Reflecting on where I am now in my career, there were some key elements which accelerated my professional development. These are strategies that I continue to use now as I advance in my career and deepen my functional and industry level skills.
As a health care marketer who came from 4 years of experience in pharmaceuticals, it’s been an awesome and humbling experience to again be new in to an industry (it’s my third industry). Figuring out the jargon, systems and complexities of the industry while also getting to learn about how to navigate the new organization I started at 6 months ago takes time, but the high-level advice of achieving success is relatively similar.
Here are 5 strategies that have boosted my professional development throughout my career:
(1) Actively listening, then asking questions. I don’t worry about looking ignorant when I listen intently and then ask questions. Even though I could still be considered “new” to the industry, being brave to ask questions at any point in your career is important. Daring to ask your colleague “can you briefly explain that?” can help you set you up in the right direction so you don’t make wrong assumptions about work-related discussions, and can have a firm foundation of knowledge on how things work rather than a myriad of guesses.
(2) Seeking out educational opportunities. Learning about marketing involves reading books, talking to others and then trying out new concepts in my life. I have been working through several business related books which have been enormously helpful in my lifelong self-education (The Start-up of You, The Education of Millionaires, The 4 Hour Workweek and The Personal MBA to start); putting principles into practice then helped to solidify and actually retain the lessons taught to me.
(3) Seeking good mentors in my life. Time and time again, people say you need to good mentor. For me, most of the most influential mentors in my life have been through my volunteer experiences when I donated time to use my professional skills (event management, budgeting and writing). Some of the professionals I volunteered alongside were extremely driven and ethical, and saw volunteering as a way to contribute. They had many years more experience than I did, were people that I admired, and were able to pass on their words of wisdom because we spent so much time together giving back.
(4) Career coaching. Even with mentors in my life, I found career coaching to be a great way to focus my energy and get an outside opinion into my thoughts. Career coaching for me came in the format of someone that I hired, but Mastermind Groups (often free and lead by a great person) can lend this same type of structure. Career coaching for me created structure, time sensitivity and accountability for the systems and goals I was working towards.
(5) Find work that you love and find ways to love the work that you do. Most of us don’t have the luck, self-awareness or foresight to know how to land the job we love when we launch our professional career. Look to be in a job that you enjoy, but in the meantime, if you’re not in the most desirable place, look for parts of the work that you do enjoy.
Listen to that voice that’s saying, “I hate spreadsheets” or “I hate spending hours and hours by myself writing code.” Start to pay attention to your preferred work activities, your strengths and your skills. Liking what you do makes work so much easier.
Have you used any of the above strategies to enhance your career? Have you read any good business books lately?