Sharon McGukin

Smithers-Oasis North America Design Director Sharon McGukin, AIFD, AAF, PFCI enjoys sharing floral tips and techniques for celebrating life with flowers.

You’re always busy with a long ‘to do’ list. Considering what you need to accomplish for others each day, do you really have time to invest in yourself?
Yes! It’s imperative. Investing in yourself is essential for continued personal growth. The skills you develop and the habits you create help feed your passion for the work that you do.

What does personal investment look like? It’s learning new skills. Networking with peers. Challenging yourself and building self-confidence. People often say they can’t afford the time, energy, and money of self-investment. With the fast pace of business today, can you really afford not to invest in yourself?

Finding the Right Opportunity

The format of business continues to change as do our educational opportunities. During the pandemic, traditional classes and events quickly expanded to include new options.
• In-person
• Virtual
• On-Demand
• Which learning strategy works best for you?

First, consider how you learn -
• Visual learner? Avid reader? Networking with peers?
• Which opportunity represents your style of learning?
• What form of instruction do you most enjoy?
• Do you have goals that inspire opportunity?
• Have you set aside a budget for education?
• Could your best bet be a blend of options?
Jackie Lacey AAF, AIFD, PFCI, CFD - director of education and industry relations for Floriology and BloomNet, knows the importance and challenges of Continuing Ed for floral designers.
“Change can feel challenging. People don't welcome change and often resist it,” says Jackie. “During the pandemic, we resorted to video and its popularity went straight up.” Consumers were already moving in the direction of virtual. Zoom. Video. Facebook Live. It was a perfect time for these connections to grow. And grow they did! “Everybody was posting video!”
These connections were great for the first few months after we were told we couldn't gather for in-person instruction. Virtual instantly increased in popularity. As people spent more time in front of the computer, they found that they liked it less and less. “We saw a quick rise,” Jackie continues, “but now the new has worn off and we’re seeing a bit of a fall.”

In-Person Classes 

Recently, I was in Jacksonville, Florida teaching a Floriology hands-on wedding class. Designers are often visual learners, so watching design happen in front of us prompts growth in a different way. After a restrictive pandemic, it felt great to be in-person with students again.
• See in their eyes a challenge in their understanding.
• Read in their body language when they're excited.
• Know when they get it, or, maybe they don't.
• Recognize when to redirect the information.
• Enjoy unplanned teaching moments.
• Experience the joy of personal connections.

Jackie and I agree that the benefits of teaching in-person cannot be replaced by virtual and on-demand classes. However, there is a definitely a place for all three learning opportunities. Each experience has intrinsic value.

The Value of Virtual

Reciprocal energy doesn’t bounce back from the camera like it does from a live audience. However, if you can't afford to attend a class due to a tight budget, busy schedule, home or work responsibilities, a virtual class may be your best option. Learning from on-demand instruction allows you grow and change just like the market does. Virtual instruction is definitely a convenient solution.
In fact, a blend of in-person and virtual classes may offer the best balance. “We’re thinking “How can we make both our videos and hands-on classes even better? We're still looking for the perfect combination,” Jackie explains.

Learn from a Professional

If you're going to invest in yourself, look for your best option. Most importantly, consider the professionalism of the person who will teach you. When you’re serious about skill-building, it’s imperative that you learn from a professional instructor. Professional skill requires correct information.

Avoid an experience that only offers the newest trend, hype, or latest fad excitement. Some people can be really entertaining, but provide you with a lot of useless or incorrect information. Choose that type of event if you’re just looking for a fun experience. To acquire professional skills - whether from a book, video, hands-on or virtual class, always vet the person you are following. Invest in yourself by choosing to learn from a professional.
“I've said this before,” shares Jackie. “There's a lot of designers that should never, ever pick up a microphone. And, a lot of speakers that should never pick up a knife. We all have our expertise. Some people can talk really well and convey a message. Others are just really incredible designers that we like to comment on and work with. But, they might not necessarily know how to communicate a message. Regardless of the form of instruction, choosing a professional who provides correct quality information is one of the most important things you can do.”

On-Demand Instruction

On-demand is a good way to learn for everyone because it's just that ‘on-demand.’ Available when it's convenient for you. Using whichever device, you are most comfortable with. It’s a great way to supplement your learning. You can replay the information as often as needed. Combining this style of instruction with others can help to meet your educational goals.

Plan Your Work

Growth is important for keeping your interest and passion alive. Planning is key. "Plan your work and work your plan” suggests Jackie. Develop a focused plan and work with it.
• Set goals for what you want to achieve. Select the platforms that help achieve your goals.
• Set aside an education budget. Magazines, books, classes, events, webinars, videos, AIFD Symposium.
• Invest time in skill-building. Devote from 30 minutes a week to 30 minutes a day to learning.
• Develop one-year, five-year and 10-year goals. Break your plan down by monthly, weekly, daily tasks.
• Find a mentor. A sounding board. Ask an experienced peer to help guide your focus.
• Keep a ‘to do’ list. Check off your accomplishments. Reward yourself with appreciation.
It is important that you do what fits your needs. Can you do it in person? Must you do it virtually? Do you have access to on-demand? For example, with the Floriology Now platform, you can do it anywhere, anytime, and you choose any part of the class that you want to learn.

Smithers-Oasis North America also offers easy-to-access options on their website - During the pandemic, while waiting for in-person events to return, we repurposed skills to fit our customer's needs.
• Added a podcast for listeners - How We Bloom.
• Continued our blog for readers - Floral Hub Blog.
• Increased our number of OASISFloral videos and webinars.
• Offered free floral tips on Instagram and Facebook.
We suggest that you begin your plan of growth by considering how you learn best.

Establish a Plan

Create a plan for investing in yourself with your time, budget, and personal goals as the main focus.
• Set the goal to learn something new every day.
• Learn from every person you encounter.

In each situation - think,
• "What is the challenge?"
• "What is the opportunity?"
• And looking back, "What did I learn?"

Recognizing what you've learned tells you what you want to learn next. Your personal plan gives you guidance.

For more insight on how to grow your skills by ‘investing in yourself’ click into this podcast - Invest in Yourself with Jackie Lacey.

What new steps can you take to ‘invest in yourself?’