Think About It: OIWC asks, is there a lack of professional development in the industry?

Do you have a five-year career plan? While most people have no problem committing to a five-year car loan, a large majority of workers are unlikely to have future plans for the same span of their career. Some of this stems from a lack of professional development opportunities offered at companies today, including those in the outdoor industry.
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Do you have a five-year career plan? While most people have no problem committing to a five-year car loan, a large majority of workers are unlikely to have future plans for the same span of their career. Some of this stems from a lack of professional development opportunities offered at companies today, including those in the outdoor industry.

"There is not much offered by industry companies," said Tami Anderson, co-founder and principal of andHow Marketing and chairperson of the OIWC professional development committee. "It's especially difficult for smaller companies to implement formal programs. As a result, some people just learn skills on the job instead of actually directing their career."

There is also a dearth of professional development opportunities within the outdoor industries (snow, bike, outdoor, etc.) as well. And, while trade shows, such as Outdoor Retailer and SIA, do offer some educational seminars, very little is focused on professional development.

"A lot of these seminars are focused on specific needs on a practical, tactical level, like the seminar on color trends," Anderson said. "But, nobody is saying, 'Look at your career as merchandiser.' There is nothing looking at development."

OIWC recently launched its professional development program to try to address this need in the market for women. Anderson said that part of the mission is to help equip them for success. "We want to look at all the different stages in the career development, and help women recognize their professional goals," she added.

To this end, OIWC has already held networking events and panel discussions at Outdoor Retailer and other trade shows, with the most recent focused on leadership.

Even more development opportunities are in the works. This year, OIWC will launch the Education Foundation, a non-profit, tax-exempt organization dedicated specifically to providing women with educational programs and career development resources. The foundation will deliver seminars throughout the year on topics such as leadership training, strategic planning and interviewing skills.

These career-building offerings will be presented at national and regional trade shows, OIWC regional community gatherings, outdoor industries' meetings and events, plus online via OIWC's website, www.oiwc.org.

And, from March 27-29, 2009, OIWC will also host a first-of-its-kind membership conference focused specifically on professional development, offering information and learning for women of all professional levels. The three-day event will include targeted educational programs, coaching seminars, networking workshops, team-building exercises and mentoring support.

One focus of the conference is to provide the opportunity for women to network with others who work in a similar position. It will also provide information on sharpening leadership skills and learning to negotiate.

OIWC also re-launched its website to allow for online social networking. The goal is to provide all women in the industries, whether or not they attend trade shows, with access to helpful information and networking. "They can be part of a supportive and educational community," Anderson said. In addition, the site will offer virtual, ongoing educational programs, including transcripts of past professional development seminars and panels and mentoring information and links. Check out www.oiwc.org for more information.

The snow industry also offers some education opportunities through its Snowsports Institute, an education outreach group. In the fall, it will deliver a series of seminars in specific cities across the country; these one-day programs are targeted to retailers but are also open to suppliers.

"The morning session will focus on marketing and merchandising to targeted consumer segments, including women," said Mary Jo Tarallo, SIA education manager. "We will also talk about sales techniques and will do a separate session on Internet marketing and sales to specific markets."

Plans are also in the works to provide distance-learning opportunities for those who cannot make it to the trade shows or educational seminars.

From the OIWC Education Foundation and the new membership conference to the online networking and education opportunities, there are many incredibly useful resources in the pipeline for women to take advantage of. All of which could certainly help to form a targeted five-year career plan -- and a successful, prosperous future.

This monthly column, a partnership between OIWC and SNEWS®, aims to address the issues that concern women in the industry most -- anything that is controversial, topical or newsworthy relating to women and the outdoors. The goal is to help, educate, inspire and grow. We welcome your ideas, gripes, thoughts and comments. Bring it on. E-mail us at oiwc@snewsnet.com.



Erinn Morgan is an award-winning magazine editor from New York City who has relocated to Colorado to pursue her outdoor passions and a freelance writing career. Her work -- which focuses on outdoor sports, adventure travel, gear and sustainability -- has appeared in publications from National Geographic Adventure and The New York Times to Outside and Mountain Bike.

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