Whether you’re preparing for a job search or seeking to expand your knowledge on a topic, staying informed regarding changes in your profession—and industry—is an essential component of career management.
For instance, if you’ve been working at the same company for a few years, chances are you’re focused on the technology tools your company uses and may not have kept up with alternatives. If you work in sales or marketing and use Salesforce for customer relationship management and PowerPoint for presentations, you may not be very familiar with SugarCRM and Keynote. The tactical differences between using these technologies are minor, but during your job search you may encounter hiring managers who prefer that you have little-to-no learning curve, so you should aspire to have at least a basic understanding of your profession’s software options.
Of course, our time is limited, and we must select our activities judiciously. The first step is identifying your objective since that will determine your unique learning strategy. For most of us, it boils down to one of two objectives, both of which help our career:
- You are preparing for a job search. Perhaps you have a specific career move in mind and know that you must learn new social media or content management skills to read as a compelling candidate. You’ll need some practice and experience to demonstrate your abilities and confidently include these capabilities on your resume.
- You are positioning yourself for a promotion or lateral move at your current job. Maybe you have a new service or product in mind for your company and wish to present it internally? That will require some research and real-world examples to back up your idea.
Once you determine your goals (and you may have multiple goals) you will be ready to identify the most fruitful activities. They will most likely include some combination of the following:
1-Read. Make a list of your industry’s publications, websites, and resources and scan them every week. To make sure you follow through, add a reminder on your calendar. Better yet? Sign up for highly targeted alerts on the topics, companies, and people you’re most interested in through a free service such as Google Alerts.
2-Learn. Never before have there been so few barriers to learning new skills. Classroom learning at schools, libraries, and community centers is an evergreen option. But one can even attend informal classes at retail stores such as Apple. Additionally, the choices for online learning are almost limitless: LinkedIn’s vast Lynda platform of thousands of online courses is available to premium subscribers and — for those who prefer to learn in a more traditional classroom setting — WeWork has partnered with the company that provides courses to many graduate schools and made online learning available in a brick-and-mortar setting. But you’ll need to apply your newfound skills on a regular basis or the knowledge will be lost!
3-Join. Associations have always been a potential solution for those seeking to learn and network with a community of like-minded professionals, but steep membership fees and time commitments can be a barrier. But today, through Facebook and LinkedIn groups, there are many free online communities and shared interest groups that serve as an alternative. If you are considering joining a traditional professional association, do your research. Many let you attend a local chapter meeting as a guest. Likewise, numerous associations rely on volunteers for tasks such as writing the association’s social media posts, penning newsletter articles, and instructing courses at workshops and learning events. It’s a great way to put your skills to work.
4-Teach. If you have a specialized skill or knowledge, consider becoming an adjunct professor in your field at a college or university. Higher education institutions rely on adjuncts to instruct professional courses. You’ll earn some extra money and will be able to add a great category to your resume.
Careers thrive when people keep up with changes in their fields. When you work at a company it’s easy to fall into the rut of depending on its education and training offerings so, oftentimes, it may be best to look elsewhere so you can present a compelling career narrative on your resume.