By Nancy Vepraskas and Anne Warren
Last month we discussed the work accomplishment section of our Professional Growth Wheel. This month we want to focus on the next two sections – Skills Development and Knowledge Growth. These are so closely aligned; Skills Development looks at “what you can do” while Knowledge Growth focuses on “what you know.” Both are important to think about as you set goals for yourself. How do you want to grow over the next year and what are your deliberate plans for doing so?
Key to growing your skills and knowledge is your belief in a growth mindset. This term was coined by education researcher Carol Dweck back in 2006. Quickly the world saw the applicability throughout one’s life including their professional career. In a nutshell:
- Fixed Mindset – Those with a fixed mindset believe intelligence and talent are fixed – what you have is what you were born with.
- Growth Mindset – These individuals believe that abilities can be developed through hard work and dedication and that intelligence and innate talent are just the starting point. They focus on learning and stretching themselves and, equally important, they learn from disappointments and mistakes. They see setbacks as part of the process of improving versus being a failure.
I hope you will take on a growth mindset as you think about your professional development. Consider growing your skills and knowledge both in the short-term as well as the long-term.
In the short-term, think about what you need to develop to take your current job performance to the next level. Is it honing your public speaking skills, having a deeper understanding of the industry or marketplace, or even developing better delegation skills?
Given the pandemic, there may be new skills and knowledge you need to acquire. How does working remotely change how you lead? Or, if you are in HR, what do you need to understand about the changing labor laws on remote work or vaccination?
For those of us who are Boomers or Gen Xers, think about your technical savvy. Like it or not, we need to counter the stereotype out there that more “mature” workers are not good with technology. Are you guilty? Are you up to date on the technology that is critical for your industry and function? For example, if in Marketing, are you up to speed on digital marketing and the use of AI? Or are you proficient using day to day technologies like file sharing and collaboration tools? Are you knowledgeable about social media and social selling– do you use Twitter or post on LinkedIn?
As you think about what to focus on consider the perspective of your boss and your peers. If asked the following questions, what would they say?
- What are the top five skills that you bring to your role?
- What one thing could you work on that would help elevate your performance even more?
- What one thing could you work on that would prepare you to take on your next role?
Think about this or better yet, have the courage to ask them. Remember it is important to stay focused on what your company is expecting from you and to always be sure that you are working on the right stuff!
As you consider the long-term, think about what you want for your career. Are you hoping to be
promoted at your current company, move to another organization or even to a new industry? Or are
you content where you are? Even if you are wanting to stay in place, you can’t kick back and not think
about development. In this age, the status quo doesn’t guarantee your role. You need to continue to
become more valuable to your organization. How do you build deeper expertise and become the subject
matter expert they can’t live without?
Understanding the long-term goal for your career will help you decide what skills and knowledge you want to focus on.
- If you are hoping to climb the corporate ladder at your current company, focus on those short – term skills you have identified as well as having your eye on that next role and what the requirements for the role are. If you can get your hands on the job description you can see what you might be missing or are less experienced at. Talking to your boss can also help. They need to be aware of your desire and might also be able to provide guidance.
- For those looking to switch companies or industries I would also recommend networking. Talk to people at those companies and in the roles you are interested in to find out what is important and get their insight on your development.
- Whether you want to stay at your company, go to another or even switch industries, I suggest you do some research. Go online and identify a handful of roles you would actually be interested in. Review these job descriptions, not to apply, but to see if you are noticing any trends or new requirements. Get knowledgeable on how your profession is evolving and how you need to grow to be ready. Also reading articles, industry blogs and following industry experts on LinkedIn or Twitter will help provide perspective. Think about what you might be missing to be competitive.
How to Develop
Lastly, once you figure out the one or two things (the WHAT) you will focus on, next comes identifying the HOW you will do it. There are so many options to choose from to build new skills. Thanks to the pandemic there are more online certifications, classes and webinars than ever before. The same is true for acquiring new knowledge. Join LinkedIn functional and industry groups or attend local or national chapter meetings for organizations like SHRM. They are now all meeting virtually making it easy to join in from the comfort of your own home.
I also challenge you to think beyond courses and groups and consider how to develop and grow using your current role. If you want to improve your presentation skills are you volunteering to make a presentation or if you want to become more knowledgeable about the marketplace are you offering to conduct a marketplace analysis? If you are learning a new skill through a course, use work to practice and hone that skill. Get feedback on how you are improving. Let your manager or a peer know what you are working on and get them to observe and provide feedback.
Whatever you do, maintain that growth mindset. Try to stretch yourself and remember there is no such thing as failure – setbacks are just part of the learning process of honing new skills. As we have said in our earlier articles, you need to focus on how you create value (what to focus on) and how you communicate your value (sharing and demonstrating new skills and knowledge) because you owe it to yourself to be successful.