This afternoon, I was chatting with an old colleague. He heaved a deep sigh when talking about his experience of being laid off last year due to the Alberta economy. It took him a year to find the next job. With a determined tone, he said: “I think people should not let themselves too relaxed. While they are still young, they should learn more things, give themselves more challenges. Otherwise, if there is another round of layoffs, it would probably take much longer than a year to find a job.”
Perhaps this friend's experience is a special case, but his experience has caused me to ponder. In my ten years of working in Human Resources, I have seen many young people who have set themselves up for great success, but more often, I see people who follow a mediocre path. Thanks to teaching at the MacEwan University, I developed an ability to predict the students’ career future through their attitude towards school. Of course, there are many differences amongst the students, such as their IQ, EQ, effort, luck, family background, etc., but the one key element that sets people apart is their ability to sustainably recharge their brain! In other words, it is the continuous personal and professional development. A few years ago, I read a book named "The Five Years After Graduation Determines Your Life", written by a popular Chinese author - Mr. Shaobo Lin. The part that impressed me the most is that the knowledge we gained in colleges depletes about 20% each year. If a university graduate has not upgraded his/her knowledge in five years, then he/she will be back to square one, and will soon be eliminated by this competitive society. In my class, I often talk to the students about one of the most important factors that you can control in your life: The continuous effort to grow yourself.
So what is personal and professional development? My opinion is that it consists of four areas:
1) Continue to improve your area of expertise. We live in an era of information explosion; new knowledge, new technology, new demands come at us all the time. Without upgrading your knowledge, you will be left behind, not to mention about losing opportunities for salary increase and promotion. I highly recommend people to attend workshops / seminars / conferences hosted by industry experts, read related publications and websites, and give presentations at professional occasions. Even when you feel that you have become an expert doing what you do, ask yourself: how can I do this faster? More accurate? Better than the competitors locally and globally?
2) While working for a company, actively look for ways to expand your job, through job rotation, job enlargement and secondment, so that your work is diversified. Then you can become a versatile person for your company. Put your hand up for challenging projects and new initiatives, volunteer to act in your supervisor’s absence so that the work of the department or the company is not affected.
3) Do not entirely rely on the knowledge of school books, but ignore the social knowledge. Expand your social circles, make more contact with people in your field, share your opinions, ask questions, and learn from industry knowledge and new trends. I believe that the breadth of your social connection determines your width in the industry.
4) Set short, medium and long-term goals for yourself, and continue to work to complete them.
I have often been asked why there are people who can get better positions and higher salaries, even if the boss does not want to give to them? Because the boss has to respond in order to retain the staff. There are also people who are far away from promotion and higher pay, because in the absence of self-growth, they repeat the same tasks day after day or even year after year without adding any additional value. This especially happens when companies go through business transformation (such as upgrading computer software, or using more advanced methods of work), these workers are often unable to adapt, and have to be dragged to learn the new technology. I am afraid when the boss finds other people who can do the same job cheaper and faster, the value of these employees will become very low.
Therefore, if you have not recharged yourself for some time, then please start now!