LinkedIn's 2018 research in to Learning and Development showed that spending time learning was crucial to a fulfilling career. 

The research found that employees who spend time at work learning are 47% less likely to be stressed, 39% more likely to feel productive and successful, 23% more ready to take on additional responsibilities, and 21% more likely to feel confident and happy.

According to research undertaken by Deloitte's,  in the 2019 Global Human Capital Trends, business leaders know that changes in technology, longevity, work practices, and business models have created a tremendous demand for continuous, lifelong development.  

Yet whilst many of our top employers now offer incredibly creative and varied learning opportunities it’s not a practice that is consistently embraced or encouraged by all employers. This leaves many people left with skills gaps, feeling out of their depth or at risk. 

I’ve worked for some fantastic employers and had many amazing opportunities in my career to continuously develop my knowledge and skill set. A lucky position to have perhaps but throughout all of it, I’ve had to be the one driving my development in order to get the most out of what’s available. I share here some useful tips that I've found useful to apply, particularly if you're not getting the investment you need, and of course there’s plenty more ideas to consider in the associated article.

Get clear on your goals

If you can define your key career development goals, you’re already halfway there to achieving them. Defining your goals will focus your mind and get you thinking about the first step towards them. A simple model to use is the GROW model which is a popular coaching technique. It encourages you to get specific about your goals, where you are now and what your options are for moving forward. You can use the model in discussion with someone trusted or on your own through self-directed reflection.

Tip: If your organisation has structured career discussion templates you don’t have to wait for someone to take you through this. You can take yourself through the questions, just like you would the GROW model. There’s also lots of templates online if your organisation doesn’t yet have these.

Consider mentoring

You may find it useful to seek a mentor within your organisation or externally. A mentor can be used as a sounding board or for seeking out valuable perspectives relevant to the development you’re seeking. Remember that a great mentor doesn’t necessarily have to be someone with the same professional skill set as you. They may be someone who has certain behaviours or traits you’d like to learn from. Neither does a mentor relationship have to be formal. They might be someone that you meet regularly with, on an informal basis, to exchange ideas.

Tip: Consider who’s in your organisation, who’s in your professional network or whether your professional institution might be able to put you in touch with someone. If you’re after help with something specific it may be easier to state that, rather than a generic request for someone to become your mentor. There’s every chance the relationship will naturally develop thereafter.

Understand your development options

There’s a whole menu of instantly accessible learning opportunities for you. First understand your gaps by seeking feedback, measuring yourself against organisation and professional institution standards and reflecting on how you feel you’re progressing. Then consider what options are available to you for proactively resolving them.

On the job learning, in-house programmes, podcasts, vlogs, blogs, ted talks, external courses, volunteering, reading, study, secondments, role expansion, e-learning and helping others learn are just some of the examples. For those with limited time you can choose options that will enable you to learn on the move.  Be proactive and seek out what's available.  Ask questions.

Tip: At Pick Everard we run regular lunch n learns where we get together as a group to watch and discuss Ted Talks on topical subjects. Impact and Confidence, Personal Effectiveness and Change Management are just some of the recent subjects we’ve looked at. See who else might share the same learning goals as you to do something similar.

Take action and step into your stretch zone

Think less about comfort zone and focus positively on stepping into your stretch zone. Try new things, even if you’re just incrementally and steadily building on your experiences in new areas. Consider - what would be one step forward right now?

Once you’re making positive inroads towards your goals, and have something to share about it with the people that matter, start to think about who you need to have a conversation with about next steps. Then plan for it. What do you want to say, how will you say it and what will you share to show you’re ready for the next opportunity. At Pick Everard we’re launching a ‘constructive conversations’ toolkit to help our people know how to approach such matters more easily.

Tip: You can also increase your visibility to the people that matter. Look for opportunities to get noticed in your work or through volunteering for initiatives or by getting regularly involved in company events.