Career Focus: Professional development is key to our success

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Joseph Mulcahy
  • Career Assistance Advisor
Growing up as the 10th child in a family with 11 children was intense. Whether my siblings and I knew it or not, we always wanted to be noticed and succeed. My brothers and sisters chose positive ways to shine by earning stellar grades, playing sports and participating in extracurricular activities. However, I took a different path.

A hardy spirit, I attempted to stowaway on a Norwegian ship at 10 years old, tangled with junkyard dogs and sang Rolling Stones songs from the pulpit when I should've been cleaning the church as penance for unruly behavior. I was strong-willed and stubborn. I was the kid on the scene whenever trouble arrived. I was succeeding in my plans to get noticed but in all the wrong ways. I still wonder how I survived my teen years.

I wasn't an evil child. I was merely expressing my independence, seeking attention and discovering my identity during those tumultuous teen years. Had I known that then, I might have used my energy for my benefit and the good of those around me.

Knowing ourselves and others is crucial if we want to perform well in our personal and professional lives and the key to effective performance in any organization depends on taking care of our most valuable resource - people. So how can we motivate people to achieve personal and organizational excellence?

The answer is professional development.

There are many roads to professional development. Off-duty education is an excellent way, and the Air Force encourages us to pursue it because it enhances our effectiveness and mission accomplishment simultaneously. Courses in management, psychology, sociology and many others give insight into human behavior and performance. If we understand how people work and what they desire, we can inspire them to achieve anything imaginable.

It's also important for us to take advantage of formal professional military education courses when they are offered. Officer and enlisted PME courses are designed to improve our leadership and managerial skills. Their primary focus is maximizing the effectiveness of our people and profession. These courses evolved throughout our proud history to meet the changing demands of our profession.

If you have little desire to attend off-duty courses or can't attend PME, then you may be able to take advantage of other professional development courses offered here. There's an Enlisted Professional Enhancement class offered to junior noncommissioned officers and an Airman's Professional Enhancement class for Airmen who have been on station for at least a year. Both courses focus on leading and managing people. Both are taught by sharp NCOs with years of experience. These courses are offered quarterly, and those eligible to attend can register on-line.

I have often heard folks say that those serving in today's Air Force are brighter and more capable than those who served in the past. I don't think so. I think the members of today's Air Force are exposed to more professional development opportunities than ever before and because of this they've been able to perform brilliantly. Those who preceded us focused on increasing our technical and professional skills. Today, we are reaping the benefits of their vision. Consequently, it's our duty to ensure that professional development remains a key element for our future success.

Professional development opportunities remind us of whom we are maximizing what we can do and guiding us to where we need to go. If you would like information about professional development programs or other career benefits give me a ring at 846-6636 or e-mail me at joseph.mulcahy@

See you in the wings!