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Add Value to Yourself                              Self Development                  Home

Get Feedback from Others

On a personal level, your ability to continuously improve depends on candid feedback. Identify 5 to 8 people who know your work. Ask each of them if he or she would be willing to offer some ongoing feedback to help you focus your development efforts. For example, you might ask:

What are the most important gaps in my experience? 

What knowledge and skills should I try to develop in the next six months to make me more valuable to the business and enhance my career prospects?

Ask What is Wrong

It's important to develop the habit of seeking negative feedback about ourselves. Studies show that the most effective employees seek feedback when they feel their performance was inadequate. We all love to hear the positive, but it is also crucial to learn where you need improvement. To offer supervisors and other colleagues the opportunity to give you constructive criticism, ask them questions such as these: What can I do in the future to handle that kind of a situation more effectively? What should I be doing more often? How would you suggest I better use my time?

Build the Bigger Picture

You should find out what the current trends are in your company, your profession and your industry overall.

Make a list of the key trends and issues you have identified. Approach some people you work with who are recognized as subject-matter-experts in their field or who are widely acknowledged to understand the strategic direction of your company. Start by asking these questions: Where is this organization headed in the next few years? What areas of knowledge are becoming more valuable?

As industries evolve and competition changes, new areas of knowledge and skill often become more important.

Build a Well Rounded Profile

You need to develop two kinds of skills: ‘Hard’ skills - in-depth knowledge of the field in which you work, and "soft" skills - the interpersonal skills and self-management tools that help you work effectively with others and reach critical goals

Of course, success in nearly all jobs depends on your "soft" skills: interpersonal, negotiation, influence, planning, etc. Many people neglect to spend enough time building their "hard" skills. Irrespective of your given field, you need to cultivate and fine-tune the knowledge and skills that are critical to your profession.

Get Your Hands Dirty

Many of us think we aren't learning unless we are in a classroom. In fact, going back to school or taking classes offered by the company are not always the best way to improve your skills. Informal, on-the-job, learning can play a critical role in our growth. Working on projects that stretch your skills by exposing you to new problems can be a valuable way to develop new skills. You should also identify role models whose skills and experience you admire and learn from them. You might ask: What activities have most helped you enhance your knowledge and skills over the course of your career? How do you monitor what others in your field are doing? How are the jobs changing in this field?

Get into Professional Dialogues

Network with acknowledged authorities in your field. For example, you could take a subject-matter-expert or respected leader from your organization to lunch to learn about new trends and opportunities in your profession or business. Speak with people at other companies as well as leading thinkers who may be academics or leaders of professional associations. Find out their opinions, what they read, and to what professional organizations they belong.

Set Goals

Identify new skills that would benefit you professionally and give yourself a deadline to learn these skills. You may want to prepare a plan outlining the steps you want to take and how you will track your progress. Make sure that your goals are very specific. Here’s a goal that one manager set for herself:

Be more open-minded about others’ views and suggestions.

This isn't a very effective goal because it’s not clear what she should be doing or how she could track her progress against this goal. Here’s a better, more specific version of the same goal: Ask others for their suggestions at each staff meeting. Keep track of the number of suggestions I adopt. Over time, try to adopt at least 20% of others’ suggestions.

At the time you set your goals, try to also think of simple ways to reward yourself when you reach your goal. Maybe you can buy that new book or CD you've been wanting. Or you’ll go to that new restaurant you’ve been wanting to try.

Think Globally

Most businesses and professions are going global. If yours has not yet, the business probably will expand on a global level soon. You should prepare for this occurrence. What steps are your competitors taking to become more global? Do you have suppliers or customers based overseas? How knowledgeable are you about the views and preferences of people from other cultures? There are quite a few books and articles that can help you work effectively with people from different cultures.

Be Proactive

Most people notice and react to the big changes that happen around them. But studies have shown that some people are much more likely than others to attend to subtle cues in the work environment and to adjust their behavior accordingly. People who advance, in their profession or in their company, tend to be very proactive. They are always trying to shape their work environment rather than behaving as passive victims of uncontrollable change. They look for opportunities that others may have ignored or failed to respond to. They ask themselves, "What needs to be done?" And then they do it. Their behavior reflects the old adage "It is better to beg forgiveness than to ask permission."

Read a Lot

To stay informed and ahead of the curve, a suggested reading list might include many of the following: The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Business Week, Fortune, Forbes, Financial Times, The Harvard Business Review, Inc. Magazine as well as specific industry trade magazines and professional journals associated with your field.

Self Development                  Home

Career Planning                                             Self Development                  Home

You are responsible for your own career. Managing it will be a lifelong process. Choose work that will be compatible with your own unique skills, knowledge, personality, and interests. Define the balance that you would like to have with your work, finances, health, and relationships with family, friends and colleagues. Your success depends upon understanding the changing nature of jobs and careers. Be aware of trends, both local and global. 

Big companies are getting smaller. They are downsizing and delayering, thereby reducing the number of promotions potentially available.Companies are giving off functions to their suppliers, outsourcing, or entering into joint ventures, opening up opportunities for entrepreneurs. With existing technology, many small businesses can compete in the international marketplace just as easily as multinational corporations do. It is anticipated that many emerging careers will generate fewer new positions than in the past. Fields experiencing major growth will demand job applicants with specific academic majors and work experience. Some academic programs will have limited options for employment.

In addition to whatever academic background they specify, employers say they are looking for a person who is an independent decision-maker and self-managed learner, with a positive work attitude, a well-rounded education with math and computer literacy, communication skills including good use of words and grammar, interpersonal and time management skills, flexibility, and dependability. Employers seem to be more interested in what you have done with your talents than on what talents you possess. Your resume then is a testimony to "I have accomplished ..." rather than "I am ...." Whether you are self-employed or an employee, acting in a more enterprising way will give you a competitive edge. 

To get fewer rejections and better results, enter the job market with marketable skills. Follow a "customer-driven" approach. You will need to make sales presentations about yourself to potential buyers, possibly from all over the world. It's hard to sell a product or service if you are not confident in it and cannot see the value to the purchaser. Therefore, believe in yourself and show the benefits you offer. Polish your presentations and deliver them enthusiastically to the right market. One caution, weigh the need for the employer to contact you with your need for safety and privacy when you go public with your credentials, particularly when using the Internet. Carefully select the type of workplace to fit your needs. Some work environments provide great financial rewards but require long hours and produce high stress levels. Some organizations encourage employees to be creative and take risks on one hand but then show displeasure when staff question existing procedures. Some workplaces create conditions that permit the body, mind and spirit to thrive allowing employees to perform better.  

Attitude is how you respond to situations in your life. Keep a sense of humour. Don't worry about the future! Prepare! Visualize satisfying work, and expend your energy on locating customers who have needs you can fulfill. Develop goals and strategies to make your dreams come true.