Many organizations are making increasing investments in career development programs. The goal of most of these programs is to keep employees engaged while helping them to improve specific skills and improve their career path. According to the Association for Talent Development, the average employee participated in these programs for 32.4 hours in 2014, at an average cost of $1,229 per employee per year. Furthermore, providing these types of programs can be critical to the long-term health of your business as the LinkedIn Global Job Seeker Trends report identifies the primary reason employees leave a job is lack of career advancement opportunities. So it follows that the main reason they’re attracted to a new company is a strong, or well-defined, career path.
But what if your company does not have career development opportunities? The good news is, you don’t have to depend on your employer when it comes to your development. You can, and should, take your career or technical growth into your own hands to ensure you are improving in the areas you want to. Maturing personally and professionally will help you succeed when it comes to your long-term career goals. So don’t wait around for someone else to tell you what to do.
The Importance of Development
Many employees value growth opportunities but why is that? What makes development so important? The most apparent benefit is career opportunities. As you gain and refine new skills, you will be more qualified for better projects or jobs. Employers will see you in a new light and feel comfortable giving you more responsibilities. Similarly, developing your skills will help you achieve your personal goals and give you a sense of accomplishment. The benefits of such feelings can be limitless as you will have the confidence to take on new challenges. Finally, taking on those new feats and pushing yourself to grow helps to keep your mind sharp. Repeating the same tasks day in and day out can actually dull the mind as you adapt to a less challenging situation. If you choose to pursue new experiences, you will combat this stagnancy.
What Can You Do?
Hopefully, by now you are convinced that you need to take control of your career growth and are ready to get started. Luckily, there are a lot of things you can start doing immediately, both in and out of the office, to begin making improvements. Here are some ideas you can use as a jumping off point.
In the Office
If your company offers any sort of programming that could be relevant to your career, participate in all you can! Whether it is a formal leadership program, additional skills-based training, or even an external subject matter expert brought in to speak on a given topic use these opportunities to your advantage. It is a great knowledge opportunity that is free to you and who knows what it might spark in you!
Similarly, you should lean on the resources offered to you in your position. Your coworkers have many different strengths and skills which you can capitalize on if you should choose to do so. Try scheduling a meeting with them and asking them to share their knowledge. Chances are, they will be flattered at the recognition and happy to help support your endeavor. As an added benefit, this type of skill sharing can help to foster deeper relationships with your coworkers.
Out of the Office
When it comes to opportunities outside of your office, your limits are boundless. Whatever you believe will help you to develop and pursue new skills is worth a try to help you gain a deeper or broader understanding of certain topics. Specifically, here are a few things to consider spending time on.
Reading (or Audiobooks) There are so many books available on a variety of topics so if you prefer a physical book, or have a little more time on your hands, go pick one up! However, sitting down to read can be a time commitment that many don’t have in today’s fast-paced society. So if you are pressed for time and want to multitask, try listening to an audiobook while driving, doing laundry, cooking dinner, or some other task. Audiobooks are a great alternative to reading and you’ll get all the same insights!
Podcasts A personal favorite of my own, and similar to the benefits of audiobooks, are podcasts. This is free knowledge which you can listen to while doing household chores, driving, or even working out! You might choose to listen to a series on a regular basis or, like me, you may choose to only listen to episodes that have a relevant or interesting subject matter to you. They can provide tremendous value and teach you something new, but best of all you can download them to play at a later time.
Digital Courses Most online learning or digital courses are very low cost, some might even be free, and can be great resume boosters. The education provided will equip you with a beneficial skill set for your career. Or maybe you are trying to break into a new industry or field. Either way, it will help round out your background with a tangible experience that you can speak to during the interview or talent management process. If you are in the digital marketing field, try looking at courses provided by these vendors: Google Analytics, Hubspot, and Digital Marketer.
Formal Education If you have the time and ability to do so, formal education can be an excellent tool to advance your career and knowledge base. There are a number of options available based on the level of commitment you are able to make and the funding you have available.
Junior College Classes Courses offered at junior, or community, college institutions are often the most affordable and flexible option when it comes to formalized education. Classes usually start frequently and run about 8 to 12 weeks on average, allowing you to take as many as you want at any given time. The goal of taking classes in this environment is to grow personally and gain new knowledge. They won’t necessarily be something you can put on your resume.
- Certificate Programs Many universities offer certificate programs that local professionals can choose to enroll in. The result of such courses is a concrete certification that you can list on your resume and verification of your experience in a certain field. Typically these programs require more of your time as they consist of multiple classes and will be more expensive. However, the payoff can be greater. Some professional organizations also offer industry-specific certifications, so it is important to understand what the standard is in your career field.
- MBA The ultimate resume booster, a Masters of Business Administration, is typically a full-time program that requires an extensive time commitment and funding. As a result, it is crucial to ensure you have clear goals and understand why you wish to do this. However, you will be able to list this on your resume as a recognizable and notable educational achievement. Those who have earned an MBA an expect to earn a starting salary of roughly 50% more than their pre-MBA earnings.
There is a lot to consider when choosing to pursue your growth in a corporate environment that it is easy to get overwhelmed. But the important thing is just to get started doing what you can to improve. As you can momentum, you will have the confidence to take on more. You might even realize you have an interest in something you hadn’t noticed before! The opportunities are endless, and it is all under your control, don’t wait for your company to formalize a program at work to start growing! You’ll be glad you didn’t.