How Can You Find Ways to Improve in Your Life and Career?

Bill Abbate

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How up to date are you on the most current ways of doing things in your job? Are you living on past skills, hoping to get by or get along for the foreseeable future? Wouldn’t it be better to make sure you are keeping current with the skills, abilities, and knowledge you need to help you today and tomorrow?

In the past

In the past, it was a simple matter to learn a skill and be good at it. Take an auto mechanic, for example. For many years all an auto mechanic needed was the right set of tools, some talent, and a basic understanding of engines and other parts of a car. They could work on pretty much anything. While those skills have some merit today, the modern car, especially the modern engine, has changed considerably. Those skills alone would not keep most mechanics employed today.

If the auto mechanic hasn’t kept up with the latest technologies and tools for cars, they may not get far. When I was young, we often worked on cars, routinely tuning things like idle speed, timing, and adjusting the jets on the carburetor. On a modern car, you have no control over these without using a computer. Things like carburetors no longer exist on most engines, being replaced with electronically controlled fuel injection.

You could spend hours fidgeting with things in the old days, and you could easily upgrade parts. When you open the hood on a modern car, the only thing you can do is top off the fluids.

What got you to where you are today won’t keep you there in the future.

The office is another place that has changed radically in the past few decades. If you had not kept abreast with technology, you would not qualify for most jobs today. In 1980 the closest thing to a computer in most offices was an electronic calculator. Back then, everything was recorded by hand on paper in ledgers and journals. An accountant’s job was far different than it is today.

A word processor was extremely rare in most companies, and an electric typewriter almost a luxury in some. Can you imagine the headaches of making a simple mistake on a letter, having to retype it because you used the wrong word or phrase? Then there was the constant use of white-out! My how times have changed!

As the old tune by Bob Dylan said, “The times, they are a changin’”. Not only do the times never seem to stop changing, but the pace of change continues to accelerate.

Why go into all of this ancient history, you ask? Have you heard the saying by the famous Spanish philosopher?

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana

It is true, and unless you understand history, you will likely repeat its mistakes. As the famous Irish playwright said:

“If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience.” George Bernard Shaw

Rather than repeat or become incapable of learning from the past, let’s put its lessons to use.

You need something new

Are you up to speed on your skills, talents, behaviors, education, and experience for the job you are currently doing? While I can’t cover every possibility that exists, I can point you in the right direction to obtain what you need to get and stay ahead in your field.

Some of you may be in a profession that requires you to remain up to date by obtaining CEU’s, LU’s, PDH’s, or something else to retain your license or certification. While these may keep you even with what you need, could you still be falling short? This is a small percentage of the population, as only a few professions require such ongoing training and education. For most of us, we are responsible for staying abreast or keeping ahead of what we will need in the future.

Why not start the conversation today? If you are in a large corporation, HR may help you or give you some guidance. For the rest of us, consider answering the following questions:

  • Do you know if you are keeping your skills and talents up to date?
  • How much are you up on what is happening and the current trends in your profession and industry?

If you don’t know how to answer these questions, how can you find out? Do the following:

  • Search the web for “professional development for ______________,” filling in the blank with the field or profession.
  • Search the web for “latest developments in _______________”, filling in the blank for the industry or business.

Some additional ways to make sure you are keeping current or getting ahead of the game is by having discussions with your boss, colleagues, and others in your business. You can also find out more by being involved in associations and reading the latest industry or business journals.

Whatever you do, take your future into your own hands and find ways to get ahead and stay ahead by doing your own learning. Look toward the future as an opportunity to learn more, to do more, and to become more. Best to get ahead and stay ahead to remain relevant in your work and on your job.

A few areas that you can always work on include:

  • Specific and general skills and abilities
  • Personal and business behaviors
  • Developing good habits
  • Knowledge of the business and industry you are in
  • Improving your broader knowledge and abilities
  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and overall health
  • Networking and association involvement
  • Maintaining and increasing your curiosity about business and life
  • Asking for advice and help
  • Developing and continually refining your life plan
  • Improving and developing close relationships
  • Finding ways to motivate and inspire yourself
  • Learning to enjoy your life

Heed the words of the physician and automobile pioneer, who once stated:

“I do not believe you can do today’s job with yesterday’s methods and be in business tomorrow.” H. Nelson Jackson

Final words

We live in a fortunate time today. We have a world of information available to us anytime and anywhere via the internet. Look at the advantage we have over past generations. Sure, they had their personal and public libraries. Still, the content available to them pales by comparison to the wealth of information and knowledge available at our fingertips!

Never in history has it been so easy to find what you need to not only keep up but to leap ahead in your career and life.

Why not take a good look at your life, where you are today, and where you hope to be tomorrow? All you need to do is make time available for the work to make sure you get there! What could be more important than that?

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA

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