Healthcare interpreters are expected to be life-long learners. Fortunately, we interpreters tend to be a knowledge-hungry people, meaning continuing education turns out to be more of a professional perk than a chore. But if you're working alone, good reference materials may not be enough to keep you "in the know".
Back in my college days (suffice it to say that this was pre-Facebook), I had a professor — a life-long learner himself — who often gave examples of things he had learned from his "friends". He'd then go on to reveal his "friend" to be someone who had lived in the second century, or on the other side of the planet.
As a result of that professor's anecdotes, I widened my definition of "friend" to "anyone who inspires or supports you" — whether or not you've actually met this person.
When it comes to professional development, it's important to be connected to the ideas of others if you want to grow — to cast a wider net for those sources of inspiration and support.
In the Facebook / Skype / LinkedIn / Twitter era, there is no shortage of ways to discover and connect with like-minded individuals or professional groups. It's important, though, to distinguish between the medium (online networks, professional organizations, etc.) and the connections you're trying to make with real human beings. In this case, the networks themselves are just tools for connecting; it's still up to you to make and define those connections on a human-to-human level.
As you build your circle of friends, do consider including people and perspectives that foster development in skills and competencies which are less obvious, but still of general value to professionals — such as leadership, customer service, speaking, communication, or time management.
It can also be helpful to diversify in another direction: those who share your role in other industries.
For instance: individuals involved in the training and development of healthcare interpreters will also benefit from extending their circle of professional friends to include sales trainers, or manufacturing trainers. In my own experience wearing my "trainer hat", this circle of friends has provided valuable insights, resources, and tools — all of which have expanded and reinforced my own professional development as a learning and performance practitioner. And since we share a common interest in learning about learning, we have a base level on which we can naturally interact and exchange useful insights from our very different industries.
Here's a peek at a few of my own learning and performance "friends":
As a healthcare interpreter, who are your professional "friends", and how are they helping you to grow?