When you think of investing, you may automatically think of spending money, but do you think about dedicating your time, mind, or energy? These are also important when you are investing in your career. Many learning and development leaders find that their focus is almost solely on the professional journeys of learners. But think about how much has changed your career journey in the past three to five years. The company may have changed and your position or title may have changed, but your knowledge and skills will probably stay with you – and hopefully, improve. This article is about investing in your career.
The responsibility for professional development does not rest solely with your company, although it has a very important role in providing you with opportunities to learn and grow. It is your responsibility to your own growth, development and progression in your career. Having a career goal, what you aspire to be professionally, is vital to your professional development journey. Without a goal, it is difficult to build a plan that will lead you to take intentional actions and lead you to your career success. As a leader in learning and development, learners will also look to your professional development journey to inspire themselves.
As the new year begins, make a plan to be intentional about how you will spend your time and energy in your career over the next year. Define your own career goal if you don’t already have one, and create a development plan that includes a list of actions you will take this year to expand and improve your knowledge and skills. When you plan for career growth, keep the following in mind:
goal: Your career goal can span 10 years, but since our world is changing so rapidly and we continue to evolve at every stage of our lives, it is best to work on a three to five year career goal. This allows you to regularly review the goal and avoid tunnel vision or one-track career thinking, and leverage your experience for greater opportunities or launch into a new industry.
planYour plan should define what is needed to reach your goal. For this exercise, think about the knowledge, skill, ability, characteristics, exposure, and network you will need to support your development. For some career goals, you may need to think about the level of proficiency required to succeed in this field.
a jobOnce you have the plan in place, think about the actions you must take to complete each plan. Take the time to prioritize your list of actions. This exercise will help you decide which actions to complete first, as some actions depend on others being completed.
Here are some actions to consider to support your development plan:
- Courses and certificates. Take advantage of the countless courses, seminars, video tutorials and training programs available across institutions and networks to help expose you to different levels of the subject. Earning a certificate for a specific subject provides evidence that you have an education in that subject. However, earning a certification provides evidence of experience, education, and meeting a national or industry standard for measuring the subject.
- Social networks and media platforms. Social networking communities like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram allow you to connect with and follow thought leaders and organizations on a specific topic or industry. This provides an opportunity for you to learn about a topic, explore relevant information over time, gain deeper knowledge, keep abreast of changes, build competence and improve your understanding. Make sure to follow several contributors to a particular topic so you can gain different perspectives. Subscriptions to podcasts or YouTube channels also provide useful context on topics.
- You are Must read. Research shows that highly proficient people read at least 30 minutes a day. There is no need to reinvent the wheel – someone has lived the experience or has been there and done it, so why not read on and learn from their experience. It’s important to stay current in your industry, but it’s also important to read publications outside your industry because this exposes you to ideas, situations, and solutions that affect other industries. Be sure to take advantage of research papers, reports, white papers, and company websites as well as studies conducted by associations and industry leaders as they provide valuable insights, facts, and trends.
- Communicate with others. Taking the time to connect with other professionals in your company, in your field, and outside your industry is one of the best ways to learn, grow, and advance in your career. Stay in touch with fellow L&D professionals you meet at conferences, training programs, or other meetings and gatherings. Having a strong network will provide you with the opportunity to gain personal insights, learn from mistakes, gain tools for success, receive meaningful feedback, be exposed to relevant experiences, and expand your network. Sometimes people in your network are willing to mentor or provide training support in their areas of expertise. It is important to note that connecting with others is more than just following them or sending a connection request. It requires time, communication, and effort from both individuals.
- On the job: Your company may offer a series of training workshops, development opportunities, or reimbursement for tuition fees. Take advantage of these! If you’re not familiar with the development benefits available to you, see your human resources department. Finally, be sure to take advantage of the wealth of knowledge that exists within your company’s talent pool.
No matter what you do, what job title you hold, or the industry you work in, you owe it to yourself to be intentional in your professional development.