Continuous professional development

There is an interesting dichotomy between employees failing to find jobs and employers failing to find good skilled staff. Part of the cause for this problem is that people do not continuously build their skills. In fact, very few people invest in the continuous development of their professional skills and personal attributes. The few that do so, go far in their career or business. If you want to stand out, you need to become like the few that have mastered this art.

Look at companies in the industry. Those that continuously innovate, reading the trends and working to be pacesetters keep thriving, and they go on to withstand the winds of change. But those that remain stagnant end up dying. Where is Research In Motion (RIM), the owners and manufacturers of the Blackberry Handset which was at one point very popular? They are nearly dead. What about Nokia which was once a household name and mobile customers did not think twice about which brand of mobile handset they wanted to buy.

On the other hand, Apple, the owners of the iPhone family of handsets and Samsung keep thriving because they have kept innovating. They have continued to develop themselves in a positive direction. They kept reading the evolution of customer interests and they developed products that satisfied if not exceeded that expectation. They kept evolving. Sometimes, they even went a step further to influence what customers should like.

At personal level too, you need to survive like Apple and like Samsung by continuously developing yourself to meet or even exceed the expectations of your current and potential future employers. You have to constantly remain relevant, valuable and competitive. Your past achievements are not enough to make you attractive for future opportunities. Recently, I looked at my CV and saw that while I have a lot of professional courses that I attended a few years ago, I do not have as many registered in the recent past. I criticized myself for that. It means that I have been too comfortable. It means that I am at the edge of having sterile knowledge. I have to challenge myself – to reboot, refresh and upgrade my knowledge and skills. I have to now work hard to invest in my professional development.

I am sure that many of you fall in my bracket – where we have been rather too relaxed, too comfortable with the little knowledge and skills that we have. But we need to challenge ourselves so that we can remain current, relevant and competitive.

The problem is that few people invest their own money and time for their professional development. They want others to spend for and on them. They want the company they work for to provide all the training and skills development programmes. But remember that your employers also have their agenda and their agenda may not always marry or align with yours. Their priorities and yours will rarely resemble. You too need to push your agenda.

To illustrate this point, as you develop, some of the skills you will want to acquire are for the next job you are chasing, not just the skills for the current job. Your employer’s major focus is to ensure that you have the skills needed for you to deliver in the current job – not for the next job. That is the starting point of the differences between your agenda and the agenda of your employer. Few employers will give you chance to develop the skills that you will need tomorrow or for the next job. At a personal level, you need to mind not only about the skills that you need now for the current job. You need to mind as much about the skills you will need tomorrow, for the next job.

Good luck as you work to continuously develop your skills so that you can remain, current, competitive and relevant. If you do not invest in your professional development, you are likely to remain stagnant and become sterile in knowledge, skills and competences. Good luck as you work to make a good plan for your future in career! Rise and shine!

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