Entering the workforce with a degree is no longer enough to guarantee steady career development. Investing in your own ongoing education is essential to advancement and remaining competitive. In this article, you will discover three practical strategies to keep learning. These flexible strategies are designed to work with a variety of budgets and schedules, so you are bound to find an approach that suits your circumstances.
Strategy 1: Use Job Postings To Find Out What You Need To Learn
Getting ahead in your career is a great dream. Yet, how do you get started? Use the following steps to identify your career goal and what you need to learn to achieve success.
- Identify the job you want.
For example, you may be interested in a digital project manager role at a marketing firm. As a general rule, look for roles that give you the opportunity to grow your skills.
- Read three job postings.
Reading multiple job postings gives you a clearer picture of what employers are looking for. If three different employers post for a project manager role and they all list “direct response marketing experience," then you can assume that skillset is required. On the other hand, an MBA degree may only be listed for one job posting in a different set of roles – that qualification may not be a “must have” for that particular job market.
Tip: Use JobHero's job search tab to find a ton of job postings and save them to your dashboard for analysis, tracking, and applying.
- Conduct a skill and experience gap analysis.
Armed with your resume and the job postings, it is time to conduct a gap analysis. Simply put, match the requirements from the job postings to your capabilities and experience. If you match 75-80% of the requirements, you can apply for the role right away. If you fall short of that guideline, then you need to pursue additional education and development to acquire the needed capabilities.
Assuming you are seeking a significant promotion or career change, you are likely to find several important skills that you need to develop further. Making sense of these gaps is what you will do in stage two.
Stage 2: Validate Your Learning Plan With Experts
Conversations with other people give you up-to-date insights in their field of expertise. By conducting the gap analysis described above, you will be ready to ask good questions. In this stage, it is time to validate your analysis by speaking with experts. Use the following tips to get the advice you need from knowledgeable professionals.
- Search your personal network for an introduction.
Your own network of friends, family members, and acquaintances is the best place to start to search for advice. For example, you could send a short email to three friends from your college days and ask: “Do you know anyone with experience as a product manager who might be willing to have a brief chat with me?”
- Use Linkedin Advanced Search.
Linkedin is your way into any business or organization and to find experts in any role you could imagine. Use the Linkedin Advanced Search to search based on job title or company. Then, look for contact information (or use InMail) and send an introduction email.
Tip: Read 7 tips for writing cold emails to prospective employers to learn more about writing cold emails.
Once you set up coffee meetings, come prepared with a list of questions. For example, you may ask how to develop your product management skills. Alternately, you may ask whether specific certifications are needed to become successful in a specific job or to get interviews. Take notes during the conversation and send a thank you note afterwards. Demonstrating your eagerness to learn by taking notes is an excellent technique.
Stage 3: Take Courses To Continue Growing
Having completed the research stage and the conversations stage, you are ready to learn. Use the following resources to improve your professional knowledge and skills.
Career Tools & Manager Tools is an outstanding podcast series that covers how to get promoted, how to follow up, and many other business skills.
Professional Associations. Many of the world’s leading professionals have large and outstanding associations (e.g. Project Management Institute and the CFA Institute) where you can take seminars, expand your network, and receive access to top publications.
Local Colleges and Universities. Don't underestimate the programs and courses your local education centers provide. Often, the folks teaching these courses have a background in practice and a connection to local practitioners and experts. To find options in your area, do a Google search like this: “continuing education [my city]” (e.g. “continuing education New York”).
Now, it is your turn to apply this strategy. You can grow your value by learning new skills. Take the first step today!