Next steps and new learning opportunities
I have identified a few pathways for the next step in my career. How can I explore and choose among them?
First, make time to look inward and take stock of your interests, priorities, skills, and values. What is your decision-making style? How has it served you well or been a challenge in the past? What are you hoping to gain (e.g., a leadership role, flexibility, higher compensation)? What are your “non-negotiables” (e.g., not wanting to sell a home and relocate, staying in a particular industry)? Are there risks associated with different options? What is your approach to risk?
Second, do online research using career and occupational databases, articles, and resources to get more information about the nature of a particular work role, look up compensation data, and find specific organizations or industries. Regardless of the sector (corporate, government, nonprofit), a reference librarian can help you, and keep in mind that some access to Bryn Mawr College libraries is an alum benefit.
Third, build on your online research by having conversations with people in the roles, organizations, or industries you are considering. Gathering stories and wisdom from others’ experiences is powerful. And be sure to talk to multiple people to get a more complete perspective. There are thousands of alums in our Bryn Mawr College Alumnae/i LinkedIn group and Mawrter Connect (mawrterconnect.brynmawr.edu) you can easily contact directly.
Finally, use me as a resource and a sounding board! This is a common topic of conversation in career coaching appointments, and it is my pleasure to work with individuals through their unique goals and journeys.
The options available for professional development are overwhelming. How do I prioritize new learning opportunities?
For some, professional development means gaining skills to enhance or advance one’s career. People also pursue learning opportunities to position themselves for a pivot or transition to another field, role, or industry. Other learning experiences are more focused on personal development; re-invigorating our imagination, energy, and motivation can be as important as skills acquisition.
Are you employed by an organization that can provide, support, or subsidize your learning (even partially)? If so, take advantage of what you can (i.e., free access to LinkedIn Learning, in-house workshops). To gain financial and time-off support for courses, conferences, etc., be proactive about building a case for your manager, to demonstrate the value-add anticipated to your role and organization.
If you don’t have employer-provided support, then your decision process will be influenced by your resources. If you need to take time off work, you may have to use your earned paid time off or sacrifice some work hours and income. Flexible, self-guided options for learning may mean less time with family or hobbies. Part of the decision process, then, relates to how much time you want to retain or are willing to give up.
Gathering other people’s opinions about the value and quality of a program is key, whether you are paying for something personally or not. Who are professionals you follow and admire on LinkedIn? What associations do they belong to? What are the skills, trainings, credentials, and courses they have completed? Just because something is popular does not necessarily mean it’s for you, but it certainly should urge you to examine it more carefully.
Finally, network with people who can offer opinions and perspectives to help you narrow down and prioritize. Consider asking a peer to be an accountability buddy. If you share common learning goals with a colleague, you can divide and conquer on the research but then potentially go through an experience together!
Need help navigating the world of work? Career guru (and Bryn Mawr’s senior associate director of Alumnae/i Career Services) Becky Ross is happy to take your questions at email@example.com.