Last Fall, I spoke at an women's leadership event. The topic I chose was owning your professional development. A wise person once told me, “Never take a class that isn’t for credit or do work that doesn’t build your resume.”
Those are words I have lived by ever since. Keeping this sage advice in mind, I’ve constantly paid attention to my learning and have thought strategically about my career, and my life (I don’t believe they exist independently).
I learned this lesson much later than I now wish. You see, I floundered about in my career for some time. But once I realized that I own my own professional development and took that to heart, I invested the time and effort to grow my career, bringing me to the level of success I now enjoy. But it didn’t happen until I made it happen!
Yes, you own your professional development. Don’t rely on others to do it for you, or to lead you to it. It’s your career. Take charge and do what’s necessary to grow it.
Arriving where I am today and knowing the mistakes I made as well as how to overcome them is what drives my passion to help others. Whether working with people internal to an organization or individuals seeking a career change or entrepreneurship, I believe everyone has a dream that should be realized.
YOU own your professional development! I did an internet search of ‘own your professional development’. It returned more than 40,000 results. Browsing through the articles, I noticed many of them contained the same word, ‘complacent’. It’s so easy to become complacent, work your job every day and just skate by. Working by day, playing by night. But as I’ve seen all too often with my clients, that job can evaporate in the blink of an eye. You might be laid off, or the company sold, or moved to a faraway city. If you don’t take your professional development into your hands, your career in all likelihood, is going to grow stagnant. Then, if and when something happens to your job, you’re going to find your skills outdated, your mindset stuck, and find it very difficult to compete in the workplace.
Here’s what I learned through my own trial and error.
Step 1: Know yourself. Take any one of the many personality assessments: Myers Briggs, Strengthfinders, or DISC. The better you know your natural strengths and work WITH them, the happier you will be and the more successful you are likely to be. Identify the work that best suits who YOU are.
Step 2: Build a vision or goal for your professional objective. I’m a big believer in vision boards. Visually seeing your goals will help you achieve them. When I set out to return to Seattle 4 years ago, I had 3 very distinct goals. Within one year, I achieved them all simply because I knew what they were and kept working towards them.
Step 3: Assess your gaps. There will be gaps between the knowledge, skills and abilities you currently have and those that you need to achieve your goal. Look at job descriptions for where you want to be. What education is required that you don’t have? What technical skills? Soft skills? Once you’ve identified them, they will go into your plan and you will WRITE OUT THAT PLAN. Dr. Gail Matthews found in her research that you are 42% more likely to achieve your goals if you commit them to writing.
Step 4: Have regular check ins with yourself. Keep your plan where it’s visible and periodically revisit it to, see how you’re doing.
Step 5. Look into company sponsored development opportunities. Look into tuition reimbursement, company sponsored programs, conferences, find a mentor at work, and ask to take on special projects.
Step 6: Take a class, and yes, you may have to pay for it. Why not? It’s YOUR development. A few places to look are colleges for both undergrad, graduate or certificate programs, professional organizations, MeetUp, Eventbrite, and General Assembly here in Seattle.
Step 7: Read audio books, paper books, whatever you prefer, and practice a new skill. Nearly everything you need to learn is in a book somewhere.
Step 8: Volunteer opportunities are everywhere and provide a great way to get real experience in something you think might be right for you. Contact your local non-profit, school, or community center.
Step 9: Webinars are everywhere and cover nearly every topic imaginable.
Step 10: Network. Get out and talk to people in professions you think you might enjoy. Hear what it’s really like.
Step 11: Read, read, read some more. Yes, I’m a big believer in books and always have a stack of them nearby to read through.
Never stop learning. It’s the path to your future, and it’s your responsibility to forge that path.
Andrea's passion is to see you achieve your professional dreams. Whether you are a corporate leader seeking leadership development for your employees or an individual seeking guidance in building your career or preparing for retirement, she will coach you to success.