The No. 1 Key to Professional Development: Always Be Learning


Kathy Lavinder, CFE
Owner and Executive Director of Security & Investigative Placement Consultants

Is there one key to professional advancement and long-term success? Yes and that key is lifelong learning. Continuous learning is the hallmark of ambitious and curious individuals. That’s why I probe job seekers on their professional development efforts and activities. When getting to know a potential candidate and evaluating someone for a role I regularly ask these questions:

  •  What courses have you taken recently? 
  • Have you attended any seminars or training this year? 
  • What are you reading to stay abreast of developments in your field? 
  • What are your educational aspirations? 
  • Are you working on any professional certifications?
  • Is there someone in your organization, or elsewhere, who you view as a mentor?

The employers who rely on my firm to find them the best applicants for their fraud prevention, investigation and detection roles want to see candidates who are never satisfied with their professional status quo. So many résumés I receive emphasize years of experience when they should emphasize experience that reflects responsibilities that have changed, roles that have evolved and a progression in one’s career. Someone may say they have 20 years of experience, but I will want to determine if that 20 years of experience is really just one year of experience times 20. 

Here’s the bottom line: There is simply no more dynamic landscape than the one in which anti-fraud specialists work. That reality means continuous learning is essential, not optional. There are so many ways to learn, with peer learning being one of the most obvious and accessible. Do not view your peers as competition; view them as unique individuals who through different educational and professional paths can offer you the benefits of their experiences. Do not view your supervisor as simply the boss, but look to learn from this person. Even if you dislike someone’s management style, you can learn from a negative. You will see role models, and possibly mentors, all around you if you look.

Formalized professional development is at the heart of the ACFE experience. Mine the organization and its broad array of members who live to battle fraud, as well as the personal and professional relationships that grow out of membership in the ACFE for all that they can offer. Do not view your participation as a “tick-the-box” endeavor. You’ll be missing out on so much if you do. 

Also, don’t overlook your potential for contributions to the anti-fraud field. Give back, share, teach and mentor. You will also learn in that process. The questions posed to you, the scenarios others will lay out and the case studies that will be referenced can all add to your understanding and personal development. You’ll also gain confidence in public speaking while sharing your ideas and experiences in a supportive and collegial setting.

“Always be learning” should be your new mantra. With the ACFE as part of your broader peer group you will have the best platform possible for doing that.