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Sharpen Your Professional Skills Outside Work With These 15 Tips

Expert Panel, Forbes Coaches Council

Forbes Source:

The business world waits for no one, especially in an age of rapid technological changes and advancements. No matter where you work or what your title is, you want to make sure you’re constantly learning and progressing.

While some businesses provide formal training for employees to enhance their professional development, others leave that initiative to their workers. If your company falls into the latter group, you might want to take your professional training into your own hands. Below, Forbes Coaches Council members share ways to sharpen your skills outside of work.

1. Join A Professional Association

Find a professional association that includes skill development in its annual activities. Memberships are relatively inexpensive, and often an employer will help pick up the cost. You might choose an association based on your industry, your function or possibly even based on your clients’ needs. You’ll learn best practices and pick up new skills to enhance your career along the way. - Jill Hauwiller, Leadership Refinery

2. Get A Mentor

Find someone outside of work who demonstrates the professional skills you desire and whose success you admire. Explain that you want to learn from them and ensure that it’s a reciprocal relationship. Hold a series of conversations about the skills you seek. Try to shadow and observe them in their workplace. Practice your learning back on the job and debrief your success and challenges with them. - Loren Margolis, Training & Leadership Success LLC

3. Take Advantage Of Online Resources

Don’t ever let anyone tell you what you are capable of. If your organization is not offering a path for growth, then you need to take the initiative and start looking at YouTube, LinkedIn and/or other alternatives for technical growth. There are usually inexpensive ways to increase your knowledge and to increase industry knowledge. Just look; it’s out there. - Michelle Weathersby, LENS Consulting Firm

4. Build A Professional Development Network On Social Media

Self-development is critical to honing the skills and knowledge to keep a career on track. A way to develop professionally is to use social media to identify experts in an industry or profession. What books, blogs, podcasts and other resources do they share? Taking that approach, motivated individuals can build a professional development network that will keep them relevant and always learning. - Jonathan Silk, Bridge 3 LLC

5. Read To Learn And Apply The Lessons

How many books do you read in a month? The likelihood that you will say “not enough” is pretty high, isn’t it? If you don’t like reading books, listen to audiobooks. Make it a daily habit to read or listen to a nonfiction book for at least 15 minutes. Once you have finished a book, implement one newly learned hack, strategy or philosophy into your life. Read to learn, not only to enjoy. - Dr. Natalia Wiechowski, Think Natalia

6. Volunteer With A Nonprofit

Serving your community is a great way to hone new skills, showcase your expertise and build your personal brand. Look for an organization that aligns with your passion and serve as a committee chair/member. Volunteer to lead projects and initiatives that align with the skill set you want to develop. You can then add this experience to your resume and performance review. - Kyshira Moffett, The KSM Group

7. Write And Practice Your Personal Stories

If you create five strong stories about yourself, you will undoubtedly reuse them. Whether it’s in interviewing, networking, public relations, profile bios, public speaking or even in discussions with your clients, you need to understand yourself first. You can do this by practicing how you speak about your impact, value and stories verbally and in writing. Refine and adapt them too over time. - Joanne Markow, GreenMason

8. Teach Yourself The Latest Industry Software

No industry remains immune to technology changes and advancements. In over 26 years of coaching serious careerists, nobody has hurt their career prospects by staying as current as possible on new software impacting their industry. Even if your company isn’t supporting your technical advancement mindset, you must give this high importance throughout your career. - John M. O’Connor, Career Pro Inc.

9. Follow Thought Leaders

Read books by noted thought influencers to enhance your appreciation and understand how to build your social and emotional intelligence, become more innovative and agile, and develop your leadership skills. Simon Sinek, Adam Grant, Daniel Goleman, Beth Comstock, Dan Schawbel, Dan Ariely, Susan David and Susan Cain have podcasts and books that could be a springboard for your professional development. - Beth Kuhel, Get Hired, LLC

10. Practice Reverse Mentoring

Many talk about the importance of having a mentor, but it is not often that people encourage you to mentor someone as a means of sharpening your skills. This is similar to the philosophy known as reverse mentoring, where you learn from someone younger or from someone who can offer insight from a unique perspective. There is much value in having the willingness to learn new ways of thinking. - A. Margot Brisky, ELDA4U, LLC

11. Ask People About Their ‘Lightbulb Moments’

During one-on-one conversations or in groups, ask people about their “lightbulb moments.” Each person shares a recent “Aha” experience, how it made an impact and what others can learn from it. People can reflect on a recent project, trip, book, article, online video—there are no limits. Then take a few notes on what you have learned from others or how you may want to go deeper on those topics. - Bonnie Davis, Destination Up

12. Look For Free Resources

Nobody should care about your future and your development more than you. Your company may not be investing in you, but that is no excuse for you not to invest in you. There is a tremendous amount of free resources (podcasts, videos, iTunes U, library books, networking and so on) that you can leverage. The No. 1 thing you can do is invest your own time in your own professional development. - Jim Vaselopulos, Rafti Advisors, LLC

13. Engage In ‘Second-Skilling’

Second-skilling, a concept made popular in Singapore, allows employees to start developing their skills in a sector other than the one in which they work. Online training platforms such as Coursera and Udacity offer hundreds of free and almost free professional development courses. Acquiring new skills in this manner could be the deciding factor between a good candidate and an outstanding one. - Daisy Wright, The Wright Career Solution

14. Follow The 10-20-70 Model

Spend time doing these three key things to sharpen your skills: training (10%), finding a mentor (20%) and doing (70%). There are tons of learning resources available, but you can utilize free online training/materials first. Find those who are great at the target skills that you admire and ask them to mentor you. Shadow a job, lead a project, volunteer or join a nonprofit board to practice your skills. - Amy Nguyen, Happiness Infinity LLC

15. Find A New Employer

If professional growth and development is important to you, I have a suggestion: Start your job search now and find a company that values learning. Companies that invest in their people care about their people. A learning culture at a company creates high engagement, which directly leads to performance. When an employee is engaged, chances are quite good that they are happy, too! - Jeanne Smith, Procore Technologies

Article: ©2019 Forbes Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.


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