Six Ways to Take Charge of Your Professional Growth
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by Nancy Schnoebelen Imbs
published in ASAP

When you take charge of your professional growth, magic happens. Not only will you likely feel a surge of energy and motivation, you will reinforce your value to others as well. By taking the time to develop yourself, you’re also showing your place of employment that you strive to continue to improve your professional skills and help the organization be more productive and effective. What’s more, your boss will take pride in your initiative and development.

“The best investment you can make is in yourself.”

                                                                                   ~ Warren Buffet

Many rewards abound when you take control of your career. There are extrinsic benefits because of your self-discipline to be better and do better like an increase in salary, a job promotion, or a bigger title. You’ll reap intrinsic rewards, too, such as higher level of confidence, increased self-awareness, and more passion in your job. Most importantly, when you take time to learn new skills, you are making an investment in yourself, something no one can take away from you.

Make self-improvement an integral part of your career to become an even better version of yourself. Here are six ways you can take charge of your professional growth.

1. Learn a New Technical Skill

Take your technical skills to the next level. Is there a new software program that would help you in your current job responsibilities or help advance your career? Be proactive and research the latest programs that will help you learn new technical skills and deepen your knowledge in your field. Mastering a new, specialized technical skill that your office is outsourcing, for example, is an excellent way to show value add to your boss.

2. Improve Your Soft Skills

Don’t overlook soft skill development. Competencies like emotional intelligence, communications, business etiquette, and other interpersonal skills are important. Soft skills are the type of skills that keep your department thriving. Yes, your technical skills are important to perform well at your job, but it’s your soft skills, your people skills, that will help you in your climb to career success.

3. Develop Your Network

Networking has long been recognized as a powerful tool for career success. Growing your network gives you greater access, facilitates the sharing of information, and makes it easier to influence others. Networking is a learned skill, built over time. It takes commitment and practice. Networking is not solely about you. It’s give and take – a you scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back approach. Networking is about building trust and relationships and sharing ways you can help others. Do nice things for people in your network. Over time, you’ll start to reap the benefits. An effective network is one that is comprised of diverse backgrounds, ages, and careers.

4. Connect with Your Coworkers

Often, we find ourselves working in our own office bubble, unaware of the potential of developing business relationships outside our department. Taking the time to get to know colleagues outside your fishbowl can offer a variety of benefits including reduced job-related stress and increased success at work. What a thoughtful, professional gift to receive from a coworker who, for instance, puts a good word in about you to your boss or your boss’ boss. Who knows what good things can happen from high praise!

5.  Say “Yes” to Opportunities

Don’t shy away from opportunities. When you turn down opportunities again and again, it can derail your career. Rather, when an opportunity presents itself, don’t be afraid to embrace it with a strong “Yes!” Opportunities can have ability to help grow, enrich, and challenge you. When you take advantage of opportunities, you will open more doors, meet new people, and make a positive impact for yourself and others. There is no downside.

6. Seek a Mentor

Mentors are an excellent resource to help you develop your leadership skills. It doesn’t matter where you are in your career – a recent graduate or a seasoned professional – everyone can benefit from a mentor to help guide them to success. A mentor is someone who shares their wisdom, advice, and feedback. They help with career advancement, offer professional development strategies, and help you build your network. Ultimately, mentors facilitate action that has a positive effect on your career and life. Research says that people with mentors get promoted faster, earn a higher salary, and possess higher job satisfaction. Be extremely thoughtful when selecting your mentor. A mentorship often evolves from a previous relationship such as professors, former bosses, or a leader you have come to know specific to your career. Your organization may have a mentorship program in place. Ask your manager or human resource department if such a program exists.