Now Is the Best Time for Personal Development
In 2019, I attended the Charlotte Business Journal Best in HR Awards ceremony. I remember it well because the winner of the HR Lifetime Achievement award—Cheryl Black—made a lasting impression on me. Cheryl is the human resources leader for Sunbelt Rentals, and her background is truly inspiring and unique.
At the event, I learned that Cheryl had taken her company through 100 acquisitions. What was most amazing was that she didn’t have a college degree when she first started in HR; she later pursued her degree at Queens University in Charlotte, North Carolina, while seeing the organization through this growth and change. Upon accepting her award, Cheryl shared that she is now working on her master’s degree on top of her current workload.
The Time for Professional Development Is Now
When I witness a peer win a deserving award, it inspires me to look at my own life and career and question if I am pushing myself hard enough to be the best I can. As a start, I could consider taking classes or learning something new. Unfortunately, it’s easy to make excuses and say life is too busy or I don’t have enough time.
We’ve lost a lot over the past six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but there’s one thing it has given us: a little extra time—time with family and time to improve ourselves both personally and professionally.
The job market took a hit and many people lost their jobs—14 million to be exact. However, if you spend enough time on LinkedIn and Glassdoor, you’ll find that there is a very large number of companies that are hiring. The downside is that with so many people looking for their next opportunity, the job market is extremely competitive right now. So, there’s no time like the present to hone your skills and develop new ones to improve your marketability.
The Benefits of Continuous Learning
When it comes to professional development, there are several key benefits of continuous learning—some more obvious than others.
- Staying current—Industries are always changing. If you’re in the IT industry, for example, you know that there are always new technologies to learn. Staying on top of these new skills will help you remain relevant and a desirable employee in your field. Not to mention, it can boost your job satisfaction and confidence.
- Maintaining credentials—Keeping with the IT industry example, there are always new certifications to achieve. These certifications are sometimes required of you for certain jobs; at a minimum, they serve as endorsement of your skills and add value.
- Adding and expanding expertise—Continuing education provides you with the opportunity to take your expertise further. This step might not be for everyone, but getting an additional or graduate-level degree can help give you a competitive edge when applying for a new job position.
- Preparing for the future—You never know where your path might lead. Your current job could evolve, or you could end up in the market for a new job altogether. Building a versatile skillset—or taking your unique skillset to a higher level—could benefit you in the long run.
The Path to Continuous Learning
There have been medical studies that have proven that people who learn something new or perform new tasks fared better on memory tests than control groups who spent time in less challenging pursuits. High-performing people know that continued learning is key to their success, so they seek out new concepts or skills to learn daily. If you also want to push yourself to be your best, here are a few ideas to get on the path to continuous learning:
- Figure out how you learn best by trying different mediums such as podcasts, books, Audible, or newspapers.
- Choose materials that introduce new concepts and challenge your thinking. Don’t always read the same websites or articles by authors who have the same background or beliefs as you.
- Many organizations and schools are now offering free courses. One of my personal favorites is Harvard University’s free online courses.
- The fight for racial justice has led to the creation of additional diversity and inclusion learning opportunities. For example, you can get started learning how to combat bias in the workplace with LinkedIn's free DEI trainings courses.
- Go back to school or take some classes, which are even more accessible now with most everything being online. Subject matter experts can help expand your views and knowledge.
- Find ways to hone your soft skills, such as communication, work ethic, computer, project management, and problem solving skills. These are skills that are needed—and sometimes required—no matter your trade.
- If professional development isn’t in the cards for you right now, challenge yourself to get outside your comfort zone by picking up a new hobby. It might feel strange to do something out of the ordinary but doing so can result in rich learning experiences.
Expand Your Skillset and Your Mind
The truth is that you’ll never know everything there is to know, but if you can keep and grow an open mind by learning new things, you will always know more tomorrow than you know today, which is the richness of life.
Jenn is the VP of Human Resources at SentryOne, with more than 20 years of experience as an HR professional. Jenn has had a strong focus on building great cultures, training leaders, and putting strong performance management systems in place in both large and small companies, including AT&T, ADP, CPI Security, and now SentryOne. Jenn has helped SentryOne grow into a global company, with recognition from Gallup two years in a row for being an Exceptional Place to Work.