Apr 10, 2009

Developing Yourself in the Downturn

When the economy slows and organizations are not making profits as much as they used to do (if at all!) then most probably people are not being sent to too many knowledge and learning development programs and seminars.

However as an employee you probably know that this time is critical to build and continue developing your existing skills - so how do you do it?

  1. Read a book: Ok, this is a personal favorite - but books are one of the best ways to develop at your own pace. The good parts are - you can delve on it for as long as you want - taking it along with you, and there is one book typically for each level of the organization - from the early career starter to the CXO level. A recommendation, read not just books directly related to your domain - but also related to other domains - including biographies of achievers. Sometimes inspiration can come from unexpected sources.
    • Idea: Make a group of book lovers like you - buy books and share the cost and reading time. Make a synopsis to crystallise your thoughts and enable others to learn from it too.
  2. Take on an additional assignment/project: Experimentation is key to learning and developing. One of the most potent way to develop is taking on an additional assignment that calls for new skills. Negotiate with your organization to do a project that is linked to the new role you want to aspire for. My guess is this economy organizations would be more than happy to have people to take on additional responsibilities. What really needs to be negotiated is how much you would be responsible for the project. Make the learning your priority - and negotiate and align your organization on that. 
  3. External Programs: All said and done external events like training or conferences are great to build new perspectives - learning is an incredibly social activity. However since your organization is probably cutting down on budgets for such events, here is what you can do
    • Identify the event/training you want to undertake
    • Communicate benefits to your manager and organization
    • Get the impact of the training by talking to earlier participants - people from your organization preferably - or external people - don't rely only on the organizers' promotional material
    • Commit to an outcome you will deliver to your organization after the training - like either sharing the knowledge with team members - or implementing learning by way of a project in a group - tying up the principles of 'knowing and doing' - this would let your organization view the fees as 'investment for the organization' rather than as 'expense for an individual's training'. Big difference.
  4. Read Blogs: If you are reading this then you probably don't need to be told this - however you need to do it smartly. Would recommend an RSS aggregator like Google Reader or FeedDemon. Blogs enable you to constantly discover new related content and get to know a practitioner's thoughts and ideas - for free! With offline capabilities Google Reader and FeedDemon would enable you to keep reading stuff on your notebook PCs during times when you are waiting for other things to happen. 
What are some of the ideas you'd have for developing an individual's knowledge, skills and abilities?