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8 Ways To Keep Your Career Skills Useful And Fresh

8 Ways To Keep Your Career Skills Useful And Fresh

It’s really easy to get behind on the newest trends in your field. Some careers demand constant refreshing due to updates in technology and information, while others evolve more slowly. Identifying how often and how much your career field changes is the easy part, however. Actually keeping up is the hard bit. But never fear! Here are eight ways to keep your skills up to date.

1. Stick with your skill set.

There is a difference between staying with one particular skill set and sticking to an old version of that skill set. Don’t refresh yourself on skills that you don’t really use that often. Identify what you work on specifically and try to stay within that. You’ll want to keep the scope of skills that need updating small. That way, it’s easier to manage.

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2. Make a plan.

You’ll need to make a plan for how to update your skills. With work and everything else going on in your life, it’s important to schedule your refreshers into your routine. Once you’ve scheduled it, you’re more likely to actually get it done.

3. Surround yourself with positive people.

There will always be a group of people at any given job that won’t believe in updating their skills. Some professionals are simply old fashioned and don’t believe their skills need updating. Others choose to forgo refreshers because they think it’s a sign of weakness. Make sure that you surround yourself with people who feel the same way that you do. It’s helpful to have a support system.

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4. Learn by observation.

It’s possible that the people around you might know things that you don’t. Ask others what they’re doing or what they think about a particular problem at work. You might just learn something new without ever having to leave the office. Take advantage of the opportunities around you.

5. Stay focused.

Try not to get distracted by other things at work. It’s hard to keep freshening your skills, so make it as easy on yourself as possible. Don’t attempt to do too many things at once, because that will just leave less attention for each thing on your plate. Pace yourself and focus on one thing at a time. Use your schedule to guide you.

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6. Take classes.

There are a lot of classes available for professionals looking to update and improve their skills. There’s no shame in needing a little extra guidance. Plus, classes are great because you’re guaranteed feedback from the instructor. That way, you know you’re on the right track. If you don’t have enough time to take a full course on the subject, consider signing up for a conference or seminar. You can get a ton of information in just a few days (or only one).

7. Catch up on your news.

Often, trends in different fields make the news. Check up on print and online sources for the newest information in your career field. It’s a great way to quickly learn about new ideas in the area without committing to something long term. It’s also something you can do in your free time or as a leisure activity.

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8. Practice.

If you encounter something new that you’d like to try or research, go for it. Learning by doing is one of the most effective ways you can update your skills. Whether this means testing out a new software, experimenting with a modern management style, or practicing a new piece of music, tailor it to your interests and have fun with it. Just because it’s work, doesn’t mean it has to be…work!

Featured photo credit: Mo Riza via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 16, 2019

7 Powerful Habits To Win In Office Politics

7 Powerful Habits To Win In Office Politics

Office politics – a taboo word for some people. It’s a pervasive thing at the workplace.

In its simplest form, workplace politics is simply about the differences between people at work; differences in opinions, conflicts of interests are often manifested as office politics. It all goes down to human communications and relationships.

There is no need to be afraid of office politics. Top performers are those who have mastered the art of winning in office politics. Below are 7 good habits to help you win at the workplace:

1. Be Aware You Have a Choice

The most common reactions to politics at work are either fight or flight. It’s normal human reaction for survival in the wild, back in the prehistoric days when we were still hunter-gatherers.

Sure, the office is a modern jungle, but it takes more than just instinctive reactions to win in office politics. Instinctive fight reactions will only cause more resistance to whatever you are trying to achieve; while instinctive flight reactions only label you as a pushover that people can easily take for granted. Neither options are appealing for healthy career growth.

Winning requires you to consciously choose your reactions to the situation. Recognize that no matter how bad the circumstances, you have a choice in choosing how you feel and react. So how do you choose? This bring us to the next point…

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2. Know What You Are Trying to Achieve

When conflicts happen, it’s very easy to be sucked into tunnel-vision and focus on immediate differences. That’s a self-defeating approach. Chances are, you’ll only invite more resistance by focusing on differences in people’s positions or opinions.

The way to mitigate this without looking like you’re fighting to emerge as a winner in this conflict is to focus on the business objectives. In the light of what’s best for the business, discuss the pros and cons of each option. Eventually, everyone wants the business to be successful; if the business don’t win, then nobody in the organization wins.

It’s much easier for one to eat the humble pie and back off when they realize the chosen approach is best for the business.

By learning to steer the discussion in this direction, you will learn to disengage from petty differences and position yourself as someone who is interested in getting things done. Your boss will also come to appreciate you as someone who is mature, strategic and can be entrusted with bigger responsibilities.

3. Focus on Your Circle of Influence

At work, there are often issues which we have very little control over. It’s not uncommon to find corporate policies, client demands or boss mandates which affects your personal interests.

Gossiping and complaining are common responses to these events that we cannot control. But think about it, other than that short term emotional outlet, what tangible results do gossiping really accomplish? In most instances, none.

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Instead of feeling victimized and angry about the situation, focus on the things that you can do to influence the situation — your circle of influence. This is a very empowering technique to overcome the feeling of helplessness. It removes the victimized feeling and also allows others to see you as someone who knows how to operate within given constraints.

You may not be able to change or decide on the eventual outcome but, you can walk away knowing that you have done the best within the given circumstances.

Constraints are all around in the workplace; with this approach, your boss will also come to appreciate you as someone who is understanding and positive.

4. Don’t Take Sides

In office politics, it is possible to find yourself stuck in between two power figures who are at odds with each other. You find yourself being thrown around while they try to outwit each other and defend their own position; all at the expense of you getting the job done. You can’t get them to agree on a common decision for a project, and neither of them want to take ownership of issues; they’re too afraid they’ll get stabbed in the back for any mishaps.

In cases like this, focus on the business objectives and don’t take side with either of them – even if you like one better than the other. Place them on a common communication platform and ensure open communications among all parties, so that no one can claim “I didn’t say that”.

By not taking sides, you’ll help to direct conflict resolution in an objective manner. You’ll also build trust with both parties. That’ll help to keep the engagements constructive and focus on business objectives.

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5. Don’t Get Personal

In office politics, you’ll get angry with people. It happens. There will be times when you feel the urge to give that person a piece of your mind and teach him a lesson. Don’t.

People tend to remember moments when they were humiliated or insulted. Even if you win this argument and get to feel really good about it for now, you’ll pay the price later when you need help from this person. What goes around comes around, especially at the workplace.

To win in the office, you’ll want to build a network of allies which you can tap into. The last thing you want during a crisis or an opportunity is to have someone screw you up because they harbor ill-intentions towards you – all because you’d enjoyed a brief moment of emotional outburst at their expense.

Another reason to hold back your temper is your career advancement. Increasingly, organizations are using 360 degree reviews to promote someone. Even if you are a star performer, your boss will have to fight a political uphill battle if other managers or peers see you as someone who is difficult to work with. The last thing you’ll want is to make it difficult for your boss to champion you for a promotion.

6. Seek to Understand, Before Being Understood

The reason people feel unjustified is because they felt misunderstood. Instinctively, we are more interested in getting the others to understand us than to understand them first. Top people managers and business leaders have learned to suppress this urge.

Surprisingly, seeking to understand is a very disarming technique. Once the other party feels that you understand where he/she is coming from, they will feel less defensive and be open to understand you in return. This sets the stage for open communications to arrive at a solution that both parties can accept.

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Trying to arrive at a solution without first having this understanding is very difficult – there’s little trust and too much second-guessing.

7. Think Win-Win

As mentioned upfront, political conflicts happen because of conflicting interests. Perhaps due to our schooling, we are taught that to win, someone else needs to lose. Conversely, we are afraid to let someone else win, because it implies losing for us.

In business and work, that doesn’t have to be the case.

Learn to think in terms of “how can we both win out of this situation?” This requires that you first understand the other party’s perspective and what’s in it for him.

Next, understand what’s in it for you. Strive to seek out a resolution that is acceptable and beneficial to both parties. Doing this will ensure that everyone truly commit to the agreed resolution and will not pay only lip-service to it.

People simply don’t like to lose. You may get away with win-lose tactics once or twice but very soon, you’ll find yourself without allies in the workplace.

Thinking win-win is an enduring strategy that builds allies and help you win in the long term.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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