I am working as an architectural designer with a local residential firm. I cannot believe how quickly the field is changing. For example, we are phasing out AutoCAD and are required to start learning a new software package called Revit. My boss told me that it is important that I continue to keep my skills updated as well as be informed as to the competition out there in this field. Often he has asked me specifically to research other similar firms and the projects that they are doing when he is submitting a proposal for a job.
How do I continue to keep current in this field?
Signed: Keeping Current
Dear Keeping Current,
One of my favourite sources of advice on keeping up-to-date in your profession is on mindtools.com. Whether you are working or not, as a professional it is critical that you ensure that you have as much knowledge, subject matter expertise and information as possible on your sector and your career. With our highly competitive, and knowledge-based economy which is rapidly changing and unpredictable, I believe it is an essential part of your job to keep updated in your field. It is also your responsibility. No one will do this for you. According to this website, “If we don’t keep up with news and trends, we can miss key opportunities and can be caught unawares. That’s why, for some of us, it’s important to keep-in-touch with news and trends in our industries.”
The following are excellent ways to keep current, as recommended by Mindtool:
Sources of Information.
To keep up with news and developments in your industry and labour market trends, the first thing to do is identify the best sources of information. Some traditional and online sources can include finding an occupational-specific mentor, or joining a trade organization or industry association. Keep informed by signing up for online newsletters, blogs and publications. Make contacts and find out what is happening in your field by attending networking and educational meetings and conferences. Often these events are costly; consider getting in by attending as a volunteer by contacting the organizers. You could also contact one of the exhibitors to see if they need any help in the booth (paid or unpaid – I’ll leave it to you to decide).
Networking in Person.
Job fairs, career expos, industry trade shows and conferences are excellent forums to network and learn about the competitors, new products and industry trends. Nothing beats the face-to-face networking to stay on top of industry news and innovations. Sometimes, the professional relationship can even turn into a friendship. There is a wide variety of people with whom you can meet and connect. From people who are in your industry to suppliers, vendors, customers and professionals working in related fields.
Leveraging Social Media tools.
Blogging is a highly respected form of communications, marketing and public relations. The bloggers often provide excellent information and tips for your profession (and a wealth of wisdom for many of my posts!). Do a web search for keywords that are commonly used in your industry. Locate well-written blogs relevant to your field and job. You can also sign up to receive posts through RSS, or subscribe to the bloggers’ Twitter profiles. You can also find top blogs by using Technorati, a well-respected blog ranking service. Twitter is a great tool to locate people in your industry who are in-the-know, by searching Twitter for relevant keywords. (You may get more out of Twitter if you start a dialogue with those who you’re following.) LinkedIn is my all-time favourite way to connect with professionals, groups and industry leaders. You can join industry-specific groups, and get the latest updates from individuals and organizations. You can create your own group if you don’t find what you need or like in the current tool. Google Alerts notifies you when resources featuring certain words are indexed by Google’s search engine. In your case, as an architectural designer, you might want to get notified about articles containing the words “AutoCAD,” or the names of other architects, their companies and competitors.
Talking with other professionals in your industry can help you network and grow your skills. Membership sites, online webinars and discussion forums can be full of insider-information tailored around specific topics or industries. Most useful forums are on community websites, and you may need to pay a subscription to access these.
There is an overwhelming amount of information that you can gather and learn from as mentioned above. As you are working full-time and, I am sure, have countless other commitments, you will need to schedule time to keep up-to-date. But it’s important to create time in your day to devote to staying current. Some good times might be over your lunch break or during a “low-energy” period of the day. Dedicate time before work during your commute to and from work. Consider listening to podcasts or audiobooks while you are driving, taking public transportation, walking or at the gym working out. If you take a train or bus, you could read blog posts or industry magazines during your ride.
Keep in mind that you do not need to know everything. There is always new knowledge to learn and use in your work, and even share with your boss and colleagues. The most important thing is to be a lifelong learner and be open to creativity and innovation.