Chances are your job doesn’t look the same as it did five years ago. Even if you haven’t changed roles, you’ve most certainly taken on additional responsibilities or had to approach certain tasks somewhat differently than before.
Today’s workplace is ever evolving, and though most companies usually offer training to help you expand your skills and stay relevant in your industry, there may be professional growth opportunities you’re overlooking at your current employer.
Here are just a few areas of professional development you can start taking advantage of today:
1. Industry knowledge
You can easily read trade journals or follow experts on LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media sites to expand your industry knowledge. Also, if you’re currently without a mentor, now’s the time to get one. Find someone in your organization who has a strong grasp of the industry to learn more about how to advance in your career. Ask questions and listen to what this person has to say.
If not a mentor, then look for opportunities to just watch another person perform aspects of his or her job. You can learn a lot about where you can take your career by observing someone else.
We can all get better at networking, and the workplace is one of the best environments to strengthen this skill. After all, an estimated 85 percent of jobs are filled by networking; so if you’re looking to move up, it’s time to exercise those chops.
Reach out to employees at similar levels in your company — or just a step above. Try to make real connections and get to know the people you’re talking to; don’t make the conversations all about your career aspirations.
When you make real connections, these people will likely be more willing to put in a good word if something opens up in their department. You also get better at establishing relationships with others in your industry. It becomes almost second nature. So, win-win.
If coworkers are always asking for clarification, your words may not be as clear as you think. In fact, improving your communication skills could set you apart — 59 percent of people say communication is their team’s biggest obstacle to success.
One of the most obvious improvements is body language. Pay attention to the way you’re standing, where you place your arms, and your facial expressions. These are visual cues for the person on the other side of the conversation.
When sharing ideas with coworkers, thoroughly explain your thoughts. It’s unlikely that your audience will absorb everything that’s being said, so it’s better to go into greater detail than be economical with your words.
The digital transformation will impact every industry. One survey found that 95 percent of companies think a digital workplace is important, which means being able to befriend the “machine” is a critical skill for everyone.
Digital fluency is all about understanding the tools available and how to use them — not to mention which tools to use in which situations. When your company is integrating new technology, be the first in line to learn how to use it.
If no formal training is available, take it upon yourself to explore the system on your own. And by all means, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Make sure you know who to ask.
5. Project management
Sometimes, executing isn’t enough. Successful people are usually proactive, going above and beyond what’s asked of them. If you see an opportunity to lead a project, take advantage of it to strengthen your project management skills.
But don’t just pick any project. Make sure it plays to your strengths and to your interests. The ultimate goal is to choose a business objective that you feel passionate about and one you’re uniquely qualified to lead.
Helping your company almost always helps your career. So if you find yourself leading a project, just make sure you don’t abandon your other responsibilities. Dropping the ball is no sign of your leadership potential.
Professional development is often thought of as a formal program, but that’s not always the case. In fact, teacher-led seminars should be seen as more of a supplement to what you can learn on the job.
A change in mindset can help you identify growth opportunities. For example, if your morning is spent answering emails, it could be a chance to improve your organization skills. Also the next time you’re on the phone with a customer, consider it an excuse to strengthen your business development skills. It’s all in how you look at any given task.