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Post assessment: Invest in yourself

March 31, 2008

Many employees commit a significant amount of time to their organisation but forget about the most important person of all. As part of the organisation you are expected to evolve and not just to meet the challenges of today, but also prepare for the unknown ones of tomorrow. The organisation aside, you still need to spend time on improving your own knowledge and skills. Businesses come and businesses go as do your needs and motivations. It is impossible to tell what role you’ll need to fulfil in the future or what competition lies ahead just to maintain your current one.

The development plan and ongoing actions are for the short and medium term pay-off, whilst the self investment strategies are typically for the long haul. Encouraging the student to start focusing a little of their efforts on themselves will help them move onto new or more challenging roles using an ‘all round approach’.

Give 101%: Although this is theoretically impossible, the idea is to devote an extra 1% of your time toward self-improvement. This equates to around an extra five minutes per day to spend on improving your knowledge or skills. This can be reading a trade magazine article during lunch or listening to an audio book or pod-cast on the trip home. If you invest in yourself this way and your peers do not, you will start to excel in your field for two reasons. Firstly, the extra efforts will result in better performance because the more you try, the more you achieve. Secondly, enthusiasm rarely goes unnoticed and more opportunities will avail.

Broaden your horizons: Find out what everyone else in the organisation does or at least those in the immediate vicinity if yours is a particularly large one. Start by moving down the chain (your customers) and find out what they do with your product, the challenges they face and what you can do to make their life easier. Afterward, head the other way (your suppliers) and find out the same information. The better you know where you fit into the organisation, the better you can make that fit.

Enrol in relevant courses: This may not be possible in some positions and can be seen as ‘resume building’ but ask your supervisor none-the-less. Offering to assist by completing the course in your own time or in work time at your expense can sweeten the deal if they are relevant and have something to offer back to the organisation. Also consider non-accredited study, seminars or work-shops, even those run by your competitors to gain a greater understanding of the industry.

Look for additional resources: What do your competitors use? Are there industry standards or training packages that have been modified to form organisational policies? What about international standards? Check with your co-workers – what do they read to keep up on the latest industry news? What about blogs, pod-casts and forums? Also consider other related disciplines (eg flying and sailing share a lot of common elements)?

The goal is to build up your knowledge quickly but not at the expense of your experience on the job so it is crucial that you don’t neglect your primary responsibilities and skills. However, never stand still and while you are moving, why not make it forward? This adds value to the organisation on two fronts; a employee with a diverse range of skills is an asset that can be deployed against a variety of problems, and a well rounded employee recognises the value of their contributions and the difference that they can make.

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