Are you currently working in a job you enjoy? Perhaps you’re an intern, or are working on a gap year, or just starting out in a new full-time role. Maybe you’ve already bagged your dream job and the only way is up? No matter what stage in your career, if you want to continue to work in your sector and develop new skills in order to progress up there is something you can do right now to become more talented at your current role. It’ll help you become a valued employee in the organisation you’re working for, earn you a pay rise and make you more employable in the future. What is it? Learning as you work.They say that there’s no longer a ‘job for life’, and that is partially true. Compared to our grandparents’ generation, who may have had the same role in the same factory for 50 years, it’s unlikely that this is how our working lives will pan out. But there IS such a thing as a career for life. And yes, there is difference! It’s about finding the job that makes you feel like you’re not really working because you enjoy it so much (for me, that’s writing) and sticking with that career for your whole life. You can change companies, work freelance, do work on different projects and collaborate with various people but, essentially, everything you do is linked to your ‘career’. When you start to see it like that, you can identify ways to learn from every experience you have.
Think of it this way, your CV is a work in progress. Okay, usually we only write a CV at the start of our working lives, once the education part is out of the way. We might update it with work experience when we look for a new job, but it rarely gets much attention other than that. I personally like to update my CV every year. Even though I work freelance and never really apply for jobs, it’s still a great way to keep track of the skills I’ve learnt from the projects I’ve worked on throughout the year. And the getting the most out of every project is the key point – learn as you work and you’ll add more and more value to your ‘offer’ as an employee.
Did you help pitch for a new client? That’s a new skill. Started using a new computer programme? Add it to your CV. Your project featured in an industry publication? What an accolade! Start looking out for these opportunities to learn and gain experience and soon you’ll need a ring-binder to hold your CV. If a colleague has better knowledge of Photoshop than you do, ask them for a mini tutorial. If you’re working with a new client, ask for hints about new advances within their industry. And don’t forget that your manager is there to mentor you, so ask them how they can help you to improve your skills. Additional training is something that all employers will encourage.Employers realise the value of allowing staff to grow through learning, so will often invest in the employees they already have. I recently read an article by Penna which encourages employers to nurture the talent they already have within their team. This might be through sending you on a course, allowing time for peer-to-peer training to transfer knowledge and skills within the team, or funding qualifications to get you to that next level in your role. On-the-job training and personal development keeps employees interested in the job, it saves money on recruiting new staff if you can train up the team you already have AND your stall will become more loyal. So now you can see why your boss might want to help you out with some training, right??When I worked at a publishers back in 2003 I was offered the chance to do some html training. Yes, it was very new back then (hard to imagine, I know) and no one really knew how to update the company website other than the web designers that the task was outsourced to. Myself and a colleague from the design department went off to a training course for a couple of days and came away with a big handbook and a lot of knowledge about html. We were able to pass this on to other members of the team and between us all we figured out how to tidy up that website.Nowadays, it’s almost second nature to write html (and I’m pretty sure that it’s even taught in school), so everyone will have a bit of knowledge and could probably understand basic instructions if they Googled ‘how to write html’. But for me, I felt like I was at the forefront of my industry and that one training course changed the way that I worked forever. I was no longer just a copywriter, but someone who could format online content too. I’ve used it in almost every job I’ve had since and, technically, I have that background knowledge of html to thank for enabling me to be a full-time blogger today. Without it, I doubt that I would have had to confidence to fiddle around with coding or even start that first blog in 2006.
So what skills would you benefit from learning within your career? Who could teach you those skills? What industry knowledge is missing? Where could you research that information? Take an audit of your skills to find out where any gaps lie and then get stuck into filling them – this will form the basis of your personal development plan. When you knew what you need, seek out help from your employer, colleagues and mentors. This will put you on the right path to be more productive in your role, to negotiate a pay rise, to progress up the ladder, and to carve out your own ‘career for life’. Let me know how you get on and please share any tips or stories about your own personal development in the comments below 🙂