The importance of professional development at You, Inc.

You are your own business and brand. Develop it.

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Previously, I talked about why it’s important to have a plan, just in case things go awry with your job situation or to make yourself more valuable to your current employer.  But, let’s leave that concern to the side for the moment and focus on you.  What do you want to be when you grow up?

To some, it might sound silly to ask a person over the age of 40 this question but, honestly, how many of us actually planned for the careers we have?  For example, I’ll share my story.  I have always been fascinated by computers and even went to college with the intent to major in Computer Science.  I never took a single course in my proposed major and gave up after running into the Calculus professor from hell.  I ended up graduating with a B.A. in Psychology.

However, by the time I graduated, I had come to realize that an undergraduate psychology degree wasn’t going to get me far. Also, a career in the field didn’t really interest me. For the next few years following graduation, I ended up in a string of jobs I didn’t like. I tried clerical work, customer service and even briefly tried selling promotional cards for what could only be called a somewhat questionable marketing company.  However, it all felt like a dead-end.  Given the jobs I had back then, they made me wonder why I had even bothered to go to college in the first place.

Still, my love for computers and technology never went away.  It was the mid-1990’s and, by then, I had learned to take apart and reassemble computers. I had even learned some HTML to create some basic web pages.  I decided it was time to make a change.  I went to the job I hated during the day and spent my evenings, and many late nights, teaching myself how to program.  I can’t tell you how many times I went to the discount book store in my area and loaded up on any computer-related book that interested me.  By doing this, I was able to take over the maintenance of the company’s website for a while.  I left that company after two years and was able to find a job that gave me more IT exposure and continued to learn in my spare time.  A year and a half later, I started an IT consulting job that allowed me to immediately earn a 50% salary increase.

To make a long story longer, over the years, I’ve been able to leverage my independent learning to create opportunities for myself.

Many years ago, I heard a speaker say to treat yourself like a business.  “You, Inc.”, so to speak.  As such, you are responsible for the professional development of its star employee: you.  As I have stated before, an employer will likely only offer opportunities that they find meaningful to their business.  It’s only common-sense, right?  So, you have exercise similar pragmatism for You, Inc.  This means developing a plan for what You, Inc. is and training and developing its staff in alignment with those goals.

I believe that learning isn’t something you see as having an end.  If you have a desire to achieve, age is irrelevant.  The true question is will you make the investment in yourself to reach your objective.  Maybe that means taking some college courses.  Maybe it means going for that certification.  Maybe it means actually hitting the books or doing the research needed to find out what it takes to get your great idea to market. Regardless of what it is, You, Inc. is going to have to do what is needed to make sure that its team has all the necessary tools to take it to the next level.

Don’t just take my word for it, though.  Check out this video about the importance of taking control one one’s personal development.

Written by JP Smith

A self-proclaimed "technologist...with attitude", I'm a forty-something husband, father and IT professional/enthusiast. I believe that learning and growth are lifelong endeavors.