I have been encouraged by a colleague to keep current by to obtaining a professional designation and participating in professional development training programs that are related to my career. I have not participated in any learning opportunities for many years, due to my time and budget constraints. Also, this is not required by my manager or agency, so I haven’t really made the effort to do so. My colleague warned me that in this unstable and knowledge-based economy it is critical that I keep my skills, experiences and education relevant and up-to-date.
Is there such a situation as having a professional expiry date?
Management consultant and recruitment adviser and columnist for The Guardian, Joe Sherren, agrees with your colleague. He posits that the skills and knowledge of employees and managers do have an expiry date. Sherren explains that “the best before date is determined mainly by how much the individual is willing to invest in his or her own personal development. For people who have not participated in a professional development program in the last 12 months, their expiration is coming soon.” It’s best for employees and job seekers to be constantly upgrading their knowledge and skills; organizations hire for attitude and talent, and then should train staff for skills and knowledge, says Sherren.
A good list of strategies to keep up-to-date in your industry and job skills while unemployment is presented by Dawn Fallik in The Wall Street Journal (which would most definitely work for anyone gainfully employed as well!):
1. Stay connected to industry associations.
Check out your membership rights with trade groups or unions. (If you are out of work, you can often continue your membership for free or at a reduced rate). Subscribe to any source of information by email including newsletters, magazines, newspapers and media reports. Follow them on social media, as well. seek out a mentor from your field. Attend industry-specific or professional conferences. Check out association Web sites and groups on social media sites like Facebook. Often, associations will waive or reduce conference fees for members, or for those who are unemployed. Consider volunteering at such an event.
2. Join local interest groups.
Local organizations like the chamber of commerce provide good networking opportunities and sometimes offer skills classes. Offer to help run the program committee, which sets the agenda for speakers and events. You’ll get a say in who is invited and a chance to network with guests.
3. Take classes or training programs—in person or online.
There are several free online courses like Coursera. Your local library, community centre, employment Ontario centre and relevant non-profit agencies might also have informal learning opportunities in your field. You will probably have to pay for more in-depth formal schooling.
4. Add advanced skills.
Getting a certification can boost your resume. Auditing a high-level class at a local college can improve skills and help you keep up with new developments. Check colleges to see if they offer free or discounted rates for unemployed people, if necessary.
5. Use online sources to increase your knowledge.
Quality information can be founded on blogs. Do a keyword search for commonly used words in your industry. Sign up to receive posts through RSS or subscribe to the bloggers’ Twitter profiles for regular updates. Twitter is another great research tool to find leaders and organizations. Start conversations with those whom you are following. LinkedIn is a great networking tool that I have mentioned in past posts. Karin Lewis, JVS Toronto employment counsellor and editor of this blog, advises that LinkedIn enables you to join industry-specific groups, and get the latest updates from individuals and organizations. Last, but not least, is Google Alerts which notifies you when resources featuring certain words are indexed by Google’s search engine.
6. Consider starting your own blog in your industry.
Start a blog, find five people you always wanted to interview, or offer to write an article for a local publication or industry blog. That way you keep your name out there, make new connections and continue to learn.
Best of success in your career,