Experience, Exposure, and Education Can All Play Major Roles in Furthering Your Professional Development
Being a self-proclaimed “global” citizen, connecting with new people and learning from new experiences, is an inherent part of me: I was born in India, graduated from New Delhi University, then moved to Australia to build a professional career – and just recently moved to California with a work- related transfer. But, it has only been in the last five years that I truly realized the magnitude of my experiences and the impact they have on my learning, growth and career development.
As an Organizational Effectiveness Leader, communication is key to bringing together and empowering high-impact teams, and continuous learning and development, professionally and personally, is vital to becoming an effective leader. So, I use the “Triple E” model of learning and development as my personal and career development mantra: “Continuous learning via experience (70%), exposure (20%), and education (10%).”
There is no better teacher than experience, whether you are trying to develop your leadership skills, enhance your professional expertise, build a brand, gain cross-functional knowledge or just want to learn new things. Some practical ways to leverage experience as a way to power up your learning journey:
- Look for stretch assignments or job-swap opportunities to help you identify a challenging yet realistic opportunity to help you grow and realize your career aspirations.
- Start looking for opportunities for continuous process improvement and innovation. Partner with your peers/colleagues or take risks to question the status quo and do things differently to improve productivity, accelerate execution and drive results.
- Volunteer for cohorts or innovation ideation hackathons/groups to solve an interesting business problem aligned to — or outside of — your subject matter area.
- Actively participate in your company’s “Inclusion and Collaboration Initiatives” to design, organize, or contribute as a volunteer towards community outreach, business outreach, women empowerment and professional development programs.
- Take up facilitation or moderator opportunities at social or networking events. Practicing your communication and presentation skills, as baby steps, in front of a familiar and fun crowd, over a period of time, can go a long way in transforming you into taking giant leaps towards evolving into a more confident and proficient speaker.
In this age of enhanced collaboration tools and having globally dispersed, virtually connected teams, one needs to take up these opportunities for face-to-face interactions — to build meaningful connections, earn trust, and lead by influence.
Some other benefits and ways in which “exposure” can be a learning and development tool:
- Participating in a leadership conference or a professional seminar exposes you to a diverse range of people, thus offering insights into different cultures, mindsets, and viewpoints that help you evolve as a broad-minded, globally aware citizen.
- Dedicating time to be a part of an employee resource organization, a networking forum, or participating in leadership circles facilitates a safe environment for people to share their stories and struggles, best practices and lessons, and allows each participant to ask/answer questions to help one another learn more. This in turn permits organic, cross-functional “knowledge pollination” and those “belonging moments” for yourself and your teams (Pat Wadors, the Chief Human Resources officer for LinkedIn mentioned this (#DIBs) in her PBWC speech).
- “Exposure” activities are great chances to openly recognize others for the value they bring to the activity on which you both worked, and to advocate for them.
- These activities can also help to promote your project/initiative in-person by allowing you to put into practice your elevator pitch on the topic.
- Mentoring, reverse mentoring or participating in a shadowing program are all great ways to create a network, and to learn from observing, engaging and sharing of ideas/best practices.
- Being part of a local “Lean In” group or inter-company women’s networking forum can contribute both to your own growth and the development of talent of women around you.
Besides the traditional ways to earn degrees and diplomas, there are so many other innovative ways women with careers can continue to satisfy their need for learning by:
- Signing up for the Learning & Development alerts from your company so you can access courses /training to enhance your skills or obtain a certification.
- Making a habit of reading blogs, books, and articles, plus signing up for email alerts that send you top-reads in your specific industry or on leadership topics.
- Offering to teach/co-teach a subject to new hires or a cross-functional team (because, as the saying goes, when one teaches, two learn!).
- Going to leadership seminars, industry conference or workshops to learn specific technical, professional or soft skills that you want to build.
- Leverage social media to your learning advantage — be it joining LinkedIn groups, following thought leaders on Twitter, commenting on blogs that resonate with you, or simply engaging in social media campaigns aligned to your values.