A recurring topic of conversation for my colleagues and me is continued professional development. At this mid-level stage in our careers, we ask ourselves how we can help ensure forward progress toward professional goals.
Forward movement does not always mean changing employers or promotions. Significant changes may be few and far between depending on a professional's circumstances. What may be more practical is to consider alternative, creative ideas for continued career growth. Practicing mindfulness in your profession may produce more subtle results.
A good place to start is to notice trends or changes in your industry, and pay attention to those patterns and pursue opportunities that align with your values, interests, and skills. Thereafter, consider these options to stay engaged with your developmental process. A few specific tips include:
(1) Make one new "cold call" a month. I recall I was riding with my mother in the car one day explaining my interest in getting to know a local lawyer because his practice area fascinated me. I explained that I only knew of him and that I could only discern a few facts about him based on his LinkedIn profile. When she asked me why I couldn't reach out to him, I did not have an answer. I explained that I felt I would need an introduction or another formal method of contact. Being the saleswoman that she is, she suggested I simply "cold call" him by reaching out via LinkedIn and invite him to lunch to learn about his practice area. Despite being somewhat afraid at this unconventional method of connecting with people, I followed her advice. This particular lawyer and I now enjoy a collegial relationship in which we exchange ideas about our jobs and roles as lawyers and advisors for our clients. Be bold about making connections. Ask for referrals. Make new friends.
(2) Volunteer. Spend some time researching whether a volunteer opportunity is right for you in terms of time, effort, and interest. Take a board member or other staff member out to lunch to learn more about the organization you are considering. Support a cause that interests you to stay connected to community.
(3) Research and pursue a speaking engagement. What do you know? What are you good at? What do other people tell you you're good at? Start small by offering to add value by speaking/teaching at a non-profit organization's monthly board meeting or volunteer to speak at a community event on a substantive legal issue in your area of expertise. Re-engage with your alma mater, and identify whether there are any speaking opportunities in front of students. Research opportunities for speaking engagements at local, state, national, and even international levels by identifying organizations whose missions align with your interest.
(4) Write an article. Research various publications whose interests and tone align with your personal brand and area of expertise. Offer to write an article on your area/s of expertise, and see if there is corresponding interest on the other side. Even if the publication is not interested in your precise topic in the moment, make it a point to follow up to see when your area may become relevant to their audience in the future. Don't give up!
(5) Take a class. Study a topic that is interesting to you or one that you have been putting off for a long time. Sign up for that Portuguese class at your local community center, or enroll in that Spanish for lawyers class hosted by your local bar association. Obtaining a new skill through taking a class is a great way to add to your resume. Explore opportunities to study an advanced degree in an area that interests you or could help you perform your job duties better. It may lead you to the next person, skill, or opportunity to help you make that incremental change.
(6) Break bread with an old or new friend. Do not forget about nourishing the relationships that have supported you throughout the past years in terms of references and recommendations -- those folks who know you and what you're good at. Make time for breakfast, coffee, or a happy hour to keep these relationships alive and keep your friends and colleagues updated on what you're doing. It's all about self care -- both personally and professionally.
(7) Refresh your LinkedIn profile. Lastly, here are a few quick tips for improving your LinkedIn profile that you should be able to complete in five minutes or less for immediate impact:
(a) Create a customized URL, and make sure to include in on your resume and cover letter if job searching.
(b) Add connections periodically as your network grows.
(c) Add community service. I notice that this is the most forgotten aspect of developing a LinkedIn profile, yet it is a common question in job interviews and applications, nominations for community awards, biographies for speaking on panels, etc.
Enjoy the process of developing your professional background in alternative ways that may seem like small steps now but may have the potential for large impact for your future.
© 2017 Melanie Glover. All rights reserved.
First image above: Shutterstock.