Become the best version of yourself – continuous professional improvement
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
― Nelson Mandela
The one thing that no one can deny nowadays is that things change, and they change fast. The more changes emerge, the faster the next one will come. Undoubtedly, we all have a certain amount of knowledge, but in this ever-changing world, what will happen ‘tomorrow’ to all the knowledge of today?
Most of the time, when a person is asked about the things they have done recently to become a better professional in whatever area they are working in, their go-to answer somehow (very often including myself) would not infrequently be that there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get all the work done and on top of that, educate yourself. ‘’Look, I wanted to read that book, but a report was due, and I just could not manage to get it done or ‘I really wanted to attend that conference, but the client was visiting during that period and there was a lot of prep work to get done!’
Some would say that these are just excuses and that one should always find the time to become a better developer/administrator/QA. However, those who work with tight deliveries, strict deadlines, chaotic clients, and high-pressure positions, in general, know how challenging this can be – not because the person does not want to work on themselves, but because at the end of the day, they just struggle to prioritize education over client deliverables.
I would say that in my experience, the world of Information Technology creates new standards when it comes to the pace of education needed to maintain yourself ‘in the game, so to say. Namely, at all times we see that the emergence of new technological advancements come up rapidly, and if one wishes to move through the ranks or even to just keep themselves in the same position, one just has to learn new things.
The overall impression is that continuous education needs to become a part of the culture for everyone, not just have the awareness that it is important because if you do not do it, then it may affect your job position adversely. Whatever we do in life – be it a doctor, a construction worker, a software developer, or a CEO, we all need to know what is happening out there that is affecting our respective jobs, and more importantly, how we can use those happenings to ameliorate our experiences in general. For example, a doctor must know what the new things and discoveries in medicine are so that they can treat their patients to the best of their abilities and provide the best advice possible; a construction worker must know what is the latest in, let’s say, brick material so that they can build the best possible buildings, etc.
The big question here is what to do if you have not been a part of a culture that praises continuous improvement and education and simply are not accustomed to it. Is there any way you can change that? In my opinion, yes! However, what is needed is, first and foremost, a change of mindset and a change from within. Educating yourself (and sharing knowledge) needs to become a constant in one’s life – the same way you get up in the morning, have coffee every day, and go to work, self-improvement should be a staple of every day. However, this does not come easy for everyone, and this is why when you decide that you really want it to be a paramount aspect of your world, you are changing the overview of your priorities, and that first step is the most important one! It is also very good if you surround yourself with people who will support you in your desire to work on yourself and possibly provide a good example. Sometimes, advancement is just a few clicks away – you can subscribe to a vast number of publishers who offer insightful articles and news all the time, or you can research how to use social networks or platforms for these purposes – for example, many believe that Instagram and Facebook are only for sharing pictures and statuses, but if you learn to customize your feed and follow the right people, there is amazing business content out there! Perhaps the best way to start is with LinkedIn, as it offers great motivational and innovative articles and texts. All in all, to go back to the start – the world is changing. Therefore, becoming a better professional will no longer be a choice you will have to make but a mandatory pre-requisite if you wish to keep up with the ever-changing business world. Education is the only way to make headway, because someone out there is making progress you cannot even imagine and when it hits you, educating yourself is the only way to be prepared. Or even better, why don’t you be the one who will bring about that innovative way of thinking that everyone else will gush about?
In all of this, it is paramount to remember that education does not only boil down to conferences and formalities. Education is largely contained in blogs, books, and most importantly, people. Talk to your peers, compare notes and best practices, brainstorm, and include those who know a lot about a particular topic and also those who know very little about something because they will be able to offer a point of view you did not see before and also stimulate you to think in a different direction. Also, use social media wisely and to your advantage! It is a powerful tool in the hands of those motivated and driven to succeed. But more importantly, don’t keep it just internal – talk to other companies, meet new people (there are many people out there willing to share knowledge), investigate how others are doing it, try new things, connect with your business idols and ask them questions (fingers crossed they will answer), go out and start networking, apply for seminars and conferences, ask the wrong questions, because the right ones take time. When there is a will, there is a way.
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