You know the phrase, “The more things change, the more things stay the same.” When it comes to career management and professional development, that’s not always true. Technology advances impact business operations in hundreds of industries daily. Social Media is influencing not only the way businesses market themselves, but has impacted how law enforcement officers perform their jobs. Some jobs that existed 30 years ago no longer exist today. Staying on top of your career and the outside influencers impacting your industry is more important today than ever.

Unfortunately, many professionals rely solely upon their employers to pay for their professional development. In a day where online resources are plentiful, this is a huge mistake. There are so many options today through online college courses, free or low cost webinars, professional associations, professional conferences, short-term seminars on location and virtually, social media, industry journals, etc., so it shouldn’t be difficult to find any number of resources you can start diving into.

When professionals make the mistake of relying only on their employers to make all of the calls regarding their own professional development, they start to lose control over their own career path. When budgets are reduced, professional development is one of the first items to get slashed. By investing in yourself, your career, and your professional development, you can stay relevant and knowledgeable in your industry, which is ultimately going to make you more valuable. You don’t have to go to a week-long conference and spend $3500, you can literally search the internet and find an article. Connecting in a professional group on LinkedIn can often provide valuable resources at your fingertips.

One way to ensure you continue to provide value to your employer, co-workers, career, and customers is to dedicate a certain percentage of time and finances each year to your own professional development and career growth. I’ve seen it happen all too often…one day your company gets bought out or reorganizes, and all of a sudden your skills and experience aren’t as valuable under the new corporate model. At that point, it’s a little too late to start playing catch up.

In addition to seeking out professional development opportunities on your own, having a strategic vision and an idea of where you want to go with your career is critical. If you haven’t taken time to conduct a formal or informal strengths assessment or values assessment in the last year, look at your calendar now and set aside an hour or two for some individual reflection and self-assessment. By understanding your own personal strengths, skills, and value and having a strategic vision for your career, you can take charge of your own career.

Perhaps you don’t want to advance at this point in your career…that’s fine, but you better have a plan in place to know how to stay relevant and communicate/demonstrate your value to your employer and colleagues. If you do want to advance in your career, what experience, skills, or education are you lacking in order to successfully do that? What is a realistic timeline? Can you advance where you are, or does it require a job change?

Some professionals in a local networking group I participate in recently assigned me two new titles; Career Strategist and Career Cultivator. I embrace those terms and appreciate their insight. If you’re looking for a career strategist and need someone to help cultivate your career and help you figure out next steps, please contact me to schedule a coaching session.