Lots of people talk about how important it is to continue developing your skills and knowledge throughout your career, but you hear a lot less about how to do that effectively. Given that there are an infinite number of things out there you *could* learn, what *should* you learn next?

There isn’t a single right answer for everyone. Nor is there a single answer that’s always going to be right for each person throughout their career. To help you reflect on your own journey, I’m going to offer three strategies for thinking about your professional development in a series of posts.

Strategy #1: Attack Your Weaknesses

The first option is to think about professional development as a tool for attacking your weaknesses – improving your ability to do things you don’t do well or filling gaps in your knowledge about important topics.

Everyone hates that old job interview chestnut, “What are your biggest weaknesses?” I can still make myself nervous thinking about having to answer it – but this is a safe space; we can all admit that we have plenty of “areas for improvement” that we would benefit from working on.

When I got my first job out of graduate school, for example, I had never organized a meeting, been in charge of a project, or used a daily calendar to keep track of my schedule. Since my job consisted of convening and running dozens of meetings a month and keeping multiple projects on the rails, this was a massive weakness I had to correct immediately. I’ll always be grateful for Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits training for helping me avoid drowning the first year of my employed existence!

Some organizations assume they need to teach you everything about your job, but in most cases, especially as you progress through your career, your bosses will expect that you either already know what you need to know or will learn it on the fly. For most of us, that means figuring out what it is we don’t know and filling the gaps on our own steam.

In theory it’s never a terrible idea to get better at things, but attacking your weaknesses is a particularly good approach when:

  • Your ability to do your current job is jeopardized by the lack of a particular skill
  • Improving a specific weakness would significantly improve your performance
  • You can’t get the job you want without developing a new skill or acquiring new knowledge

Until next time it would be great if you can share how you’ve worked to shore up your weaknesses and how you’re thinking about professional development these days. And if you’ve got a successful strategy to share I’d love to hear about it.

In tomorrow’s post I’ll talk about the second strategy – extending your expertise. Or, if you can’t wait, complete the form below to get the full text of Three Strategies for Thinking about Your Professional Development.

(read part 2 and part 3 of the series)

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