Having a job tends to make some people easily complacent about their careers. But these days, getting ahead in the workplace is more than hitting deadlines or meeting quotas or just using what skills you acquired in college. With the rapid changes in technology, customer demands, and industry standards, you need to keep learning new skills and acquiring new knowledge to be able to keep ahead of the competition.
“Employers hire people who have the skills they need, and people without these abilities won’t get the best jobs,” said Laurence Shatkin, Ph.D., author of 150 Best Jobs for Your Skills. “Jobs are constantly upgraded, and today’s jobs often cannot be handled by people who have only the knowledge and skills that were adequate for workers a few years ago. ”
This means that professional development has become more vital now more than ever. And because some companies have less resources to offer in-house learning opportunities, it’s time to take charge of your own professional development.
Alexandra Levit, author of New Job, New You: A Guide to Reinventing Yourself in a Bright New Career, recommends learning not only skills relevant in your current industry, but also transferable skills — i.e. skills that you can use in a variety of industries and positions. “In this [employment] climate, you always have to be looking ahead to what is going to be required in your potential next role,” she said.
Learning can take place in a variety of ways, and some won’t even cost you a penny. Here’s a list of a few ways to learn:
Books, magazines, newspapers, Internet articles — read anything you have access to. The Internet is a treasure trove of information on virtually anything you want to know, and with its increasing accessibility through mobile phones, it’s the best way to learn on-the-go. You can read articles on your phone during your commute to or from the office, while waiting for your coffee to-go, or while in line at the grocery store register.
2. Join forums and social media discussions.
The Internet has made it possible for people from different parts of the world to communicate with each other. Forums and social media has expanded people’s local networks to globalized communities, opening more means of discussions and platforms for sharing of ideas. You can get in touch with fellow professionals in your field from virtually any part of the world to ask for professional insights or advice and discuss new trends and technology.
3. Take online courses.
The Internet is slowly changing the way people learn. Ever dreamt of attending an Ivy League school like Harvard or Yale? MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) sites like Coursera, edX, FutureLearn, Udacity and Open2Study allow you to take courses from top universities all over the world — for FREE. Computer programming, poetry, education, health, literature — you name it. When you enroll in a course, you will learn from professors and experts from these top universities and get in touch with fellow students from different parts of the world. Plus, you can get certificates for some of these courses if you complete them.
4. Attend training and seminars.
If sitting in front of the computer for long hours doesn’t appeal to you, or you want a more person-to-person learning experience, attending classroom training or seminars is the better option for you. Person-led seminars are usually taught by experts in the field so you will be sure to get updated information on the current trends and processes in your industry. You will also be able to earn certificates from most training courses and seminars that will contribute to your professional credentials.
5. Start a personal project.
Learning by doing is usually the best way to learn or improve a skill. Want to learn how to code? Why not create your own website or app while taking an online course or training class? This way you’ll be able to practice and apply the knowledge that you’re learning.
No matter what your career goals are — whether to climb up the corporate ladder or start a company of your own — don’t stop learning. By taking your professional development into your own hands, you’ve already taken one step ahead towards your path to success.