For success in your career, you need to keep your skills, knowledge and ability up to speed.
It’s a cliché to say the world is changing – it always has and always will change. Indisputably, however, the pace of change is growing faster.
This applies also to your career. In order for it to thrive, you need to keep your skills relevant, and continuously refine and adapt your working style. If you don’t, you will quickly become outdated.
To equip yourself with new skills and ideas entails a willingness to learn. This is not a responsibility that can be outsourced to someone else. Successful people know it is their own responsibility to direct their career, and that learning is a critical part of that process.
Everyone learns differently, but what is common is that the more a person is involved, the better they learn. Even Confucius had a saying: “Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; but directly involve me and I’ll make it my own.
People who find learning interesting and relevant usually have a plan that helps them target how and what to learn. It is not a hard exercise, and can be fun. Here’s how it’s done:
Step 1: Detail your knowledge
Write down all your work skills and knowledge set. These skills should include technical, functional and behavioural.
Step 2: Imagine your dream job
What do you really want to do? What would it involve? What would it take to get there? Be bold.
Step 3: Identify the skills you need
What new skills would you need to land your dream job? You may find it useful to talk with someone who works in this field, or do some research.
“Each time you learn or try something new, you are challenging your brain.”
Step 4: Know the gap
Consider the gap between the skills you have and those you need to land that job. Rate yourself for each skill on a scale of one to four – 1, no current skill or knowledge; 2, some skill or knowledge, but not proficient; 3, competent at a certain skill and have knowledge; 4, expert with a high degree of skill and knowledge.
Step 5: Be creative
Think about the activities and courses you could undertake to close the gap. These may include books to read, courses to join, journals to subscribe to, new people to meet and new practices to perfect. Prioritise.
Be sure to stretch yourself, and have a balance of activities that will be challenging and fun. It is best to have a mixture of activities that are cerebral, physical and spiritual – that is, good for the mind, body and soul. Don’t be afraid to be adventurous. Harness your inner voice so you can grow and thrive through change. It may tell you that you are taking yourself outside your comfort zone – this is healthy. Embrace the feeling. Each time you learn or try something new, you are challenging your brain. It’s like taking it to the gym.
Step 6: Build your plan
Take the ideas from Step 5 and create a personal development plan that maps out your learning goals – what you will do, and by when. It is critical to have dates as you need to hold yourself to account. Be sure the plan includes clear measurements so you can monitor progress.
Step 7: Get busy doing
The last step is to put your plan into action, and check progress. Also, don’t forget to reward yourself. Celebrate your learning and the progress you have made.
Learning to love learning is a life skill, and it is even better when you are learning with purpose.
Michelle Gibbings, Author, “Step Up: How to build your influence at work”
This article first appeared in issue 13 of the Inside Small Business quarterly magazine