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3 Secrets to Getting Better At Your Job (While Also Preparing Yourself For the Next Level)

What the heck are you supposed to do? The job you have now is fine―it pays pretty well, pushes you, and is somewhat enjoyable―but you really want to move up to the next level.

Problem is: some of the skills you need to continue honing for your current job won’t necessarily help you get that promotion.

And unfortunately, you don’t have enough time to give 100% of your focus to developing skills for both jobs.

Is there a way to have the best of both worlds?

Luckily, there is:

By being intentional about your professional development schedule.

I learned this the hard way when I found myself in this exact position earlier this year.

I wanted to improve my digital marketing skills so I could take on more clients at my agency, but also wanted to dive into the world of data analysis.

After nearly 6 months of frustration, I found a formula that allowed me to do both.

 

3 SECRETS TO FINDING BALANCE WITH YOUR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

1. SET A STRICT SCHEDULE FOR LEARNING (EITHER IN THE MORNING BEFORE WORK, OR LATE AT NIGHT).

 

It’s obvious that you need to schedule time for professional development outside of work if you want to reach your goals, but most people miss one really important thing…

 

You have to be strict about what you do during this time.

 

If you don’t know exactly what you’ll be doing and when you’ll be doing it beforehand, you’ll get distracted and overwhelmed.

 

So, it’s important to:

 

  1. Set a strict schedule as far as what you’ll be learning during your professional development time. Example: I’ll spend 30 minutes reading a book on marketing and 30 minutes doing coding exercises.
  2. Put your phone away and ignore emails―give 100% of your attention to learning during this time.
  3. Build this time into your schedule. Whether you do it every weekday or once a week, put it in your calendar and it will soon become a habit.

 

 

2. FOCUS ON DEVELOPING OVERLAPPING SKILLS.

 

Some skills you’ll need for that next-level job will also apply to your current job.

Identify and focus on those.

Often, these overlapping skills will be broad and include things like:

 

  • Project management
  • Strategy
  • Business Admin

 

Once you’re confident in these skills, move on to the specific skills you’ll need for the next job.

This allows you to approach the expert level with your current job so you can eventually shift the focus of your professional development.

 

3. REALIZE THAT MOST OF YOUR LEARNING WILL COME FROM EXPERIMENTATION (NOT READING BOOKS OR TAKING COURSES).

 

A lot of people have a misconception when it comes to learning new skills.

They think that in order to acquire new skills, they have to:

 

  • Go back to school
  • Read books
  • And go to workshops

These things are great, but they can only get you so far.

 

The majority of learning and skill development comes from experimentation.

 

“For the things we have to learn before we do them, we learn by doing them.” – Aristotle

 

Think about learning how to play a sport, or even how to ride a bike…

You can listen to instructions, read books, and even get coaching, but you’ll only get so far before you have to do something.

So, how can you apply this to your professional development?

I recommend either:

 

  1. Taking on new projects at work that you’re interested in (that require the skill you want to develop).
  2. Creating your own project outside of work that allows you to apply the skill you want to learn in a context you love (example: doing a data science project to figure out how to craft the perfect fantasy football team).

 

 

The process of trial and error is often the best teacher.

YOU CAN HAVE THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS

You don’t have to sacrifice getting better at your current job to prepare yourself for the next step in your career.

You can structure your professional development in such a way that allows you to do both at the same time.

It’s amazing how much even 30 minutes of learning and experimentation each day can do for your career.

 

This article was originally posted on the Introvert Whisperer.