Professional Development is Your Project

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The problem with high school is that there’s a lot of people telling you what to do, where to be, and how you need to complete x,y and z in order to get your diploma.

Then in university or college you’ve got a little more freedom to decide how and when you do things, but you still have to meet the prerequisites to graduate, and do more schooling, or become a whatever and by then you’ll have totally figured out how to do things for yourself, right?

Unfortunately, I’ve found this isn’t always the case. Sure, each workplace has a certain set of rules you have to follow, and most jobs have a job description that you have to adhere to. But your job is just you job; your workplace is just where you work. That is, for now. Who helps you to decide when it’s time to move on? Who tells you what to do to gain upward mobility in your company? What the prerequisites for getting promotions? For changing careers? For scaling back?

For some, knowing that your career has the ability to head in whatever direction you want is really freeing. Others might be totally cool with finding a good position and sticking with it, providing it meets their lifestyle needs. If you’re one the latter, congratulations- it sounds like you’re already in the place that you need to be.

I think most of us meet somewhere in the middle (myself included). We crave the autonomy to make our own decisions about when, where and what we work at (exciting!); at the same time, we wish there was someone to guide us where we need to go otherwise how else do we find our way of getting there? (Scary!)

It’s kind of brutal, but it’s the truth: professional development is your project.

Don’t panic; it’s actually pretty liberating. Does it require a certain amount of discipline and motivation on your part? Totally. But you’re in change of when, where and how you want to develop yourself professionally.

The most exciting (and challenging) part is deciding the what:

  • What skills do you want to acquire?
  • Which skills do you want to improve?
  • What contacts do you want to make?
  • What experience do you want to gain?
  • What do you want to get certified in?
  • What do you want to learn?

Once you’ve figured out the what, the how comes so much easier: take a workshop, join a club, go back to school, audit a class, attend a conference, get a membership, volunteer, shadow a mentor.

And read, read, read: books related to finding your ideal career or better yet, find the biography of someone who has achieved success at what you want to do. Read magazines, newspapers, blogs and other industry publications to keep your knowledge current.

You may want to map out what of some of these steps look like on a long-term scale. What are some of your goals? What do you want to accomplish? Where do you want to go? Where do you want to end up?

Or maybe you’ve already found yourself in a good place career-wise and you’re looking to keep the momentum going. Your professional development projects might be more along the lines of expanding your target market, developing a new product, or re-branding your company.

It doesn’t matter if you’re looking to change it up, or hate challenging the status quo: professional development is definitely a project we have to take on ourselves. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. In a way careers can mimic- they can be ebb and flow and take us to destinations that we never thought were possible.

The beauty of it, is that you have the freedom to choose how you’ll navigate that flow, and hopefully you’ll end up somewhere wonderful.

At the very least, I hope you enjoy the ride.

KBwB-BFlower-50What are some of the professional skills that you’ve been working on? Share your trials and tribulations below, or email me at keepingbusyb@gmail.com.

For more advice on navigating careers and the workplace, click here.

Operation Crisis Management: How to Work When You’re Sick

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Before you read this post, please note that I am not a medical professional of any kind. You should always check with your healthcare provider before taking any medical advice!

No matter where we come from, what we do for a living and how much money we make, we are all bound to get sick at one point in time or another. I see it often enough where I work- no one is impervious to germs, and if you are, well this post is not for you. (But please let us in on your secret.)

For those of who do get sick from time to time we know what a drag it can be, not just because you’re not feeling physically well, but also because of the havoc it can wreak in your life. The kids still need feeding, the laundry still needs doing and unfortunately the bills still need to get paid so many of us find ourselves still working- in a personal or professional capacity- even through we’re still ill.

It can be tempting to jump right back into things at the thought of all the backlog that awaits your return, but if you’re able to do it, try to take as much time off as you need. Remember that asymptomatic people can sometimes still be contagious, so it’s always a good idea to consult with a doctor about returning to work safely.

If you do get time off, treat it as a gift- an opportunity to pamper yourself and recover. Workaholics take note: taking care of yourself is more about getting rest and plenty of fluids, not catching up on your paperwork. The body needs time to recuperate.

Of course it’s not always possible to take a lot of downtime for yourself when you’re feeling under the weather. If your employer is flexible, you might be able to negotiate a slower return to work, or make up extra hours from home. Even if you have to face reality a little sooner than you’d like, it’s a wise idea to take things slow and be kind to yourself– you’re not going to be the most alert, clever or productive employee when you’re not feeling your best. That’s ok.

If you’re lucky you have caring and supportive friends, family and co-workers that can come to your rescue during your time of need. They may not be able to wave a magic wand to make you feel better, but you’d be surprised how much a helping hand can boost your spirits, even if those helping hands are only doing a load of dishes.

Help people to help you by letting them know about what’s going on with you. Keep the lines of communication open and let everyone know when you expect to be back at work, and how they can help facilitate your transition back at the office. Remember that you’re not the only one that could be inconvenienced by your illness so make sure the appropriate people have the necessary information to cover for you, or continue a project in your absence.

It’s no fun being sick, but there’s no reason it should turn into a complete crisis. If you’re prepared, and you make sure you’re covered at work, the only thing you have to focus on is getting better.

And I really hope you do feel better soon.

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Are you feeling run down or sick all the time? It could be experiencing burnout. Click here for more solutions on how to achieve a healthier work/life balance here.

Book Review: Timothy Ferris on Scrunching Your Schedule

KBB_Book_Review_TimothyFerrisPeople are often surprised to find out that in addition to my freelancing career, I work part-time as an office administrator at a local family practice. It isn’t easy trying to balance a regular job between freelancing clients but I have to admit that one of the ways that I’ve achieved this is through Timothy Ferris’ technique that I like to call “schedule-scrunching”, as outlined in his bestselling book The Four-Hour Work Week.

Scrunching your schedule isn’t necessarily about sacrificing certain key elements of your workflow- for instance; it would be impossible for someone in a service-based business like my own to cut down on time spent with clients. Instead, making extra time during your work week depends on 1) figuring out which tasks can be streamlined or delegated; and 2) maximizing your schedule for efficiency by grouping together tasks.

Ferris sounds like he leads a pretty wild lifestyle- he dances competitively and travels the world- and he claims that his methodology presented in The Four Hour Work Week has allowed him the time and flexibility to pursue his passions. I’m a little skeptical about the feasibility of running a business using only a weekly four-hour marathon work session, but it’s definitely an attractive idea.

When applying this to my own schedule, I tried to make the most of the days when I work half-day shifts by scheduling client meetings or other appointments during the portion of the day I’m free. It means that for a few days every week I’m working my butt off but the payoff of building a couple of flex days into my schedule has allowed me the freedom to take on new clients, keep on top of housework, and develop personal projects.

For those of you who haven’t totally bought into the hype, there’s still lots of interesting tidbits on how to automate your business, on which tasks to delegate and how, and the most interesting of all (to the budget-obsessed like me), Ferris offers lots of different suggestions on how to cultivate the lifestyle that best suits you for as cheaply as possible. He covers everything from cutting down on business costs to finding cheap airfare so you can too make that dance competition on another continent.

As for me? I’m taking Timothy Ferris’ suggestions to heart, but I’m sticking to armchair travel for now.

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Psst- wanna see which books have previously graced my bookshelves? Click here. Want even more fun reading recommendations? I’ve got some for you here. Don’t forget to find me on Goodreads so we can snoop each other’s bookshelves and dish about our favourites.