5 self-development tips to inspire busy professionals

Skills attributes (large) 10

Learning is something we do every day, whether we realise it or not. From reading the morning news, to taking a diverted traffic route in a daily commute – we’re constantly picking up new snippets of information and integrating them into our understanding of the world. As the future of work takes shape and increasingly moves into new technological territory, we see our need to learn and develop accelerating too.

With greater numbers of millennials join the workforce, we’re seeing this appetite grow again in the workplace. Trends are shifting towards learning and development-based rewards programmes, demonstrating a growing preference for knowledge, rather than a financial reward. And, with the future of work placing greater importance on skills such as cognitive flexibility, creative thinking, and emotional intelligence, there’s never been a better time to continue developing yourself, professionally and personally. So how, as a busy professional, do you ensure you’re developing your skills, while remaining focussed on your job? Here are some ideas for you:

It doesn’t have to be old-school

You’re an experienced professional with proven expertise. You don’t fancy sitting in a classroom for months on end – you have a schedule of responsibilities that you need to prioritise, and you’re capable of working autonomously. As an adult, you know your learning preferences and which subjects best satisfy your curiosity, or will complement your career.

Malcolm Knowles, a thought-leader on adult learning, determined there are particular drivers that enable professionals to learn in different ways. For example, adults mostly pursue subjects that interest them or are applicable to their career progress; they prefer applicable, activity-based learning; and they prioritise their learning when the time suits them – resulting in more efficient and effective learning.

With these drivers in mind, we approached Tracy Jackson, EY’s Senior Manager for Learning and Organisation Development, and asked her advice on how to expand your potential:

1. Check your attitude to growth and development

Do you get excited by learning something new? Are you the type of person to follow up on subjects that pique your interest? Do you see problems as appealing challenges? If you answered ‘no’ to these questions, it’d be in your interests to reframe your outlook.

Tracy is also the Leader of the EY Edge Programme, and gives this example of how EY inspires growth and development in people.

She says, “This programme builds the knowledge, confidence, resilience and personal strengths of our future leaders, to enable them to cut through uncertainty and lead with purpose. Its focus is to expand participants’ personal boundaries and see what’s really possible.”

Take a look at your own boundaries – personal and professional, and consider what you can do to push them. Where can you develop your knowledge and interests? The positive effects on your career, and even the people around you, will surprise you.

2. Make use of online resources

From subscription-only to free online courses, you can access a world of lessons from any of your digital devices, at any point in time. Whether you’ve got a subject in mind or not, there’s a whole variety of courses on offer and as each course ends, you’ll likely be looking into which one you want to jump into next.

3. Become, or find, a mentor

Nothing’s as exciting as sharing new knowledge. Whether you seek out a mentor or a mentee, the satisfaction of learning and sharing knowledge has incredible advantages. As well as finding the learning travelling both ways, you’ll also be reinforcing your knowledge, as you teach.

Tracy also adds, “If you can, find a mentor both in and outside of your workplace. Having external perspectives can help open up new thinking and also provide great insights to share back in the business, both with your teams and key stakeholders.”

4. Set real-world goals to apply your learning

Whether you want to learn how to grow organic vegetables, or master the basics of coding, ensure you have a plan to work towards once you’ve gained this new knowledge.

According to Tracy, “Having really clear and aspirational goals associated with your learning is key. With any type of learning experience, I would recommend the 70/20/10 model where your learning is 10% face-to-face, 20% coaching and mentoring, and 70% on-the-job experience.”

The more task-based your learning is, and the clearer you can see the results of it, the more satisfied and inspired you’ll be.

5. Make the time

Prioritising your learning is essential to ensuring it’s effective. Create a schedule and keep your study appointments. Whether it’s reading notes on your way to work or scheduling an hour of study two evenings a week, make sure you stick to your plan. Repetition and consistency will also help you retain the information.

Changing for the better

With the future of work already upon us, and a preference for employees with drive, flexibility and creativity emerging, there’s never been a better time to consider how you can develop and grow.

It’s definitely important at EY. Tracy mentions, “We’re interested in encouraging our people to define the future and find better questions together. We’re equipping our people with cutting edge knowledge and the tools to put it into practice.”

It’s an approach we should all invest in, because no matter how knowledgeable you are in your chosen field of expertise, there’s always room for new learning. Whether that’s because processes keep changing, evolving and (hopefully!) improving, or because your interest has piqued in a new subject, is entirely up to you. What matters most is that, in a workplace that’s rapidly evolving into one that rewards people with transferable skills, you tap into that drive to discover and to grow as a professional, and as a person.