Having knowledge and skills above and beyond the basics of your field can give you a professional advantage. Here are eight ways to keep your job skills and knowledge up-to-date.
1. Take Professional Development Courses:
Professional development courses can help you expand your professional skill set, learn something new, or even earn academic credit to put towards a degree. Online training courses are particularly convenient because they are affordable and flexible. Just be careful to do your homework—evaluate instructor bios, read reviews, and check the syllabus carefully before putting down your credit card. You can also find professional development courses through vendor-taught classes, traditional universities, and training institutions.
2. Use Online Resources:
The Internet is a limitless source of free information and educational resources. Attend educational webinars, follow the blogs or social media accounts of industry experts, or bookmark and regularly check industry news sites and online forums to stay current on the latest trends. If you haven’t already, sign up for news alerts for your inbox (Google Alerts works well) or set up an RSS feed like Feedly.com to easily put all of your industry news in one place.
3. Attend Professional Events:
Professional events are valuable ways to learn about growth and development in your industry. Local companies, business associations, and professional groups often host seminars, forums, or workshops that can give you direct access and insight to experts in your profession. Treat these events as constructive networking opportunities to brainstorm and share ideas with colleagues who can provide fresh insight and perspective.
4. Network Online:
As an independent consultant, you know the importance of building and maintaining a list of contacts to ensure a steady flow of work. Use LinkedIn to connect with high-ranking people at companies you’re interested in working with. Employ social media platforms to promote your own service or brand, network with industry experts, and keep in touch with former and current clients.Start by finding which social site works best for you—connect with fans and followers on Facebook, creatively network and share news on Twitter, or utilize blogging to boost your online credibility, and connect with potential clients.
5. Invest in Continuing Education and Certifications:
While continuing education and certification programs typically require a more intensive time and financial obligation, they can help boost reliability, and demonstrate a commitment to your profession. Becoming proficient in a new software platform before it becomes mainstream, committing to upholding industry standards through a certification program, or staying on top of market trends by taking a class can increase your income and position you competitively within your line of business.
6. Follow Thought Leaders on Social Media:
Social media platforms have given thought leaders a new outlet for sharing valuable information, insights, and practical advice. Seek out and follow both industry leaders in verticals you specialize in and those who specialize in skill areas you have or want to build. By reading regular posts, you can not only gain additional knowledge, but you can also build relationships by commenting and reacting to posts and increase visibility of your business and skills by sharing their content.
7. Read White Papers and Case Studies:
Top companies, consulting organizations, agencies, and think tanks regularly publish white papers and case studies on industry trends and often offer them for download at no cost. Stay up to date on industry and business trends by taking advantage of these resources.
8. Determine Hard and Soft Skills to Develop:
Conducting a self-assessment to determine your hard and soft skills and target those you want to develop should be a core activity in your professional development. A self-assessment test such as CliftonStrengths Assessment will measure your natural ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving, and you’ll get access to personalized reports that help you better understand what makes you unique and how to use your strengths to reach your full potential.Maintaining enhanced knowledge and skills in your field shows clients you are well informed and dedicated. Set yourself up for success by investing in your job skills and knowledge today.