Here are some ideas I have found and followed for learning and expanding professionally:
1) Network: Join a local industry group. When I couldn’t find one locally, I found some other willing individuals and we started a local chapter of the Association of Contingency Planners (www.acp-international.com). We’re growing, networking, branching out into our respective communities, meeting new people and providing new avenues for professionals to meet one another, learn, and keep in touch. Disaster Recovery Journal offers a listing all of the groups in each edition of the magazine (pages 102-103) and on their Web site (www.drj.com). Your local group may be a chapter of the ACP or it maybe unaffiliated.
2) Learn: Read everything you can get your hands on and attend industry events. Aside from the magazine you’re reading, Disaster Recovery Journal also holds two conferences each year. They are the largest and most comprehensive conferences in the industry. DRII also offers courses at DRJ and at several other locations throughout the year. You can check their schedule on page 85 or visit the DRII Web site (www.drii.org). … Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) offers a number of online courses that people can take and become certified through www.fema.gov (I recommend the Incident Command System (ICS) basic overview). Additionally, ask your manager for stretch assignments – projects within other professional practice areas to expand your knowledge, experience, and capabilities.
3) Do: Your local branch of the American Red Cross Emergency Services could always use a few good planners. The American Red Cross also offers a number of classes and education on disaster services.
Local schools can also benefit from your efforts. Call the local superintendents and volunteer your services. Even if it’s not an area of your current proficiency, this does not mean that it’s not a possible opportunity.
Communities (cities, counties, etc.) may also have focus and planning groups that ensure the community is up to task should the need arise. Investigate your local government to see what opportunities may be available.
Best of luck, and have fun. Get engaged, and hit that learning curve with some momentum. Make sure to enable yourself with a full toolbox of business continuity planning experience and knowledge in order to assist your employer in minimizing disruptions to their business, mitigating risks, and continuing to succeed!
Brian Jilek, ABCP, ARM, ChFC, works for a Fortune 500 company as a finance analyst in their investment accounting department, providing finance and accounting analytical work alongside business continuity leadership for the department. Jilek is the co-founder and past president of the Central Illinois Chapter of Association of Contingency Planners and is a basic disaster instructor for the American Red Cross of the Heartland emergency services team.