout about their own execution of the activities (and maybe some good ole fashioned peer pressure). You yourself are wholly permitted to cheer on your fellow routine seekers. Even if only half the group participates on any given week, the odds of getting badgered into remembering your activities is high. Basic human psychology tells us that you’re much more likely to take action if others are encouraging you.

Join our Professional Development Network

As part of the ProDev program, CCA offers semi-private and private accountability groups for professional development routines. We share our routines, how they’re going, and encourage you to keep at yours!

To get started, all you need is a free forever CCA account.

Professional development category details

Goal setting (internal stream)

Goal setting has been a cornerstone of professional development for ages, and for good reason. Creating a goal is a pretty unique human superpower, if you stop and think about it. We have the ability to imagine the future state of something, and decide that we are going to make that come true.

And if we set these goals realistically enough, we achieve many of them, thus reinforcing our belief in the idea that we make things happen, versus the oft defeatist mentality of things happen to us.

Goal setting activity examples, from low to high intensity

  • Create one goal per month. Check progress every week.
  • Make your goal related to a professional development activity
  • Choose the activity that you have the most difficult with
  • Write down the goal and keep it near your workspace
  • Share the goal(s) with your accountability group
  • Change frequency to two goals per month
  • Change frequency to a weekly goal
  • Report on goal success and failure publicly
  • Add more goals based on your ambition and ability

Reflection (internal stream)

The acknowledgment and appreciation of your Past Self is an important orienting tool. Reflecting on what happened and what you learned in the past helps paint the future in context.

It helps you get a sense of the scope of your ability. it can help remind you of your convictions, your character, and your code.

It’s also a useful tool for grappling with time. Time can be depressing, especially if it feels like it’s racing by or plodding along. Reflection is a system for stabilizing your own story, so that you are better equipped to take on what may come.

Reflection activity examples, from low to high intensity

  • Simply spend some time thinking about what happened in the last week
  • Privately list a few things that stood out to you in the past week
  • Periodically review your lists (e.g. once every two months)
  • Allow this list to be a 100% safe space, do not be afraid to speak candidly with yourself
  • Write a journal entry instead of listing—aim for 200 words
  • Aim for 500 words
  • Share your list or entry with your accountability group, edit out anything truly private
  • Attempt to journal twice a week
  • Attempt to journal daily

Self-care (internal stream)

Self-care is a massively underrated skill in many working cultures.

Simply put: it is the act of making time for things that you either truly enjoy, or find mentally therapeutic.

Self-care activity examples, from low to high intensity

  • Work on not feeling guilty for chilling out. You need it.
  • Schedule time blocks dedicated to self-care, especially if you’re someone whose professional life runs on a calendar
  • Prioritize these time blocks—allow them to occur at times where you might normally find yourself entrenched in work (within the bounds of your employment contract, of course)
  • Devote some self-care time to moving your body in physical activity you enjoy 
  • Begin to build a more serious exercise and/or learning routine

Outreach (external stream)

Human achievement rarely, if ever, happens in a vacuum. The clothes on your body, the nearest drinking vessel, your smartphone… no matter how simple or complex, the everyday objects in our lives came to be through an immense and impressive network of humans working together.

To advance your career, you need others. No way around it.

Outreach involves identifying people that you normally wouldn’t interact with and getting on their radar, somehow. Your reason for connecting with them may be quite specific or open-ended. (The only reason that is “forbidden” is sales. Outreach for professional development is not prospecting. Make sure you draw a bright line between the two.)

Having a specific connection reason is valuable, but can be difficult for introverts or unpracticed networkers. Hence, we focus on building this skill through the same ramping intensity mentality as the other categories.

Outreach activity examples, from low to high intensity

  • Drop a few social media likes on your outreach candidates
  • Include a tailored comment too
  • Seek feedback or ask for advice in these communications
  • Instead of general social media, join a community specific to your career, apply any all steps
  • Send a tailored direct message or try to connect via email
  • Ask for connections or introductions
  • Set up a live conversation or coffee meeting (pandemics permitting)
  • Develop partnership opportunities

Network nurturing (external stream)

If you have access to one or more professional development networks, then many things about developing a routine becomes easier. You’ll have a go-to place for career specific outreach and content creation. If you’re sharing goals, reflections, learning opportunities or intentions for self-care, you’ll be among people that are doing the same.

As part of your routine, it is important to nurture whatever network(s) are working for you. The more active, helpful and productive a network is, the more likely everyone is to use it. The more people that use it, the more helpful it becomes. This is shockingly called The Network Effect, and your professional development can benefit enormously from it.

Full disclosure: Clear Crossing Academy itself is a ProDev Network, practicing and preaching what we’re sharing in this documentation. Like most online networks, we will benefit—possibly financially—if you choose to help nurture our network.

Network nurture activity examples, from low to high intensity

  • Similar to Outreach, acknowledge network members’ content
  • Comment or reach out privately if you have value to offer or similar experiences to share
  • Do whatever you can to encourage others’ adherence to their ProDev routines
  • Contribute your own content, per many of the sharing opportunities outlines in the other ProDev activities
  • Partaking in growing the network—inviting colleagues or others that may also benefit from it
  • Volunteer to assist the network in other ways (e.g. moderation)

Creation (external stream)

Think about how much time you spend consuming stuff that other people or organizations have made. From everyday products and food, to entertainment and social media posts.

Creating your own stuff—be it posts or products or manuals or art—is a hugely beneficial activity. It makes you an active participant in this giant, crazy, marvelous mess that we call life.

Your current line of work may have you making stuff all the time. For professional development purposes, this may be sufficient. The goal here is to ensure that you begin to develop and capture a body of work that you can call your own. A body of work (perhaps you might call it a portfolio) represents a signal that you send out into the world. It gives people a chance to consume what you’ve made. It can tell a strong story about you and your skills. It can create opportunity with others who share your vision or point of view.

Creation activity examples, from low to high intensity

  • Start with brainstorming some things you’d someday like to create
  • Begin developing goals and outlines towards creating your first ‘piece’
  • Take a stab at making it, even if it’s a crappy draft or a wonky prototype
  • Document this journey
  • Share this journey
  • Publish or share a ‘thing you’ve made’—doesn’t matter where, or with whom
  • Align your ProDev goals with the creation of more things
  • If you’re already making things, make a plan for organizing them into a portfolio

Learning stream

You must always be learning.

This doesn’t mean spending hours upon hours steeped in academic literature or in endless training exercises.

It does mean being curious as a rule, having the drive and skill to dig into a bit of research when needed, and finding ways to test and apply new knowledge within your work life.

Finding the right curriculum for you is a deeply personal pursuit. Clear Crossing Academy’s approach to weaving learning into a professional development routine is twofold.

  1. We encourage and guide you towards generic learning activities.
  2. We selfishly recommend our own core curricula in Leadership, Culture and Storytelling—we believe these subjects will benefit anyone seeking to build a more inclusive, equitable and prosperous world.

Learning activity examples, from low to high intensity

  • Every week, commit to reading 3 articles in a subject that interests you
  • Buy a new book in subject that interests you—try to finish it in one month, or read 30 minutes per night before bed.
  • Take a free online course (under 2 hours total) in a subject that interests you
  • Seek to learn something outside of your comfort zone — by reading or watching
  • Seek to learn something outside of your comfort zone — by doing

Activity overlap

These seven categories are far from independent.

Many can happen together. Many feed into one another in a positive way.

Our starter routines take this into account—we’ve picked activities and intensity levels designed to increase efficacy and fuel success in increasing frequency.