How to Approach Professional Development as an Independent Contractor
When you work as a full-time employee for an organization, it is easy to take things for granted—a steady paycheck, benefits, or a manager to keep you on task. But one thing you may not have given much thought to, whether working as an employee or as an independent contractor, is your own career development.
Employees often have access to classes, coaches, seminars, or learning and development tools from HR to help them build up skills and credentials. But when you’re juggling the roles of CEO, CFO, marketing manager, and HR director as an independent, it can be easy to let those things slide. Follow these five tips to stay on top of your professional development.
1. Start with the Usual Suspects
Whether you’re looking to refresh your skills, pick up new ones, or earn a new degree or certification, start with what you know. Explore offerings from your alma mater, check out online training courses, or pursue a continuing education or certification program. This is the easiest way to make sure your skills stay relevant and up-to-date.
2. Know Your Weaknesses
Recognizing areas where you can grow and improve is the first step to actually getting better. Taking note of your weaknesses can help you pinpoint the development opportunities that make the most sense for you. For an outside perspective in evaluating what your weaker points may be, reach out to a trusted client, colleague, or mentor for feedback.
3. Look High and Low for Opportunities
Even if you’re not officially in a “professional development” class that results in a certificate of some kind, it doesn’t mean you can’t learn, grow, and get better at what you do—oftentimes for free. Take a class at a local community college. Sign up for online webinars. Explore how-to tutorials on YouTube. Join industry associations and volunteer for a leadership role. There are many creative ways you can engage in professional development activities.
4. Know Your Strengths
Professional development isn’t all about taking classes and getting certified. If you’re particularly good or experienced at something, share it with the world. Write blogs, submit articles for publication, or teach a class. By exploring different ways to share the knowledge you have, you’ll gain new experience and exposure.
5. Get Smart About Your Business
Keeping current on trends that apply what you do will ensure you are well-versed on the latest news, able to adjust your service offerings to meet industry needs, and hold high-level conversations about the latest industry happenings with potential clients. Renew subscriptions to industry publications, sign up for news alerts, go to conferences, read the latest business books, or join relevant LinkedIn groups and contribute to conversations.
Not every professional development opportunity has to involve a syllabus. So long as you’re learning something relevant to your business every day, that’s a professional development win.