There are many ways to enhance your skills in advance of a job search. And while am a proponent of traditional classroom training, pursuing another degree or earning a new certification can be time-consuming, costly, and often not directly applicable to the opportunity you’re seeking. Even more flexible on-line options such as webinars and asynchronous presentations can burden your personal bottom line if not provided by your employer. And even if they are – who has the time to sit though, never mind actively engage in that activity?
Sometimes the most relevant and meaningful lessons can be acquired for free, during the normal course of business. If you’re time or cash strapped…perhaps both, considered these paths to career enlightenment.
- Earn a Mentor: I say earn because in the work world a little give and take goes a long way. Find a colleague who has a skill you admire e.g. presentation skills and lacks something you excel in e.g. strategic planning or forecasting, and then do a little brainpower bartering. Not only will you both benefit from the exchange, but you’ll likely gain a judgment free confidant in the process.
- Volunteer for a Project: Take a supporting role in a project that gives you the opportunity to practice the new skill in a low risk environment. If large group presentations is your Achilles heel, offer to chair group meetings for a community group or a project outside your department. You don’t have to join and devote a ton of time to the local Toastmasters to learn the skill (although it is a helpful organization), just find ways to get up and speak. Chances are if you care about the organization, project or cause, you’ll be more likely to stay with it. Just tap someone you trust to provide consistent feedback.
- Get a Development Plan: Be up front with your manager about what you want to develop and why. Let’s face it – chances are he/she already knows. Once agreed on the focus area(s), embrace the concept of deliberate practice, honing the skill during the course of real work. Just make sure he/she is willing to coach you along the way.
- Ask Your Directsfor Support: Too often leaders assume they have to know all the answers. Don’t be afraid to be mentored by your junior staff. Take the opportunity to learn from Gen Y, Interns, whoever has something useful to teach. Humility is a rare and endearing commodity. Embrace it.
Formal training is a key element of one’s development plan, but if you are looking for a quick way to hone a specific skill in advance of a new job or assignment, spare your wallet and let the experiences of others be your guide. Chances are, you’ll get to your destination faster than you ever imagined.
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