Career coach and blogger Chrissy Scivicque calls professional development the #1 most important tool for career growth. I agree that it is crucial, whether you want to move up, move to a different type of role, or you’re already in your dream job.
Being proactive means looking ahead. What are the skills needed for the job you want next? Even if that job is a year (or further) in the future, the earlier you start developing pertinent skills, the better. The process begins with understanding what’s needed for the roles you want. This usually involves a variety of information sources, including similar job postings. But it’s important to go the extra mile and talk with people in similar jobs. How do they describe their work? What do they do day-to-day, and what skills do they use? How do they keep up with professional knowledge in their field? These are invaluable clues for planning your professional development. The network of professional relationships you cultivate is tremendously important for accessing this real-life information.
Use the information you gain through all these sources to assess your readiness for that next role. How will the strengths you already possess apply to the role you want next? Where are your “learning edges” – the knowledge and skills you haven’t developed yet. There are lots of ways to address the gaps you identify. And believe me, all of us, every one of us, have learning edges.
The key is to keep learning by actively taking steps that work for you to learn and develop professionally. Reading and attending lectures and classes are the vehicles that many people think of first. These are definitely important. But we grown-ups actually do about 70% of our learning by actually doing. So be sure to incorporate action into your learning plans. There are many ways to do this. Volunteering for projects, leadership roles, committees or staff organizations are classic examples. Actions like these hold the double benefit of consolidating what you learn (making it “stick”), and showing what you can accomplish to the people who will make hiring decisions that affect the future you want. Be sure to keep your resume and LinkedIn profile up to date with experiences like these that illustrate the value you bring to the table.
What if you are happy in your current role? That’s a great place to be. But as the saying goes, “change is the one constant,” and we see this in our work-lives. For example – new technologies help us accomplish greater things, but they also involve new skills. Keep your skills fresh and relevant by keeping your eye on new developments in your field, and actively developing skills to meet the future.