Setting yourself apart from the crowd can be challenging in today’s competitive business world. As an independent consultant, your knowledge and expertise can be the difference between landing the assignments and clients you want, and struggling to prove your value.
Displaying skills above and beyond the basics of your field can give you a professional advantage. Here are five ways to keep your knowledge and abilities up-to-date.
Professional development courses can help you expand your professional skillset, learn something new, or even earn academic credit to put towards a degree. Online training courses are particularly convenient because they are affordable and flexible. Just be careful to do your homework – evaluate instructor bios, read reviews, and check the syllabus carefully before putting down your credit card. You can also find professional development courses through vendor-taught classes, traditional universities, and training institutions.
The Internet is a limitless source of free information and educational resources. Attend educational webinars, follow the blogs or social media accounts of industry experts, or bookmark and regularly check industry news sites and online forums to stay current on the latest trends. If you haven’t already, sign up for alerts on new news for your inbox (Google Alerts works well) or set up an RSS feed like Feedly.com to easily put all of your industry news in one place.
Professional events are valuable ways to learn about growth and development in your industry. Local companies, business associations, and professional groups often host seminars, forums, or workshops that can give you direct access and insight to experts in your profession. Treat these events as constructive networking opportunities to brainstorm and share ideas with colleagues who can provide fresh insight and perspective.
As an independent consultant, you know the importance of building and maintaining a network of contacts to ensure a steady flow of work. Use LinkedIn to connect with high-ranking people at companies you’re interested in working with. Employ social media platforms to promote your own service or brand, network with industry experts, and keep in touch with former and current clients. Start by finding which social site works best for you—connect with fans and followers on Facebook, creatively network and share news on Twitter, or utilize blogging to boost your online credibility, and connect with potential clients.
While continuing education and certification programs typically require a more intensive time and financial obligation, they can help boost reliability, and demonstrate commitment to your profession. According to the 2016 State of Independence in America, as many as 60% of independent consultants boast specialization or certifications in their field. Becoming proficient in a new software platform before it becomes mainstream, committing to upholding industry standards through a certification program, or staying on top of market trends by taking a class can increase your income and position you competitively within your line of business.
No matter which tactic you choose, maintaining expertise in your field shows clients you are well informed and dedicated. Set yourself up for success by investing in your skills and knowledge today.
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