It Takes More Than Experience to Stay Competitive

Posted on 27. Jan, 2015 by

Stay CompetitiveHaving interviewed people at all levels in various professions, there’s one thing that still surprises me: the lack of continued professional/personal development.  Too often you hear someone say, “Well I have 20 years of experience!” Employers not only want someone with the experience, but also someone who has the drive and motivation to continue to learn both formally and informally, both inside and outside the workplace.  Here are a few tips to make sure you’re staying up to speed within your industry, your profession, or just for yourself:

  1. Professional organizations, communities, groups.  There’s a plethora of formal and informal ways to network and learn from people in your profession.  Join a local chapter of a nationally recognized organization (SHRM: Society for Human Resources Management, PICPA: Pennsylvania Institute of CPA’s) or join a local meet-up group.   You can find one for pretty much any profession.  These groups are not only for networking, they also have amazing programming, great speakers, and great idea share. Can’t find one for your profession? Start a mastermind group of people that are local to you.  Schedule a call/meeting once a month and share ideas, issues, and best practices.
  1. Read.  That’s right, read.  I know the internet is at your fingertips and you can Google anything in a matter of seconds.  I still have my favorite four or five business books that I come back to time and time again.  Think Collins, Welsh, Drucker, Gladwell.  You’ll find yourself reading a simple concept, even for the second time, and having an “ah ha” moment.  Trust me.
  1. Speaking of the internet, Blogs, White Papers, Online Communities.  I was talking to someone just a few weeks ago who said she spends her train ride, to and from the office, reading a blog or white paper rather than staring out the train window.  Utilize your time wisely.  Stuck in traffic? Listen to a podcast.
  1. Your colleagues. If you’re head down at your company, look up.  Learning your industry requires learning more than your specific area of craft.  If you’re in accounting, talk to marketing.  If you’re in marketing, talk to human resources.  It’s an invaluable tool to understand all the components of your organization and how they fit together.  So many business issues get solved this way.  Start small, have lunch with one new person each week.
  1. Continuing Education Classes.  We have the fortune of being near several great universities here in Philadelphia, use them!  Universities offer many continuing education classes for those not looking to get an advanced degree. Check them out, some are quite reasonably priced and if your company has a tuition reimbursement program, all the better! Another great option is Coursera, they have FREE online classes from top universities.  You’ll be surprised by the wide variety of topics and availability.

Take a few of the above ideas, or just one, and try it out this week.  Schedule a lunch with a colleague in a different department.  Read a blog on the way home from work.  Download ‘The Innovators Dilemma’ by Clayton M. Christensen to your Kindle or Nook.  You don’t have to do all of these things (but if you’re motivated to, go for it).  Just make sure you’re soaking in what you’re reading/hearing and making it actionable.  Do something with the information.  In your next interview or networking meet-up, you’ll be able to share the results you achieved from what you’ve learned.  That’s what employers are looking for, and that’s what will give you the edge.