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Step up professional development to combat economy woes
SaiCareers.com, Nimish Thakkar, Career Coach

Recently, I coached Nick Smith, a fascinating client, in fact, one of the most intelligent professionals I have ever met. Yet, despite the abundance of natural talent, Nick was unemployed for a very long time. After a series of setbacks, he knew something was wrong but couldn’t debunk the “mystery cause” that was foiling his career goals repeatedly.

During one of our coaching sessions, we finally hit the life-changing eureka moment, not just for Smith, but for the many who are guilty of the same professional gaffe: knowledge stagnation. In his career spanning over two decades, Nick had paid very little attention to his professional skills and expertise. He was so focused on the work he was doing, he rarely paid attention to the changes that were shaking the very foundations of his chosen profession. This bitter truth came to his attention much after his long-time employer closed operations.

Nick decided to take charge and embarked on an ambitious upgrade strategy. Not only did he acquire new skills (including leadership skills), he also learnt new software and technologies that were important to his industry. He is now gainfully employed as a CFO.

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Jerry was a market research analyst with a promising biotech company. Despite making stellar contributions, he was being outpaced when it came to promotions and appraisals. What was missing? In the few years he had been with the company, he had not taken adequate measures to advance professionally. The tools and techniques he had acquired were quickly becoming obsolete.

On realizing this, Jerry teamed with his superiors to develop an on-the-job training strategy that included mentorship, one-on-one collaboration with superiors, and an executive MBA program. Within a very short time, he found a six-figure position at a globally-recognized biotech company.

Envision the future -- think growth, think cutting-edge

Avid business readers may be aware of the case of the word processor giant. The company had invested billions of dollars to invent and manufacture its word processing product, but made the fatal mistake of not envisioning the impact of personal computers. Much to the manufacturer’s disappointment, the product was rendered obsolete when PCs became accessible to common consumers.

In my experience, an average executive works with the same employer for at least four years. The timeframe, when combined with a fast-paced work environment, is sufficient to cause even the savviest executive to slow down on knowledge acquisition.

It is very important that you take charge of your career, not your employer. Set aside a professional development budget and ask yourself: “Where is my profession headed? What competencies will be in demand a few years from now? What position do I want to be in a few years from now? What proficiencies would that position require? How can I give more value to my present and future employers?”

These and similar questions will help you identify the gap between where you are and where you need to be. Create a comprehensive skills acquisition plan (short- and long-term) to close this gap.

The tools

Professional advancement need not be restricted to just training programs or a graduate degree. There are many avenues to steer professional growth. Books, e-groups, newsletters, professional associations, conferences, seminars, webinars, networking events, literature -- development opportunities exist in abundance.

In this Information Age, knowledge becomes outdated faster than fashion. Thinking ahead is the ideal way to build a successful career, and the best hedge against uncertainty.

Related Articles:
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How to Make your Case for a Promotion
Winning the career war
Career Growth: Strategies For Achieving Career Success
Grow Your Network: Strategies To Expand Your Contact List
Telecommute jobs


Nimish Thakkar is a sought-after certified career management coach. He has helped thousands of clients, including professionals at Fortune 500 companies, through cutting-edge career management tools. Thakkar has authored hundreds of articles and is regularly invited to speak on a wide range of career-related issues. Nimish edits and manages a free career information site, SaiCareers.com, and is the CEO of a professional resume writing service, ResumeCorner.com.


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