In today’s competitive job market, career development is extremely important. By allowing their industry expertise to stagnate in the fast-moving and digitally driven marketplace, professionals put themselves at an extreme disadvantage. Because our world is constantly being reshaped by emergent online technologies, companies are always looking to hire new talent to keep them at the cutting edge of innovation. So, the only way for professionals to compete with the next generation of job seekers is to conscientiously seek new skills and utilize their experience to create a new balance of job satisfaction. Unfortunately, the path to obtaining the skills necessary for career development is rarely obvious. So for those seeking ways to advance their skills, make more money and take the next step in their careers, here’s how:
The Traditional Trajectory
Every profession has its own unique trajectory; but most follow a similar pattern. In engineering, for example, students begin by seeking admission to a competitive engineering university. They obtain a bachelor’s degree (usually in general engineering), then pursue a masters in a more specific branch. During graduate school, most students seek a professional edge by working as interns or in research positions. Upon graduating, they must pass the fundamentals of engineering exams and then pass the test to earn their professional engineering license. At the end, it is finally time to get a job and start gaining industry experience.
As with the background for a sales manager job, the profession starts with a course in business (possibly an MBA) and then onto the professional sales platform in the working world challenging for promotions as commercial managers then national sales manager to global head of sales. It all follows a pattern to bigger pay packets while upgrading current skills and experience.
But there are still many skills to develop for engineers or sales managers to continue up the professional ladder. They can choose to earn PhDs, pursue further qualifications, and obtain various certifications.
Growth through Specificity
In the vast majority of industries, career development is essentially a matter of gaining more and more specificity. Settling into a particular niche, professionals advance their expertise by becoming authorities in particular areas. Not only does specificity contribute to job security, it also gives professionals the opportunity to refine their unique skillsets.
For many, it is difficult to obtain new skills after being established in a particular job. Once the initial training is over, the day-to-day fluctuations of the job itself are the only way to hone expertise. So those who want to increase their professional skills beyond the boundaries of their current work need to seek other options. This means talking to your boss about opportunities for attending industry seminars, paid training courses, and classes for advanced professional certifications. It also might mean exploring these options on your own, or talking to headhunters about positions at companies who are willing to fund your career development.
Often, higher education is the best route for career development. So look into options for night/weekend courses, online study options, and the potential for self-study. It takes determination to work a full-time job and also pursue advanced degrees, but the payoffs can be considerable. The more measurable qualifications you obtain, the more marketable your skills are, and the better position you are in to obtain promotions.
Obtaining new skills in the workplace is ultimately a matter of motivation. If you refuse to be satisfied with your current position, and constantly seek opportunities for professional growth wherever you can find them, you are bound to be successful. At times, it may become necessary to take measured risks—leaving dead-end jobs, launching your own business endeavors, etc. — in order to make progress in your profession. But work wouldn’t be work if it were easy. So take the initiative, and dedicate yourself to becoming better at what you do. In the long run, you’ll be happy you did.