When budgets are tight you don’t want to have to spend a lot to get some professional development time in. Here are some suggestions of ways to build your professional capability easily. Some involve an investment, but many don’t so you’ll be sure to find something in the list you can implement tomorrow to start gaining new skills.
Journalling works. Take some time each day or each week to write down how you felt your work is going. Think about what you did well and what you didn’t. Mind-map your goals. Doodle your thoughts about your career. Let it all out on to paper, then close the notebook and let your subconscious work on how you are going to achieve the changes you’ve thought about.
If journalling feels a bit out there for you, I have another (less woo) suggestion below which achieves a similar aim. It’s number 8.
Ask for feedback. Ask your manager, your team, your subordinates if you have any, your colleagues. If your HR department runs a formal 360 degree feedback programme, get into that.
The feedback you get will astound you and be incredibly valuable in planning your professional development.
Networking? On a list of things that are supposed to be easy?
Networking is easy! If it feels outside your comfort zone it’s probably because you haven’t done it often enough or planned it properly. Do something small, like attend an internal work town hall meeting and speak to one new person in the queue to get coffee. Then build up to attending industry seminars. You can do it, and just the act of challenging yourself to do it will help you develop all kinds of skills.
4. Doing Your Job Better
Be honest, you know what you aren’t very good at, don’t you? Do it better tomorrow. It’s low cost, low stress and you’ll feel awesome when you’ve cracked it.
5. Get Qualified
Getting a professional qualification can help your career – studies show that qualified project managers earn more money and it certainly can’t hurt your employment prospects. Think about what qualification would be the most meaningful to you as there are plenty of certificate schemes out there.
This is an easy one to decide to do, less so to follow it through as you actually have to study and then take an exam. But it’s worth it.
6. Attend a Conference
One of my favourite ways to take time out to work on my own professional skills is to go to a conference. Being surrounded by so much positive energy and so many amazing speakers is a great opportunity for me and it always leaves me feeling so happy about the line of work I have chosen. And I learn something new every time.
Will you get the same buzz? You’ll never know unless you sign up for one and go along.
7. Join A Community
A community of interest can take many forms, from your professional community of project managers at work, perhaps organised by your PMO, an online community or an industry group or professional body that you are part of – one that has regular meet ups.
Whether you join something like the PMO Flashmob, or the discussion groups on LinkedIn, you’ll learn something if you chip into the discussion and meet new people.
OK, so journalling isn’t for you. Take a walk at lunchtime and don’t think about what your stakeholders are up to and why your team isn’t getting their work done.
Think about you, how you reacted to a situation, how you could have kept your cool better. Or where you want to be in 5 years’ time.
We often don’t build enough thinking time into the day. Without it, you can’t focus on what’s important to move forward professionally.
Conference papers and informal chats with your community members can only take you so far. To get in-depth about a subject you really need to read up on it. And, although I’m a blogger myself, I would say that 99% of blog posts and online articles don’t go deep into a subject. For that, you need to turn to the good old-fashioned book.
Get one on a subject that interests you and drink it all in.
10. Mentor Someone Else
It’s fantastic to be mentored but mentoring someone else will give you a totally different experience. It’s a good way to build your leadership skills and to make new connections.
Mentoring is simply supporting someone else through their career journey, and you can learn from them at the same time, as well as developing your own skills in listening, teaching and coaching.
11. Get a Coach
This is probably the hardest thing to do on this list because it involves an effort in selecting someone, paying for their time and then spending time working with them.
You can develop incredibly with the support of a coach. If you feel this would benefit you in taking your work to the next level, go for it. You’ll quickly find out how it can benefit you, and it will be worth making the investment in your career.
12. Take a Secondment
Ask your manager to give you time away from your day job to do something else. This could be a secondment to a big project, a period of time for study or a shift to another department for 6 months.
This is time where you can try out something new and come back to your job feeling as if you have developed new skills – that is, if you want to come back at all.
13. Do Some Training
There are plenty of courses that don’t lead to qualifications. These are worth looking at for professional development as well, especially those around soft skills and leadership.
However, in my experience it doesn’t much matter what the training is. Getting time away from the office to focus purely on learning something new or developing deeper expertise in an existing skill will help you return to work feeling refreshed.
14. Book an Appraisal
You don’t have to wait until the end of the year to review your progress with your manager. If you want time with them to talk about your objectives and professional development, book it. In fact, right now is a great time as we approach the midpoint of the year. This is a good time to be reflecting on what you’ve achieved during the first two quarters and what’s still to come.
15. Find a Buddy
I have someone at work whom I turn to with questions. Recently I asked her how she dealt with project issues in our project management software. She doesn’t know she’s my buddy (she might now if she’s reading this) but we’ve got the kind of relationship where we can bounce ideas off each other.
She asks me for tips, I ask her. We don’t meet up that regularly but when we do it always ends up in sharing good advice, strategies for dealing with particularly tricky situations and I respect her opinion.
Find someone like this at work. It’s a fast way to get answers and to learn from each other in a supportive environment.
Which of these are you going to try? Let us know in the comments.