The Importance of Managing Your Professional Development
I came across this article in the Wall Street Journal about the sorry state of professional development support at organizations. While some argue that the employment gap is due to lack of skilled workers, there is also the reality that employers are no longer offering training for these positions as was once the case:
And make no mistake: There are plenty of people out there who could step into jobs with just a bit of training—even recent graduates who don’t have much job experience. Despite employers’ complaints about the education system, college students are pursuing more vocationally oriented course work than ever before, with degrees in highly specialized fields like pharmaceutical marketing and retail logistics.
Unfortunately, American companies don’t seem to do training anymore…
With an abundance of workers to choose from, employers are demanding more of job candidates than ever before. They want prospective workers to be able to fill a role right away, without any training or ramp-up time.
In other words, to get a job, you have to have that job already.
Michelle Martin over at the Bamboo Project Blog summarizes perfectly what this mean for employees:
We can’t just pay attention to what is needed for us to be marketable within our own organizations. We must also pay attention to what the larger market is looking for. And we need to look at how our strengths intersect with that market.
In other words with employers no longer training employees and with competition for positions rising, you must take greater ownership of your development. This goes beyond focusing on professional development to make you a better employee at your current job. Instead, you are obligated to focus on your field, changes in the market, and where you fit in (and where you want to fit in).
This is a radical shift from how many of us are taught to look at work. While we’ve accepted the fact that there is no such thing is job security, with that is the reality that a job can no longer be at the center of your professional growth. This is not to say that you cannot learn a great deal at your job or that employers are all in cahoots to drain their employees. Indeed, there is a push to get employers to see the value of professional development. But this does mean that ultimately the only person responsible for your growth is YOU.
Given this new reality how can we make professional development a personal priority?
Subscribe to professional development blogs: Often times the biggest barrier to our own development is our lack of understanding how we want to develop. What questions should you ask? What do you value that affects the choices you make? What resources should you pursue for professional growth? There are several blogs that get to the heart of these questions (and also help us realize that personal and professional growth often go hand-in-hand).
Build your network outside of work: Focus not just on your field, or even your profession. Look at your values, your interests, and your affinities as new territories for connecting with people who can expose you to new ideas, resources, and opportunities. Again, this is where blogs come in handy as niche bloggers often have their fingers on the pulse of their subjects, so you can start by browsing alltop.com to see the top blogs in the areas you are interested in. You can also try meetup.com, local chapters of national organizations related to your interest, alumni groups, and volunteering.
Seek inexpensive professional development resources: Of course, nothing beats refining your hard skills. From watching webinars, to joining committees, to starting a blog, or participating in fellowships, there are many low-cost ways to strengthen your skill set. To start, check out this list I made of professional development opportunities that you may not be aware of.
How are you making professional development a priority?