Professional Development

Whatever industry you’re in, there’s bound to be one thing you can count on: change. Things never remain constant. Managers come and go. Policies change. Companies are acquired and integrated. Technologies change. Change is inevitable, but the important part is how you react to it. There are some things you rail against and rally the troops, and some things you must simply embrace the best you can.

Advocate for your professional advancement. Strive to grow and learn, regardless of your tenure. Rarely are these opportunities given to you; you have to seek them out! Employers are happy to learn that their employees are thirsty for more knowledge, as it can only benefit them in the long run. They’ll have a more satisfied employee and you’ll gain new skills you can apply on the job. Opportunities abound, so look around and see what you are interested in!

Want to continue to make yourself marketable, year after year? Keep an eye on what’s happening in your industry and evolve along with it. Here are some ideas for keeping up with what’s going on in your industry. This list is somewhat tailored for a technical background, but you can adapt it for your specialty:

Higher Education Learning Libraries

Many colleges and universities also offer courses online. You can find courses in the iTunes U library, and a quick Google search unearths online curriculum at Michigan, Toronto, Princeton, Berkeley and more.

Commercial Learning Libraries

Check out Lynda.com, Treehouse and Codecademy. And there’s likely many more that’ll be perfect for what you need.

Twitter

Seek out thought leaders in your field. If you’re into web design and development, for example, you’ll find a lot of the thought leaders on twitter. Reading what they publish will help keep your finger on the pulse of the industry. Plus, you can share your own material and establish a reputation. Twitter is a great community for that!

Podcasts

There are likely many podcasting series in your industry that you can subscribe to. These are great for getting inside the heads of industry thought leaders. You can get a good sense of where you should focus your ongoing professional development efforts. If you have a commute, this is a fantastic way to pass the time. As someone who already works remotely, you can consume podcasts when you’re cooking, cleaning, driving or exercising.

Industry Publications

Printed material may be going the way of the dinosaur, but the industry press will continue to churn out wonderful material in the form of online articles and emails. Subscribe to these and you’ll never want for something to read. You can pay for a subscription to Texture, which gives you access to current and back editions of many traditional magazines for a low monthly cost. It’s quite amazing to search across traditionally printed publications to research a topic. Also, your local library may support free magazine access through RBDigital.

Conferences and Meetups

What opportunities are there to attend an industry conference? You may need to travel to attend, but it’s worth it to hear directly from speakers and mingle with like-minded guests. If you cannot attend, some conferences post some of their material online. Try a Meetup, too: they’re smaller local gatherings of people focusing on a specific topic. They’re also a great way to meet people, build your local network and reinforce your industry knowledge.

Independent Projects

Do you want to learn a new language, or have an idea you’ve been itching to try? Build it yourself. Personal projects may not make you wealthy financially, but they’ll teach you something. With some of the resources in learning libraries above, you’ll have the skills to learn something new along the way, too.

What are employers looking for, anyway?

Focus on being a lifelong learner and expose yourself to different projects and challenges. Continuous learning will inform your contributions to your current job and also position you to interview well for a new job if and when the time comes. That’s what employers want to see, by the way. Tools are important, yes! You don’t see job openings for rock-solid recursion specialists, but you do see them for rock-star Ruby developers. You’ll be ahead of the pack if you can demonstrate that you’re a quick study. Can you think on your feet? Do you know how to use your resources to solve problems? Can you learn on the job? That’s what will set you apart.

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