You’ve heard the adage “If there’s one thing that’s constant, its change”, right? Ain’t that the truth, especially when it comes to our professional lives! Just ask area employees of Wachovia Securities or Circuit City. Both companies are predicting or experiencing job loss because of major changes in their business. On the other hand, some area businesses are growing, like the small business Tabitha Geary Company who recently received an influx of venture capital to build a larger local retail show room and then take her memento organizing and archiving business nationwide. There are other businesses experiencing the same success as hers too.
Sometimes change in our professional lives comes at us expectedly and unwanted, sometimes we initiate it. Either way, how we respond to changes to our professional lives is what really counts. I like to think of it as “Change is inevitable, growth is optional. Choose to grow”.
I came to this conclusion from lots of “practice”, whether I wanted it or not. Straight out of college I spent 10 years moving up the ranks of AOL from an $8 an hour customer service rep to the head of corporate training, all while navigating six layoffs, a collapsed marriage (nothing like a divorce to put a kink in your career) and bumping my head on the glass ceiling. Deciding to leave the corporate life, I started my own my business. My spinning head has left me wondering what the heck I was doing at times because there was so much to learn. But, I’ve not only gotten through it all, I’ve certainly gained from it too.
Here are 5 steps any Bodacious Woman can take to be in charge of her professional growth:
1. Choose To Be In Charge Of Your Professional Growth
The biggest mistake you can make is to rely on your employer to map out your career path or provide all the training and development you need. If you have a great manager interested in your growth or the company offers training courses or development opportunities, by all means, take advantage of it. But, many employers are strapped for time and cash to invest much in your growth (yes, even the big employers). As head of corporate training for AOL, I was under constant time and budget constraints, as were many of my training colleagues.
2. Make A Short List Of Ways You Want To Grow
If you like your current position and want to continue in the same direction, figure out a handful of skills you need to beef up. Feedback on performance reviews, input from trusted peers, or personal debriefs by a project leader are great ways to get some ideas. If you want to change careers, identify someone who has that job now and ask them the top three things he or she must do well in order to excel. As a small business owner it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by everything you simply must know how to do. So, pick no more than three areas to focus on improving at once.
3. Explore Options For You To Learn And Grow
Think of yourself as an investigator or researcher surfing through the sea of options. Don’t make any conclusions yet, just explore what’s out there and write everything down.
For example, in my local area (and you’ll find similar in yours), I’d check out traditional educational opportunities through local colleges such as VCU, Virginia Union, University of Richmond, Averett University or J. Sergeant Reynolds Community College, just to name a few.
Community civic organizations such as Leadership Metro Richmond or United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg Emerging Leader Program offer programs that are excellent for leadership development and team building skills essential for many promotions. Plus, you get to expand your contacts while you contribute to the community.
There are also community-based organizations designed specifically to help small business owners including SCORE, which offers free counseling advice by retired executives, and New Visions New Ventures’ Women’s Business Center, who holds low and no-cost workshops specifically designed for women entrepreneurs.
Individual learning at home or on the road is an approach that offers the maximum flexibility. Check out what books, home study packages with CDs or DVDs, online courses, or teleseminars conducted over the phone that might be available. A great place to find them is by doing online searches, including searching Amazon.com. Plus, there’s always your local library. Such learning tools can also supplement classroom or project-based programs.
Last but not least, consider hiring a personal coach to work with you one-on-one. Such personal attention can speed your learning curve and give you additional insights. Look for a certified, trained coach who specializes in the areas of expertise you want to develop. An easy way to find a qualified coach is to check out your local area’s Coaches Association, which are usually local chapters of the International Coaches Federation.
4. Determine What Options Fit Your Learning Style And Needs
Not everyone learns the same way or has the same needs, so ask yourself a few questions as you pair down what options best work for you. Consider:
What methods of learning best suit you? Do you prefer to interact with others or listen to a lecture?
What’s the best way to learn the skill or knowledge you want to gain? For example, it’s tough to really understand what it takes to be a leader by reading a book, though that can supplement your knowledge.
How much time do you have to devote to your professional development? Be realistic to yourself, your employer and your family. Negotiate temporary scheduling adjustments if needed.
How much money can you spend on your professional development? The good news is that there are many non-traditional options that are low or no-cost. Your employer may even be willing to pay.
5. Get Started!
The biggest barrier to growth is simply never getting started. Henry James said, “It’s time to start living the life you’ve imagined”” There’s no better time than right now to start living the career or business you’ve dreamed of. The most successful, satisfied people in life, the people who are living the lives they’ve imagined, are those who took action, one step at a time. So, get moving, even if you’re not sure how. Once you’re in motion, you can figure it out.
Copyright (c) 2007 Mary Foley