Cultivating Professional Development

Craig Warren, CEO Washburn

Craig Warren, CEO of Washburn Center for Children delves into the realms of professional development and networking. Through our conversation, listeners are offered a fresh perspective on professional growth. You will glean valuable networking practices from Craig’s extensive experience.

A Glimpse into Craig Warren’s Journey

Craig Warren took the helm as CEO of Washburn Center for Children in 2022, making history as the first BIPOC leader in the organization’s 140-year history. Prior to this role, he served as the Chief Administrative Officer at Washburn and held numerous leadership positions at esteemed organizations including the Greater Twin Cities United Way, Best Buy, and the United States Army. His academic credentials include a master’s degree from the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago and a bachelor’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. With over 25 years of strategic planning, service delivery, and consulting experience, Craig is a catalyst for social impact, driven by a commitment to equitable community outcomes.

Rethinking Professional Development

Craig shares his expansive view on professional development, emphasizing it as a lifelong journey rather than a mere ladder to career advancement. He introduces the concept of “growing your professional garden,” a metaphor for cultivating a diverse set of resources, networks, and support systems to navigate one’s career. This intentional effort ensures that when unexpected changes occur, such as a job loss, you have a robust support network to rely on.

Craig’s approach to professional development extends beyond immediate career progression. He advocates for a holistic view, aligning professional growth with personal values and life goals. By considering what you want out of life and how work fits into that broader picture, you can make more informed and strategic career decisions.

Building a Personal Board of Directors

A key strategy Craig discusses is the idea of building a personal board of directors. This involves identifying individuals who can serve as cheerleaders, advocates, mentors, and ultimately, trusted advisors. These relationships are cultivated intentionally and offer various levels of support, from emotional encouragement to professional guidance. This network is crucial for both celebrating successes and navigating challenges.

Strategic Networking for Introverts

Networking can be daunting, especially for introverts. Craig, a self-proclaimed introvert, shares his approach to making networking more manageable. He reframes networking as “intentional relationship building,” which focuses on creating meaningful connections rather than transactional interactions.

Craig emphasizes the importance of strategic networking through involvement in alumni associations, professional organizations, and conferences. By participating in these communities, you engage with individuals who share common interests and professional goals, making it easier to build relationships.

Continuous Learning and Development

Craig advocates for dedicating a portion of your time to professional development. He follows a “10 percent rule,” where at least four hours of his workweek are devoted to activities such as networking, mentoring, or attending industry events. This disciplined approach ensures continuous growth and reflection, enabling you to stay proactive in your career development.

Final Thoughts

Craig’s insights highlight the importance of intentionality in both professional development and networking. By cultivating your professional garden and building a supportive network, you can navigate your career with resilience and strategic foresight. Whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert, these practices can help you take charge of your professional journey and achieve your long-term goals.