ICDA’s Five Steps of Proactive Career Development – Step 5

ICDA’s Five Steps of Proactive Career Development – Step 5

This is the sixth in my series of blog posts on the Five Steps of Proactive Career Development created by the Illinois Career Development Association (ICDA)

Step 5.  Be a life-long learner by engaging in professional development opportunities.

When you finished elementary school and realized that you’d completed one phase of your education, did you look forward to the next step, middle school?  When you completed middle school did you look forward to moving on to high school? And when you were completing high school what were your thoughts and feelings on the subject of education? Were you more thinking, I’ve had enough of this or I want to learn more and I know what that is, where and how to get it, or I want to learn more and yet I don’t know what that is and/or where and how to get it?

NOW, as an adult, where you’ve put a few phases of learning behind you, what are your views on continuing your education? AND, where there once was a time when you looked forward to the next level of learning, does the prospect of there being more to be learned loom large like a mountain on the horizon while you have little or no energy to make the climb? Are you feeling relieved that your formal education is behind you or are you the consummate student always seeking more knowledge? Or, are you living somewhere in between, having some awareness that ongoing learning is probably a good idea yet you’re not feeling motivated to begin it’s pursuit?

Well, which ever case presented above best fits your experience, what ties them all together is the thread of motivation to engage in the learning process.  It takes motivation or a reason to do something to apply the amount of energy necessary to overcome the inertia of doing nothing. It’s not as simple as the old saying suggests, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” You CAN teach an old dog a new trick if the dog is motivated to learn the trick. I think the real “trick” is to discover what will motivate the dog to engage in the new and desired behavior. SO, what motivates YOU to learn something new?

And, just in case you’re finding it a bit challenging to get excited about being a lifelong learner, here are a few reasons you might want to engage in the learning process and ways to do so in the coming year that you might not have considered.

For those of you who think of practicality first, I’ll start with the obvious reason to continue learning throughout your career.  That is your employability.  The reality that the world of work is competitive is a stark one that ought not be ignored.  You not only must be competitive with the most current and well demonstrated skills to “win” a job, you must also continue to acquire and hone the skills necessary to keep your position and adapt to the changing requirements of your job lest you find yourself replaced by someone who can out-perform you. And, if you want to be eligible for salary increases and promotions with your current employer, you must develop the competencies needed for positions beyond the one you hold today.

And, what do you think it will take for you to do that? It will, undoubtedly, take learning and practicing new things.  And that learning could take place, not only through some formal degree or certification process outside of your work setting, but could occur through your seeking the advice of mentors within your company or through your offering to assist on projects not specified in your job description or volunteering to help out in departments other than your own. Exhibiting your willingness to grow, learn, contribute and demonstrate new competencies where you are currently working can go a long way to making you an indispensable member of your organization.

Next, you can, of course, learn for the pure satisfaction of feeding your need to grow or test what you may experience as limiting boundaries. If you’re happy with your current field in general, you can always look forward to cultivating a deeper working knowledge of your area of expertise, acquiring the latest, cutting edge information available and subsequently enjoying the feeling of knowing you are always ready to rise to whatever challenge presents itself. This type of information can not only be acquired through formal means, but can be obtained through continuing education made available through professional associations and their trade journals, conferences and webinars.  Are you a member of your professional association? Do you take advantage of all they have to offer to help you become an expert in your field?

And then, there are the opportunities to learn and grow in your areas of interest outside of your “JOB” to develop skills not required of your current position. Would you like to develop your abilities to lead, mentor, teach, or simply enjoy engaging in a new hobby to develop your creativity, writing skills, problem solving abilities, or other competencies on a list that could go on and on. Anywhere you can volunteer your time and energy outside of work where your interests inspire you to apply your gifts can help you develop increased levels of competence and confidence that can serve you both personally and professionally.

Where all of these reasons and platforms for learning can afford you a richer and more fulfilling life/work in so many ways, at the very least, please consider how they might equip you with marketable transferable skills that will afford you the flexibility you’ll likely need as you’re called to respond to opportunities that are sure to present themselves in this ever more rapidly changing global economy. So, here’s hoping you’ve found even a small amount of inspiration herein to seek out some new learning opportunities and that you’ll enjoy a new year filled with much satisfaction and fulfillment in your lifework.  Happy lifelong learning to you in 2017 and beyond!