Professional Development

The beauty of having a career for any extended period of time is that you are constantly learning and improving just through the active task of overcoming the challenges you face in the regular course of doing your job. While all solutions to all challenges may not work perfectly every time, and it’s likely they won’t, there is always something learned and then referenced for future. But what about growth? How do you keep doing your job and growing in useful ways? How do you keep your job challenging for yourself and something more than task accomplishment?

Typically, professional development programs cover industry specific or skill specific training to keep us all current in our fields. Traditionally it takes us out of the office for a few days and can be quite inspirational, but difficult to implement in practicality. The good news is that not all professional development has to involve time away from the office and the stress of catching up after being out.Professional Development

Technology has introduced and enabled remote learning in such a way that it has changed not only the landscape of professional development, but provides real time learning within the space of practical application. But with so many options out there, it’s worth the investigation into time, expense and end use. How much time will it take to master a new skill and will that skill make your day more efficient? Will the training teach you something that potential competitors for your job may have? Is the online learning free and is the software free? If it’s not free, is it worth the cost for what you are expecting to get out of it? In many cases you will see both free and paid options so it really comes down to whether or not what you are learning will make a difference in your day to day work. Aside from increased productivity, learning a new skill can make your job more interesting and bring about new energy and enthusiasm at work.

For an idea of where to start to understand how simple this can be and how it can work, we can start with something simple and free, like Google Forms. Of course there are also free programming classes at Khan Academy as well university level courses in several disciplines from Coursera. And, when in doubt, you can learn just about anything from You Tube. But for now, let’s stick with the benefit of teaching yourself how to use a free online form that can be shared with others, gather information, and even make calculations. Part of the value of learning how to use this type of tool is that it’s visually appealing, customizable, and gathers all the data entered for you leaving human error to a minimum. Learning how to use it can be easily done in the course of a typical work day, doesn’t require out of office training time and ultimately increases your value to the organization. You will know how to use a tool that others do not which separates you from your colleagues and helps increase your value among management. Additionally, as you become proficient with the basic workings of this tool, then you can expand and move to detailed customization, add-ons and  even light scripting.

A side effect from learning something new is that in the short term, this could also lead to increased work load. You have suddenly become a resource in the office and someone who can do what no one else can. While that may seem challenging at times, try to view it as something positive. In the case of Google Forms, you have the opportunity to demonstrate your creative skills (these forms are visual), your analytical skills (they automatically produce pie charts and spreadsheets), and your leadership skills (you are taking the lead on gathering information for your department or company). These skills are grounds for career growth and new opportunities especially if you work in a place that likes to hire from within, which most companies do. Keep in mind too, that this isn’t just about the tactical knowledge of learning how to do something. The act of teaching yourself something new demonstrates initiative, drive, motivation and a vested interest in the company’s overall health, not just “doing your job.” You are a team player with the ability to work independently- key traits for anyone in a leadership or management position.