3 Steps To Find Your Next Job Using Your Current Job
Learn "On the Job"
Dedicated professionals continually struggle to keep up with the latest technology, while also meeting their many obligations at work. This apparent conflict leads to the question, “Is it possible to learn new skills and technology at the same time as fulfilling the daily job requirements?”
The answer to this is a resounding “Yes.” The high-tech employee can learn new skills without compromising the service to the firm. In fact, these skills can often be learned while improving the service provided to the firm.
Here's How it Works
This technique of “Learning on the Job” is based on implementing three types of behavior:
- Become a good mentor to your colleagues
- Research new ideas and technology
- Write up “lessons learned” from company projects
Note that these recommendations are really part of a “win-win” strategy; the employee is not at all shirking his or her duties. Instead, the employee gains understanding of new technology, while the employer benefits from new ideas that profit the firm. In fact, one could argue that the firm is receiving the better “deal,” because the employer receives this extra benefit without having to pay any training costs!
The first step in this win-win strategy is to become a good mentor. “Transfer of knowledge” is a frequently heard mantra in many corporations today. Companies naturally want a good return on their investment; thus, they want the more knowledgeable workers to help others “come up to speed.”
Surprisingly, mentoring is often viewed as an annoying chore, perhaps of some benefit to the younger worker, but certainly of little value to the mentor. This attitude, however, is a mistake, and causes the senior worker to miss valuable opportunities for professional growth.
What happens during mentoring? When properly conducted, the mentor will solidify their understanding of the subject matter. Mentoring tests the skills of the mentor; these “tests” lead the mentor to “stretch” as they ponder difficult technical details. Thus, a good Java programmer will naturally become a better Java programmer, and a good DBA will naturally become a better DBA.
These results naturally follow, because of a long-understood principle:
The teacher always learns more than the student.
Thus, instead of shying away from mentoring assignments, the wise employee will volunteer to assist peers with new technology. Conversely, one should be open to asking questions and learning from more experienced “mentors.”
Research New Ideas
The second step in this career-growth strategy is to become a good researcher. All companies want to use the best technology to meet their goals as efficiently as possible. This corporate goal meshes perfectly with our individual goal of learning new ideas. After all, someone needs to take the initiative to investigate the new technology—whether a new software language, new application, or new hardware.
Many in the firm will avoid branching out and researching new ideas. These individuals will be stunted in their career growth; after all, little is learned from solving the easy, routine problems. On the other hand, employees willing to tackle new technology will gain a reputation as the “go-to” person in the company. These wise individuals are not just “lucky;” rather, they have made the effort to go outside their “comfort zone” and take the initiative.
How to Become an Expert?
As a practical matter, what are some ways to “become the expert?” Here are a few suggestions:
Try to reserve time for creative brainstorming sessions.
Read user guides. It is amazing how quickly someone becomes “the expert” just because they have read the manual.
Research “white papers” or other articles relevant to the technology at work
Write up “Lessons Learned”
The final step in the “Learning on the Job” strategy is to write-up useful ideas—what we usually call “lessons learned.” While a project is progressing, make a few rough notes of “things that worked” or technology that was of some benefit. Then, at the end of a project, volunteer to document and present these findings.
The effort of producing the document will naturally impart to the writer a greater understanding of the technology. The firm will certainly appreciate your efforts, and once again, everyone benefits. The firm has a permanent record of good project ideas, and the employee becomes more skillful at some new technology.
Besides a simple paper produced just for the project team, this idea can be carried further. The lessons-learned paper can easily be transformed into a more formal “white paper.” This document can then be presented to a wider audience at the firm, published in a journal or even presented at a professional conference. Often, these presentations lead to an exchange of knowledge with like-minded professionals in your field of expertise.
A True “Win-Win” Strategy
By following these three steps: mentoring, researching, and writing, the employee or consultant will enrich their own skills, while simultaneously increasing their value to the firm. None of these steps is difficult, but each requires focus and determination. As a result, the employee achieves greater competence and exposure to new technology, while the employer adds a new “go-to” expert to their staff. And that is a perfect “win-win” situation.