How to Create Space for Professional Growth

How to Create Space for Professional Growth
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How to Create Space for Professional Growth
Are you too busy at work to set aside time to learn and grow?  Are you addicted to being busy?  Is your calendar full of back-to-back meetings?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may need to figure out how to create space for professional growth.

Talent management experts know that the ability to create space for professional growth and development is about opportunity. It allows you to slow down and be thoughtful about the value and impact you want to have and then focus on the questions, ideas, and opportunities to truly challenge yourself.  Unlocking your full potential and impact begins with adopting a “growth mindset” over a “fixed mindset.”

The Top Excuses That Make It Hard to Create Space for Professional Growth
We know form our organizational culture assessment data that professional growth and development can often take a back seat to daily pressures.  Employees tell us that making the time for professional growth and development is hard when there are:

  • “I Don’t Have the Time.”
    When the urgency of short-term performance pressure is more important than career growth and development, it is difficult to invest time in learning at work. Without designated and protected time to learn, immediate job responsibilities often take precedence.
  • “I’m Not Sure How It Would Help Me.”
    This is a two-part problem. The first is one of relevance.  If learning solutions are not relevant to the participant, their boss, and the organization as whole, it is hard to justify the time and effort.  The second relates to unclear career paths.  At many companies today, it is difficult for employees to decipher how to move up or along the career ladder or lattice. When employees are unaware of the possibilities within your organization and what it takes to earn them, the motivation to engage in learning activities decreases.
  • “The Company Does Not Value Learning and Development.”
    We know from our organizational culture assessment data that employees want to see professional growth and career development opportunities from their employer. When employees do not see a genuine commitment from the company to develop employees, they feel that learning is not a priority and eventually become disengaged.

Think You Can’t Create Space for Professional Growth? Think Again.
Making space to reflect, think, and learn is a choice — at the individual, team, and organizational levels. The most impactful people take advantage of that space to brainstorm new ideas or work on things outside their normal job scope.

At a company level, Google’s famous 20% rule allows employees to spend 20% of their work time on projects that interest them, but which may not necessarily fall within their regular job duties. At a team level, my old boss used to devote one-third of every leadership team meeting to learning and discussing something new.  At an individual level, most of us have some discretionary time in our day.

The question is how you protect and use it.

The Top 10 Ways to Create Space for Professional Growth
Making space to learn and grow can simply start with the gaps in your calendar between meetings and other planned activities. We often fill that time by replying to emails, making phone calls, or doing something far more distracting like LinkedIn or Facebook.  Impactful leaders make space to connect with their creativity, grow in the areas they are passionate about, and think about things differently.

  1. Set Clear Goals
    The first step in creating space for professional growth is setting clear and meaningful growth goals. Define what you want to learn and why in both the short- and long-term. This is an important first step because specific goals are shown to provide increased direction and motivation.

    What are two or three things you are committed to doing during the next 90-days to make space for your growth and development?

  2. Prioritize Learning and Development
    Allocate time each week for specific learning activities. This could include reading industry journals, taking online courses, attending conferences, or enrolling in customized training programs. The goal is to keep up with the latest trends and advancements in your field.

    At a minimum, find some small pockets of time in your daily or weekly schedule to dedicate to your growth and development.  You may need to get creative. For example, can you spend time during your commute reflecting on specific goals and habits you’re trying to build? Or do you have 10 extra minutes at the end of each day to quickly capture lessons learned from the day?

  3. Seek Feedback and Act on It
    Constructive feedback is a powerful tool for self-improvement. Regularly seek 360-degree feedback from colleagues, supervisors, and mentors. Understand your strengths and areas for improvement. Acting upon feedback demonstrates a high commitment to growth and improvement.

    What signals can you notice that will be a good indication of the progress you are making, either individually or as a team?

  4. Network Actively and Consistently
    Building a strong professional network (inside and outside your company) helps to open doors to new opportunities and insights. Attend industry events, join professional associations, and connect with peers. Strive to stay informed about industry developments and find forums that allow you to share ideas and learn from others’ experiences.
  5. Seek and Embrace Challenges
    To grow, you need to challenge your own assumptions, try new things, fail, and, most importantly, learn. Taking on challenging stretch assignments and responsibilities is a powerful way to grow professionally. Whenever possible, get out of your comfort zone and volunteer for tasks that demonstrate your willingness to learn, adapt, and grow.
  6. Manage Time Effectively
    Effective time management is crucial for creating space for professional growth. Collaborate with your boss to prioritize tasks that contribute to your development and eliminate or delegate non-essential activities. Use time-blocking to allocate specific periods for learning, networking, and skill development.
  7. Reflect and Connect
    Similar to a project postmortem, regularly reflect (at least 1 hour per week) on your progress and connect lessons learned to your next actions as needed. Explicitly set aside enough time to thoughtfully review your goals, assess what is working, and identify areas that need adjustment. Honest reflection promotes self-awareness, increases resiliency, and improves your chances to reach your full potential.

    Think about what continued growth looks, sounds, and feels like for you and your team if you are making progress.

  8. Invest in Coaching
    Coaching is a powerful way to improve self-awareness, learning, and growth. An experienced coach or mentor can provide timely guidance, share relevant experiences, and offer targeted insights. Whenever possible, seek out those who have “been there and done that” so that you can learn from their successes and failures. Look for candid feedback and new perspectives.
  9. Leverage Technology
    Use technology and productivity apps to help you get to where you want to go. Take advantage of online courses, webinars, microlearning, and professional networks that facilitate learning and development. Many companies provide online learning libraries with learning resources.
  10. Balance Work and Personal Life
    Creating space for professional growth does not mean creating an unhealthy work-life balance. Employee burnout is real and can hinder the ability to learn and develop. Set appropriate boundaries by making sure that you allocate time for rest, hobbies, and family.

The Bottom Line
Making space for growth and development allows you to recalibrate, create a plan, and act on areas of opportunity that matter most. Creating the space to accelerate your growth involves goal clarity, proactive planning, and a commitment to continuous improvement. Are you ready to embrace the challenge?

To learn more increasing your skills, download the Top 10 Training Best Practices for Effective Learning

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