Never Stop Learning

Image courtesy of Picjumbo

Image courtesy of Picjumbo

“The quickest way to become an old dog is to stop learning new tricks.”

You’d be hard pressed to find more useful career advice than this John Rooney quote. We all have things we’re good at – that’s how we got hired in the first place – but in my career, I’ve found that people who venture out of their comfort zone and show a willingness to learn something new typically enjoy more rewarding careers with more frequent raises and promotions than those who refuse to grow and adapt.

Of course, saying you’ll try something new is a lot less intimidating than actually trying something new, but here are three ways to make career development a priority.

1. Identify needs and volunteer to fill them.
After graduating college with a journalism degree, I took a sportswriting job with a startup web company. When opportunities arose to expand my role to include graphic design and web development, I jumped at the chance. I’d never used Photoshop and didn’t know a thing about HTML but my lack of knowledge didn’t prevent me from acquiring the knowledge. And eventually, I learned that I enjoyed design and development more than writing.

What needs does your company have that you could fill? Maybe you don’t have the necessary skills right now to take on those responsibilities, but I bet it wouldn’t take long to pick up those skills with some on-the-job training. And who knows, you may uncover a new passion to pursue.

2. Identify areas of weakness and work to strengthen them.
Several years later, I found myself in a career transition. Realizing I needed to improve some skills in order to find the designer job I hoped to land, I sought projects that would force me to utilize those particular skills. Not only did this make me a better-rounded designer, but it also helped me hone in on specific areas in which I typically excel.

Where do you need to improve? Are there aspects of your job that you could (or maybe should) be doing better? Would improving in these areas lead to new career opportunities? Take inventory of your skillset and commit to strengthening your weaknesses.

3. Identify new opportunities and position yourself to pursue them.
Once I knew the type of job I wanted and worked to improve in a few key areas, I was able to more effectively craft my résumé and portfolio to target positions that best fit my skills and interests. This deliberate process helped a journalism major land a position as Proforma’s newest graphic designer.

What opportunities should you pursue? Maybe there’s a promotion with your name on it; show your boss why you’re the perfect candidate. Or perhaps it’s time to look elsewhere for a new challenge. Figure out your next career step and then track down opportunities that will fulfill that vision.

Of course, career development looks different for everyone, but the process can be similar for anyone. The internet obviously is here to stay, making web design a particularly fertile ground for career development, but no matter what your current job title says you do for a living, you’re just a couple new tricks away from the next chapter in your career.

Looking for tools and resources to get your career development groove on? Try these:
Open Education Database (
Online learning sites for entrepreneurs (
National Career Development Association (
It’s never too late to become a web developer (SkilledUp)
Online coding classes (

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