By Lyn Turknett
Co-founder and Co-chair, TLG
“Keeping up” – and continuing to learn – is probably my favorite part of any job. I think I come by it honestly. I’ve told the story before of my mother, who was born in 1906 and was in graduate school and working all the time while I was growing up. She was a master of continuous learning just because of her curiosity – she was interested in everything and was a voracious seeker of information and knowledge.
When I was in my early teens she got up every morning at 5:30 to watch a physics program on that new medium – television. I remember rolling my eyes while she tried to explain something she has just learned to my sister and me. It was about tires and friction and mass and we were just trying to get ready for school.
I rolled my eyes then, but I think I got the curiosity gene. I don’t have a professional license, but I’m lucky to be married to someone who does. Bob Turknett, my partner in business and life, is a licensed psychologist, and through the years has had to meet continuing education requirements to maintain his. I’ve gone to most of the conferences and special educational sessions he’s attended – and registered as an attendee.
It’s easier now to keep up but also far too easy to be overwhelmed. That seems especially true in our area of consulting, but I imagine the feeling is universal. I’d like to keep up with management psychology, industrial and organization psychology, thinking in human resources, general business news, technology trends – and more. Far more comes into my inbox than I can possibly read, so I simply scan a lot. I subscribe to Harvard Business Review, BusinessWeek, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlanta Business Chronicle, and lots of newsletters. I also subscribe to a Medium and Pocket feed, and they become better the more you select what you’re interested in reading. Paying special attention to newsletters and people is most helpful – like HR Executive and Josh Bersin in the HR space.
I’ve always found industry associations essential. I’m a member of the Academy of Management, the American Psychological Association, the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, and the Society for Human Resource Management. These give me access to excellent publications, but I read only a tiny portion of what I have access to. I love, though, that online resources and back issues can be searched – for someone who remembers when paper copies and libraries provided the only access, that’s magical.
Also, I learn a lot from other people – especially experts in our fields. I love the Division of Consulting Psych listserv – and I love that many conferences now have a relatively inexpensive virtual option!
Being a Proactive Learner
Bob and I had an Uber driver some years ago – I think 2016 – who was incredibly excited by his company’s recent announcement – by the CEO – that while the company could no longer guarantee a job, they would provide access to continuous learning so that everyone could keep their skills and knowledge up to date. Uber was a side gig for our driver; his full-time job was as an AT&T technician, and his CEO at the time was Randall Stevenson.
Our driver was clearly proactive and committed to continuous learning, but I remember thinking at the time there was more to the story. Our driver was African American, and Randall Stevenson had just sent out an open letter regarding racial tensions calling for courage and dialogue, not simply tolerance. I remember thinking at the time that the “you are responsible for your own career” message goes over much better when top leaders inspire connection and trust.
Seven Ways to Pursue Self-Development
In the continuous learning spirit of our Uber driver, I decided to explore a new technology – ChatGPT – and asked how can employees be more proactive in identifying and independently pursuing their own opportunities for growth. The answers are pretty darn good! Here are a few ways you can pursue self-development.
- Set goals: Start by setting clear and specific goals for your personal and professional development. This will give you direction and focus for your efforts.
- Identify your strengths and weaknesses: Take the time to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses. Knowing your strengths will help you to identify areas where you can excel, and your weaknesses will help you to identify areas where you need to improve.
- Seek feedback: Ask for feedback from your manager, colleagues, and peers to understand your performance and areas for improvement. Use this feedback to identify areas where you can develop your skills and knowledge.
- Take initiative: Don’t wait for your manager or HR to tell you about development opportunities. Take the initiative to identify opportunities that align with your goals and present them to your manager for discussion.
- Network: Build relationships with people in your industry or profession. Attend industry events, join professional organizations, and participate in online communities. Networking can help you to learn about new opportunities and gain insight into what skills and knowledge are in demand.
- Stay current: Keep up to date with trends and developments in your industry. Read industry publications, attend conferences and webinars, and participate in online forums. This will help you to identify new opportunities for growth and stay relevant in your field.
- Be proactive: Take ownership of your growth and development. Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you; actively seek them out and be willing to put in the time and effort required to achieve your goals.