One of the interesting things about a career in business is that the more you learn, the more there is to know. With the many functional aspects of the corporate world, such as accounting, finance, marketing, and human resources; coupled with industry trends, competition, technology, and practical experience gained on the job, a business person could spend every waking hour learning more. What’s troubling is when people seem to stop learning, something particularly prevalent among the mid-level ranks, when formal studies have been left behind for what seems like more freedom and spare time.
Those who have successfully reached the executive level know how important continuous learning and professional development are. Quite simply, they are a given. Thinking that once you reach the “top job” means that you have sufficient knowledge and can take a pass on learning more is a myth, and even worse, a recipe for trouble. Skilled executives know that in order to become and stay successful, it’s important to learn as much as you can, given the rapid pace of change and many economic factors. Starting good professional development habits early not only brings the necessary knowledge base to generate success on the job now, it also instills the important continuous learning routine to practice throughout your career.
Experienced executives know that there are a number of skills that are crucial for achieving success in their role. Taking the initiative to understanding and adopting these important skills can differentiate you from others in your peer group, generating better results today, while helping to prepare you for advancement tomorrow. In this series, we have already considered the importance of comprehensive reading, clear communication, and consistent reliability. Here’s more about why professional development and continuous learning are so important.
Where it Goes Wrong
Early career days tend to be characterized by lots of excitement around a new role, new workplace, and what seems like endless opportunity. Fast forward a few years to what can become days of routine, expectations that haven’t been realized, and enthusiasm can start to fade. What’s more, your work environment can actually influence how you see the world, including your role, impact, and future prospects, and this can be a problem, particularly in a workplace that isn’t as positive as it should be. Before you know it, your attitude is on the decline, which (you guessed it!) can start to impact your career advancement prospects.
This might sound a bit dramatic, but it unfortunately happens far too often. With the many ways to absorb professional development these days- webinars, podcasts, online learning, and convenient breakfast/lunch seminars; being in the know is easier than ever.
Turn a bad situation around (or avoid it altogether) by getting on the professional development path; learn new skills, seek out opportunities, and spend some time with the crowd that wants to (and probably will) go places; here’s how to get started:
- Set goals and priorities. Step back and think about your career objectives over the next year, as well as three, five, and even ten years from now. Where do you want to go? What roles are of interest to you? Once you have established an overall plan, it’s easier to identify the professional development programs that would be most beneficial to you.
- Benefit from the experience of others. Get advice from others as to courses or PD resources that they have tapped into; find out what was of value and what worked well for them. Ask your supervisor about professional development activities that would help you to advance in the workplace, perhaps to positions you have already discussed. This approach can help to ensure that you spend your time wisely and might also identify some options you had not considered.
- Seek out workplace PD programs. Many employers have professional development programs that offer courses and seminars and/or provide financial support to employees who successfully complete studies in areas that are relevant to their job. These programs can provide tremendous benefit to employees, such as the chance to complete a designation program fully financed by the company, as opposed to the staff member.
- Work within your time constraints. Have what seems to be no time at all for continuous learning? These days, that’s not a problem, as there are so many ways to learn. Despite a busy lifestyle, most people can find the time to tap into online learning resources or podcasts at their leisure.
Successful executives know that they can learn something from almost any situation, good or bad, and they never stop seeking out the chance to do so. We all know that knowledge is power, so the only way you lose is by not getting started.