A recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) suggests that the information we need to do our job is doubling every 18 months, and that we are running harder and harder to keep up with the required knowledge for our specialized fields.
In this post, I will present 10 techniques that will help you keep ahead of the competition and / or changes in your industry.
Keep Up With Your Creative Ideas:
If you stay at any one job or career long enough, you will someday have creative ideas about how to do things better, quicker, faster or differently.
If you ignore those creative ideas, you begin to stagnate, lose focus or interest in your job.
One of the primary reasons why you may not take advantage of your creativity is that ideas don’t always fall within one’s skill set or domain of expertise.
In other words, taking advantage of creative ideas may require the learning of new skills or the stretching of existing skills.
Stretch Your Skills:
Work on projects, tasks and assignments that stretch your current skills.
For example, as a User Interface (UI) business analyst, if your current skills are limited to using Use Cases to document or describe UI requirements, take your skills to the next level by learning how to create Wireframes and/or Mockups.
If you are a Software Developer who spends most of the time just writing code, you may want to learn how to document the technical design of your software systems using a formal modeling language like UML.
The list goes on, but you get the idea, right?
Gain Cross-Functional Skills, Don’t Stick With Your Job Description:
Gain cross-functional skills that are outside your current domain of expertise by working on smaller projects that have less visibility and less risk.
If you are a Software Developer, gain cross-functional skills in another domain like software testing or business analysis. For example, you may take on the job of writing Use Case and UML documents traditionally assigned to business analysts.
As a Business Analyst, you should learn or know how to design web pages using HTML / WireFrames and as a database developer, you can gain cross-functional web development skills
Keep Up With Competition:
Other professionals are constantly improving their skills even when you don’t. Older, skilled workers are not retiring as early as they used to, while younger workers are gaining more skills and becoming better qualified.
The only antidote to all of this competition is to keep your skills constantly updated because, if you don’t update your skills, you will fall behind.
Nowadays, because of the Internet, your boss is constantly receiving resumés from qualified candidates. So, you really don’t have a choice in the matter, it is either you keep up with the competition or lose your job!
Volunteer Your Skills Outside Work:
Prepare for one or more career transitions during your professional life because they are almost inevitable.
Career transitions happen because of business / technical / regulatory changes in your industry, unemployment, health reasons, etc.
One of the best ways to prepare for career transitions is to volunteer your skills outside of your day job.
For example, if you are a Software Tester burnt out on testing and you want to transition to Business Analysis, volunteer for projects where you get to use / practice business analysis skills outside your job now.
Volunteering can provide you with the sought-after, hands-on experience that employers value highly.
Take a Practical, Hands-on Approach to Learning:
The best way to learn something is by doing it. So, we advocate that you incorporate practical hands-on activities in all of your learning.
That is why, all of our online boot camp training programs require participation in hands-on projects, assignments and tasks similar to those you will find on the job.
Invest in Professional Textbooks:
Textbooks have been around for ages and you can bet that whatever your career is, there are some recommended professional textbooks that go along with that.
It’s always a good idea to invest in professional textbooks for your job or career. When you do that, keep those textbooks handy and use them as a reference for your job.
Don’t hold-out on building your own professional library of textbooks, because when all is said and done, the cost of buying textbooks is still cheaper than that of going to college.
Become a Social Learner:
Participating in blogs allows you to exchange fresh new ideas, vet opinions, meet opinion makers and even learn the latest trends and techniques before they make it into print.
In other words, blogging or blog commenting can help you stay ahead of the curve.
Use Google for Research:
The answers to the questions that you encounter on your job have probably been asked and answered on search engines like Google.
While textbooks and / or training may provide you with in-depth explanations, Google is now an irreplaceable, handy research tool for coming up with possible answers / solutions when you are in a hurry or in a jam.
Get a College Degree … Any College Degree.:
It doesn’t have to be a post-graduate degree and it doesn’t have to be from a specific college.
Neither does it have to be a computer science degree or a business degree regardless of whether you are focusing on business analysis, computer programming, database, or data analysis jobs.
Most of the functional skills that you need for your career (databases, software development, and business analysis) are learned outside formal college classrooms using a combination of the tips and techniques I mentioned in this post.
However, employers still want you to have a college degree as a proof of your mental competence.
This post discusses how to keep your skills up to date and / or prepare for changes in your career / industry.