Do you want to become more marketable? Land an important promotion? Get picked for a plum project? Then you’ll need to learn new skills and develop your knowledge in your field. But how will you ever squeeze professional development into your busy work life?
First, figure out what skills you might want or need to learn. For instance, if speaking in public gives you the willies, but you’re periodically required to address groups, you’ll want find a way to face your fears and overcome them, most likely by taking a class. So step one is to identify your learning goals.
Next, think about what avenues are open to you to reach your goals. There are many types of professional development, from in-person and online classes to professional conferences. At a conference, you can attend sessions and meet associates in your field who can offer advice about current trends. You can also join a professional group for networking, or search for a mentor (within or outside your organization) who will help you to learn the skills you need to get ahead.
Once you’ve chosen your plan of attack, you’ll need to schedule time each day to carry out your professional development plan. You might consider arriving at work an hour early so you’re free to leave on time and attend an after-work class or event. Or, you might stay an hour later, when it’s quiet and you can do classwork or take an online session. You might also commandeer an empty office on your lunch hour so you can do the same.
Other strategies for freeing up “extra” time: delegate secondary tasks whenever possible. Use short periods of free time, for example, before a meeting starts, or at home, in the morning, before anyone else is awake. You may be surprised to discover that smaller stretches of time may be as useful to you as large chunks.
Have a co-worker, mentor, or friend hold you accountable for progress. Check in with that person on a regular basis. Or, take a class with a co-worker. This will give you a chance to discuss the course content and both of you will deepen your understanding.
Remember that you are ultimately responsible for your own professional development—and for your success. One last tip: Think of your professional development as a job requirement, and it will be much easier to find the time to devote to it.
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