Through 2020, so many paused their professional development programs while companies figured out how to sustain themselves. Now that we have solved the mystery of working remotely, it’s time to focus on growing professionally again. But how do you continue leveling up in your career when you don’t leave your house? How do you push to gain knowledge and skills remotely when you don’t have a lot of time to commit? Taking charge of your professional and career development can feel daunting, especially right now, but it doesn’t have to. Here are a few steps to get you started:
Plan Your Development
The key to long term professional development is devising an effective plan. Look up job descriptions for your ideal position and see what skills you’ll need to succeed. Compare those to the skills you currently have and identify what areas need work. Create timelines to keep yourself on track while learning new tools and technologies to better your current expertise. Long-term goal planning is a great way to stay motivated!
If you’re unsure about your plan, ask for feedback. This could be asking your direct manager to review your plan and find opportunities for growth. It could also mean asking your teammates what skills they think you can improve on. This is a great way to get an outside perspective on your performance. You could even have a regular professional development chat with friends or coworkers where you talk about goals and what you’re improving on to meet them. Support is always key to crafting new skills or upgrading your current ones.
Get a Holistic View
Have you ever been curious how your job fits into the industry as a whole or how others do what you do? What is the difference between Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable and how do they work in the grand scheme of corporate accounting? Do some research! Gain a better understanding of your industry and what part each role plays. You can also investigate industries you’re interested in or careers you see yourself having in the future. Do a deep dive into what they look like, who succeeds in those positions, and what it takes to get there so you can adjust your development plan as needed.
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Carve Out Networking Time
When in-person networking groups were canceled, organizers got creative. Now, online networking is the new normal. It’s easier to make time to join groups or take workshops when you don’t have to leave your house. Networking should always be a priority in your career development! You will meet new people with interesting insights into a new industry or with skills that you want to learn. You could find a mentor or become one yourself. The best part is you don’t have to spend hours at a mixer—small increments work fine! You could even network during the commercial breaks of your favorite TV shows. Committing 15 minutes a day to expand your network and meet new people will benefit you in the long run.
Strategize Learning Opportunities
Self-paced classes are great options for those who need to learn on their own schedule. Take classes on professional skills like advanced Excel, software systems, and even coding/programming through sites like Lynda. Learn a new language or get more proficient at one you already speak. You can even learn business, economics, engineering, etc. online with sites like MIT OpenCourseware.
If you have neither the time nor the mental bandwidth to take on classes, try adding enrichment during otherwise necessary tasks. Listen to an audiobook while doing housework or TEDtalks when walking your dog to get inspired. Many newspapers even have audio files, so you can listen to articles instead of reading them.
Volunteering your time is a great way to expand your network, learn new skills and nurture your passions. Things like sewing masks to donate or delivering food baskets are simple ways to help your community while maintaining social distancing protocols. Depending on your comfort level, you could volunteer with a local food bank. If you aren’t comfortable with in-person volunteering, host a virtual donation drive to support children in foster care or a trash pickup along local trails or beaches. There are even virtual fundraising walks like the Walk for ALS. Investing time into your community is a great way to give back and meet new people!
Need resources to create your professional development plan? Read about how to achieve your big career goals.