Advancing in your career doesn’t just mean getting more responsibility at work. It also means developing yourself, learning new skills and understanding your industry in a way that can help you make those advances. And that means doing your career-related “homework.”
“Since the turn of this century, we’ve seen technology transform, e-commerce explode and communication develop a whole new set of standards,” says Lorna Weston-Smyth of LWS Coaching. “With changes like this, we better get up to speed or get left in the dust. Change and growth are essential to maximize your performance, productivity and success.”
Here are three ways to keep up with your homework.
Hard skills — the specific abilities that can be measured in your work — are important, but soft skills are the ones employers have trouble finding. Soft skills include the ability to relate, communicate, motivate and navigate with, for and through other people, Weston-Smyth says. “The most important skill to master in business today is the art and skill of influence. The ability to influence others isn’t a ‘nice to have’ in life today — it’s absolutely essential.”
Set small goals for yourself at work, work with a coach or take courses on soft skills you may need to improve. It’s the best investment you can make in yourself, Weston-Smyth says.
Develop a network of people you can learn from to stay up-to-date on trends in your industry, Weston-Smyth says. “Depending on the industry you are in, if you are looking for industry-specific development there are professional associations where you can network to find others who are further along the same path,” she says. “I have discovered a few truly golden resources from networking with others who love to learn as much as I do.”
To get the most out of networking events, remember that it’s not all about you — it’s about the others in the room as well. “Get curious about who they are and what drives them,” Weston-Smyth says. “What are their interests and ambitions? What do they know and what are they still looking for? Who are they following? What are they reading? What are they learning?”
As you develop more skills and gain more insights, make sure your résumé reflects the work you’ve done to learn. You could list courses, but Weston-Smyth says employers are more interested in what you’ve gained from those courses and how you’re applying that knowledge. Attach those skills to any new achievements you’ve had at work to highlight what you’ve gained.
Continued learning is vital for your career as the world changes at an ever-increasing rate, Weston-Smyth says. “Many years ago author Eric Hoffer wrote something that is even truer today than it was then: ‘In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.’”
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