Develop Yourself: Three Ways to Make Your Experience Count

Every day you solve problems, deal with people issues, meet customer challenges, and plan for what’s next. We often function in a no-time-to do-it environment when it comes to reflecting on what we’re learning and the meaning of our experience. Yet our ongoing professional development depends on our awareness of what we’re accomplishing every day. Here are three ways to wrestle more meaning from your experience:

Track Your Progress
Take stock of what you’ve done in the last three months or six months. What do you consider to be your signature accomplishments during that time? What actions did you take and how did it turn out? From those activities and accomplishments, what have been your biggest takeaways? If you can take some time very quarter or at least twice a year to document and track your experiences in this fashion, you’ll be better able to look for ongoing experiences that will stretch you, while applying the lessons you’ve learned from recent experience. This also makes it easier for you to get a handle on your strengths and gain insight into whether you’re using your best talents. It can help identify other experiences you may need to be fully engaged in doing your best work, or to stretch yourself to learn new skills.

Mentoring matters
Learning from others is an essential element of professional development. You may not have a formal mentor, but those who can mentor you are everywhere. Seek out daily doses of mentoring. Look for those moments every day when you have the opportunity to learn a lesson, receive feedback, or just listen. Mentors can accelerate your learning, build your confidence, and broaden your network. Don’t wait for mentors to come forward; you may need to seek them out.

Formal learning
What formal learning can you benefit from that will best support your current responsibilities? From webinars to reading, conferences and seminars, is there some formal learning that will enhance what you’re currently doing? Don’t hesitate to talk this through with your manager; often they are too busy to be able to focus on this, and you know your development needs more than anyone. Often managers welcome the initiative an employee demonstrates when they offer ideas for more formal learning. You may want to take a project management course, and in discussion your manager may offer that a front-line supervisory course at this stage may be the better route to helping you develop the skills you need now. Be open to those suggestions and follow up with information, and action.

Above all, make time to do this in an intentional way. It’s a lost opportunity when a talented individual misses out on the next learning opportunity because they weren’t thinking about what experiences or people could help them further develop. Or when they miss the opportunity to have a conversation with a potential mentor who may be able to offer invaluable guidance at the right time. The more aware you are about making your experience count, the more growth and development you’ll have within your current role.