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5 Practical Ways to Take Professional Development into Your Own Hands

Before joining the ranks of the so-called Great Reshuffle, you may want to think twice. Have you truly learned everything you can in your current workplace? Even if your employer isn’t actively investing in you, you could mine your current role for career-changing growth opportunities before you start anew. Taking personal development into your own hands is up to you and your mindset.

There are two things recent data show us about employment trends:

  1. Workers are leaving their jobs at unprecedented rates. Though this was originally dubbed the "Great Resignation,” it has been recharacterized as “The Great Reshuffle,” indicating that, even though some workers are leaving the workforce entirely, there are many people who are leaving current employers for a new opportunity.
  2. Workers who are leaving their jobs tend to leave due to a lack of career development and advancement.

AdobeStock_487541935According to a recent study from McKinsey, “uncaring and uninspiring leaders are a big part of why people left their jobs, along with a lack of career development.” In fact, a whopping 41% of respondents cited lack of career development and advancement as the top reason for leaving their organization.

This statistic may resonate with you. Perhaps you feel like you’ve learned all you can in your current role or maybe you are feeling a lack of focus on your personal growth and development. You are ready to say sayonara to your current workplace.

But it might not be time to jump ship just yet.

Here’s a hot take: It’s not necessarily your company’s (or your boss’s) responsibility to develop you. As one of my colleagues likes to say, a notion consistent with the valuable tips in Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman's First, Break All the Rules: You can’t rely on your manager to manage your workload for you; only you can do that. In the same way, you can’t rely on anyone else to develop you. Only you can do that.

So, what is the best way to take ownership of your own development? Adopt and maintain a growth mindset.

According to author and psychological researcher Carol S. Dweck's Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, the growth mindset is a belief “that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts … [and that] everyone can change and grow through application and experience” (Dweck 7).

What does this mean in practical terms for a professional like you, who might be stuck in a workplace with high demands and little room for growth? It could just mean that you have a big opportunity to take development into your own hands. After all, a growth mindset “allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives” (Dweck 7).

Here are five practical ways that you can take professional development into your own hands and motivate your own learning:

1) Be book-smart: Keep reading!

I know too many people who haven’t read a single book since college. Just because your years of formal education have come to an end (or a pause) doesn’t mean you can’t build a solid skill set simply by picking up a good read.

A quick Google search for a book on the skill of your choice will likely yield thousands of results. Another great place to start is Goodreads’ Listopia. Check out some of these great development book lists:

Remember that you don’t have to read hard copies. Pick a format that works for you, such as an audiobook that you can listen to while driving or walking.

AdobeStock_3930848332) Ask for a stretch assignment.

Perhaps your boss doesn’t know that you want to develop your skills. If you’ve never asked for a stretch assignment, use your next one-on-one meeting with your manager to officially make the ask. When asking for a development opportunity, consider the following and be prepared to share the details:

  • Why do you want a stretch assignment?
  • Which specific areas are you hoping to grow?
  • What type of projects excite you? Do you know of specific opportunities that are available?
  • Who else (besides your boss) could generally support you in this assignment or in your development?
  • How do you plan to cover your current responsibilities while you integrate a new opportunity?

WM2A9876-11903) Start a passion project.

The workplace isn’t the only place you can grow and develop skills to drive your career journey. Once you’ve read up on the skills it takes, launch a new project outside work. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Volunteer at a local non-profit, your place of worship, or a community event.
  • Start a side hustle or a YouTube channel.
  • Submit that article you drafted months ago.
  • Learn a creative skill, such as improv or calligraphy.
  • Finally write that book you’ve been thinking about.

You might be surprised to find that pursuits outside of the workplace can bring you fulfillment, purpose, and development opportunities that your nine-to-five job simply doesn’t offer. And you could even end up creating a new passive income stream for yourself.

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4) Find a mentor or a coach.

A mentor is someone who can spur your development by way of structured, regular conversations. These relationships can enable you to think broadly about the trade-offs in your career and your life. Those seeking to be mentored can start the search in educational institutions (like your alma mater), local businesses and professional organizations, and/or in your own place of work. To be successful in establishing a mentor relationship, identify a person who might be interested in mentoring you. Tell them why you see them as a mentor and what they have accomplished that has inspired you. Be ready to clearly articulate what your goals are and the specific ways you hope your mentor will assist you.

Similarly, a coaching relationship can help you think more deeply about your goals and your career trajectory while more efficiently diagnosing specific areas for development. As a quick guide when looking for a coach, seek out a professional who is certified, has a track record of success, and is a good personality match for you.

To learn more, check out our article about mentorship: "Why Does Mentorship Matter?"

 

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5) Enroll in a skill-building course.

Because you have a growth mindset, you know that everyone can grow through application and experience. Skill-building courses are available everywhere and in every format. You don’t have to go back to school and earn a formal degree. Check out these alternative options for ongoing learning:

To find the most effective learning course, ensure it includes both experiential and application elements. As enticing as those high-production videos might seem, you will only learn so much without actually doing something. I’ve found that some of the most effective learning experiences include a business simulation. Insight Experience's Leadership Foundations Program, which is the ultimate skill-building course for leaders both new and experienced, is returning. This four-week program is for anyone wanting to build foundational leadership skills through hands-on experience.

Leadership Foundations is returning!No matter which path you choose, know that you don’t have to rely on your organization or your boss for development opportunities. By maintaining a growth mindset and taking development into your own hands, you’re refusing to leave your career up to chance.

References

Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Random House, 2006.

Bethany Bremer
Bethany Bremer
Bethany loves looking for potential in people and processes and developing that potential for lasting impact. You can find her on any given weeknight reading, running, or baking sourdough bread.