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Are You Taking Advantage of All Professional Development Opportunities Your Company Offers? (part 2 of 2)

Categories: Professional Development

mentor2This blog is the second of a two-part series written by guest blogger Sean Conrad.

The first part of this two-part blog focused on the use of multi-rater feedback, performance reviews and assessments as an aspect of professional development (for oneself and others).

Once these are completed, however, employees can’t be complacent -- they still need to take action to continue their growth.

Here are seven additional ways manage your own development:

1. Join a Mentor Program

If your company has a formal mentoring program, and you're eligible to participate, by all means take advantage of it. Mentoring programs typically match seasoned, high-level employees with developing employees and provide time and a process where the mentors can share their experience, advice and contacts with mentees.

If your company doesn't have a formal program, you can seek out and approach likely mentors on your own. Choose someone with a reputation for developing others at a few levels higher than your own.

Typically, mentors are outside of regular reporting relationships, but may be further advanced in your desired career path. Your mentor may only have time for a single informational interview to share his or her success story, review your resume and give you career advice. Or, this person may commit to a longer term relationship where he or she can help you think through career options, coach you and introduce you to others who can provide information and smooth your way. Remember to express appreciation for whatever time and help the mentor is able to give.

2. Maximize Your Corporate Library & Subscriptions

Many organizations collect and share online and print resources such as books, journals, videos and audios that could be quite expensive to try to access on your own.

These resources can help you build your knowledge, and keep up with news in your chosen field.

3. Use Other Online Resources

Your company also may have internal and external knowledge-sharing communities, blogs and discussion groups to share best practices and company news. You can participate in discussions and use them to learn and meet others.

4. Attend Internal and External Training Programs

Look for webinars, lunch-and-learn sessions, training programs and other similar events that you can attend. Your company may also offer external training on various topics that you can attend with the permission of your manager.

When the training involves fees or time away from the job, make a business case for your participation by showing how what you learn relates to your current responsibilities.

Most importantly, after attending report back to your manager what you've learned, and make and execute a plan for applying what you learn on the job so it becomes part of your skill set.

5. Join & Be Active in Professional Associations

Your company may be a corporate member in various groups and/or sponsor your individual membership to relevant industry, trade or professional associations.

These associations will have conferences, webinars, online training, and other educational resources -- as well as potential networking contacts that will be useful to you in your career.

6. Give Yourself Stretch Assignments

Sometimes the best learning resources are right within your current position, either as special projects, temporary assignments, job exchanges or job shadowing opportunities where you can learn new skills and practice applying what you learn on the job.

Be on the lookout for such opportunities, and don’t be afraid to volunteer for something new, especially if it’s an important or high-visibility project where you'll get to meet new people, learn something new and build your network.

Not all your assignments will be glamorous and important, but they all can be learning opportunities. Always be on the lookout for ways to do your job better, make suggestions for improvement and help others. If you're seen as a dependable person they can always go to when they need help, chances are you'll also be seen as someone to go to when promotion time comes around.

7. Take Advantage of All Networking Opportunities

Take advantage of any formal opportunities provided by your organization to broaden and deepen your network, and use those occasions for constructive discussions that will help you in your career. These can be during conferences, client cocktail receptions, or any internal or external meetings.

When regard to good topics of conversation and small talk, focus on company initiatives, new ideas and sharing of best practices. Avoid the temptation to participate in -- or start -- gripe sessions.

Build your own network by getting to know your coworkers and engaging them in work-related discussions. You can also seek out others who work in areas of interest to you or who are further along your chosen career path.

Often, companies have tools like employee profiles to help you identify potential contacts who are usually pleased to be asked for career advice and to share information about their experience.

Whether they exist as formal tools, programs and resources, or are created by you, your company has a wealth of opportunities for you to learn, grow and develop toward your desired future.

So, start at “home” within your job, and search out company resources. Use the opportunities that present themselves each day to build skills and experience and maximize your performance.

Sean Conrad is a product analyst and former training specialist at Halogen Software. He is a frequent writer about employee development and talent management best practices, and a regular contributor to Halogen's Exploring talent management blog.

For more information on “Networking: Building Strategic Relationships,” BRODY’s training program that addresses internal and external networking, contact us today.

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