Focus on Networking and Learning As Part of Your Career Development

Dahna M. Chandler, MPS

Career development is a process and is comprised of multiple steps. But there are two tactics that can be deal-breakers; if not done well, they could undermine the success of other efforts. They include nurturing your professional network and learning constantly.

Below are specific actions you can add to your career development plan related to those two tactics. Whether you’re angling for your first job or the corner office, these two tactics will help you thrive in your career.

Give Time, Attention and Thought to Your Network

When it comes to career progress, you’ve probably heard, “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.” However, there’s another important factor: it’s also who knows you. Networking is indispensable to career advancement. Here are several ways to get yourself “known” and to know others who can help you progress:

Become a mentor, seek a mentor and job shadow. The way you do these things may be specific to your industry. But in general, learning from others is a valuable way to gain exposure and expand your network. Also, consider career coaching.

Surround yourself with positive go-getters. Connecting with ambitious people who’ll push you to achieve your career goals is one of the best ways to achieve them. Who you surround yourself with can make—or break—your career.

Keep attending networking events. This is an ongoing requirement, though it doesn’t have to be the smarmy experience many envision. It can include virtual events at your college alma mater and industry webinars offered through professional associations.

Focus on your networking brand identity. This includes keeping your LinkedIn profile updated and maintaining professional social media accounts. There are multiple books and articles on this subject available that can help you learn to brand yourself in ways that set you apart from others.

Engage those around you. Building strong work relationships is an important form of internal networking. Former coworkers can become influential advocates later on in your career. Also, you don’t have to be an extrovert to garner a reputation as a valuable team player.

It’s never been easier to be a lifelong learner. Whether through a formal certificate or an advanced degree program, a free online seminar or casual reading, challenge yourself and enhance your career with ongoing learning.

Take Over Your Professional Development

Your professional development is how you execute the career development plan you’ve established, and it’s something over which you have total control. It’s the process of continuing your education and career training after entering the workforce. Examples include reading and applying the direction provided in blog posts like this, taking seminars through your professional association, or getting certified in specialized areas.

Learning Opportunities as a Tool for Career Development

Learn something new every day. Newsletters and podcasts offer exceptional daily learning opportunities, whether you want to develop personal interests or stay abreast of new developments in your industry.

Read or listen to books. Long-form content provides deep-dive learning opportunities. There are multiple ebook and audiobook providers to choose from, so pick a few and subscribe, some options include:

  • Scribd.com
  • Audible.com
  • Chirp.com

Attend classes and training sessions. This is another effective way to update and increase your job and industry knowledge, and your employer may even foot the bill. There are also low-cost online classes to develop new skills or acquire the certificates you need to advance your career.

Pursue employer-based training and development. Ask your HR department or manager what training programs they offer to help you develop new skills. Take their advice about which will help you most in your current job. But don’t overlook those training opportunities that will help you in future jobs. Take as many as you can, especially since most are at no cost to you.

Stay organized and apply these strategies as regularly as you manage your bank account. That way, you’re sure to grow your career opportunities and reach your career development goals.

What other tips do you have about growing your network or finding opportunities to learn new skills? Share with your LifeLime network in the comments below.


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