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In lean corporate times, take charge of own training

Coach's Corner--July 27, 2009

The Client
Name: Sam
Age: 49
Title: Customer service manager
Industry: Telecommunications
Issue: Maintaining professional growth
Q. I work for a company that has always provided good training benefits. With the recession, they’ve cut back on a lot of the services available to us. I understand their decision but wonder what I can do to continue to develop my skills.

A. Step into the driver’s seat and pursue new development resources and approaches.

The inner game
Clarify what you’re trying to accomplish with additional development. What do you want to learn, and why do you want to learn it? Look at career trends and your interests, and relate them to your short and long-term life and career goals so that you’re solidly committed to what you’re undertaking.

Also consider how high a priority professional development is for you. The changes at work likely mean you’ll have to put in more time and possibly more money, which may require trade-offs with other interests or competing needs. Involve others who’ll be affected, particularly family, as you consider your options.

Finally, examine what could hold you back. External factors are easy to identify: time and money. What about the internal limits you place on yourself? Perhaps you don’t know where to start. Many people have a fear of success, and others a sense of entitlement. Identify and deal with factors like these so they don’t derail you.

The outer game
To start, find a mentor to serve as sounding board, devil’s advocate and resource as you continue your career. People generally feel complimented to be asked, so don’t be afraid to make the request. Be ready to explain what you’re looking for, and don’t take it personally if someone isn’t able to take on the role. Keep trying until you find the right fit.

Once you know what you want to learn, it’s up to you to find resources. Try asking your company’s development staff for ideas on books, websites, seminars, or other programs that fit your goals, even if they can’t fund it. Learn from the people around you, too; you may be surprised by how much your co-workers know.

Your company may also be willing to negotiate schedule flexibility. Ask if you can take classes or attend relevant workshops on company time. Be realistic about how much time you ask for, be able to explain how you’ll get your work done, and expect to provide documentation on the programs you attend.

Your work ethic is important, too. Give your growth the attention it deserves. If you’re learning a new leadership skill, learn about the new behavior through books or other methods, practice it conscientiously, and reflect routinely on your progress. If you’re pursuing a technical skill, devote enough study time to master it. This is the point where your internal barriers could show up as procrastination, so be alert.

Others can help. Find a friend or co-worker to be your development buddy and help keep each other on task. Let your friends and family know what you’re up to, and cultivate your relationship with your mentor.

The last word
Use this opportunity to chart your own development path, and be energetic in pursuing the growth you desire.

Liz Reyer, President RCC - Posted July 26, 2009
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