Do you take time to keep yourself sharp? I often hear about strategies to “improve your business, improve your process, improve this, and improve that.” Enough about the process…what about you? What can you do to improve you? Think about how much the business world has changed over the last few years. When I started in business, computers were just emerging, there were no laptops, and cell phones were bigger than your head. Yes, it’s ridiculous to think about, I know. And even if you’re just recently entering the business world, technology marches on. As everything changes around us, if we don’t grown and also change, we’ll be left behind. So, what can you do to keep yourself continually educating? Here are just a few things that I've run across throughout my career, and found to be incredibly helpful.
Go back to school. If you can make the time commitment, consider going back to school. I had the benefit of completing my MBA right after my undergrad. While I was excited about this accomplishment, the down side was that I had no real world experience to apply my learning toward. I learned many things, but not to the extent I would have, had I pursued a similar path now. If you are interested in learning more about a particular topic or industry, and you have the time and financial ability, nothing says “continuous education” like going back to school.
Take a technical class. If you find yourself with limited time or resources, this is a great way to keep your mind and skills fresh: take a technical class. (I kind of learned Excel in an 8-hour session. Don’t tell.) There are many local colleges or community centers that offer a variety of classes that can keep you up to speed in our ever-changing business environment, especially in the digital space!
Start networking more. Go to a networking event and get out of your comfort zone. If you’re more introverted, this can difficult task, but there are plenty of great articles out there on how to make this an easier process. I promise, it’s not so bad. Make a commitment to yourself that when you go to a networking event, you are going to learn something. And make note of one very important thing…it’s patio season, people, and we live in Minnesota. Take advantage of it!
Get involved in a peer group. One of the things I’ve done over the last couple of years is get involved in peer group meetings. If you think you have things all figured out…it’s likely you don’t. Somebody always does it better. In a peer group, you can learn best practices from some who has “been there, done that.” If you think you have unique problems that no other business or business person has encountered, a peer group can be helpful by not only giving suggestions, but sometimes it’s also just nice to know that you’re not alone when encountering a problem in your career.
These are just a few suggestions that have been helpful in my career. While there are many other things you can do, the main piece of advice is this: Consistently engage yourself in activities that will keep you sharp, and growing professionally.
Chris Ohlendorf is the Chief Talent Officer at Versique Executive Search and Consulting, and McKinley Consulting. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.