Learning Experiences and Your Career Pathway: How to Connect the Dots

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Congratulations, You Just Graduated College: Now What?

Finding Your Way in the World

Sometimes it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. Whether you’ve graduated from college or you’re still working on your degree, the pressure feels the same. You’ve got to balance expectations your friends, family, and society place upon you with your own aspirations....and if you’re like most of us, you’ve got the added desire to find something you love to do as well!

The good news? You’re not alone. Anyone who says they know what they’re doing for the rest of their life is either lying to you or to themselves. In the course of your early professional development, shifting career gears is more than common, and for most, it happens numerous times. There are two key things to remember, though:  that you control the career pathway you take, and that you prepare yourself by selecting the appropriate learning path to support your career decision.

Selecting Your Career Pathway

Many of us have trouble with that first step. There are so many fears that run through our heads: “Does this pay enough?” — “What if it’s boring?” — “What will my parents say?” — and sometimes even: “What if I DO like this and everything works out?” Although it seems counter-intuitive, sometimes even the idea of our own success holds us back.

Why Finding the Learning Experiences that Support Your Career Choices Is Key

The challenge with the second step is that sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know. While college is an excellent opportunity to refine the lifelong learning skills you’ll use throughout your life, it does not provide you with the practical professional development you need for the modern workplace—and may even neglect to develop the employability skills that make you a highly desirable candidate.

One additional challenge that you might face is the impact that one large factor outside your control—the inclination of your new employer to teach you critical job skills—has on your ability to be successful in your new role.

From the early job hunting phases to your first weeks on the job, let’s face it:  figuring it out is tough! What role is the right one for you; are you qualified for that role; if not, what kind of skills are needed to succeed in a given career. Cobbling together the right pieces to unlock the doors to your dream job isn’t easy.

The Digital Solution

How, exactly, do we help you? One, explore careers with pathways that show you what different careers actually entail. Two, learn how to be successful in these different careers by interacting with targeted training. Three, take advantage of the community of peers and experts who support you along the way. This three-pronged approach will also build your confidence, so you will be ready when you’re applying for your dream job.

Sign up for our Beta, and start making your own path today.   

3 Ways to Develop Your Career with Effective Leadership

And yet, the question still stands:  what does leadership mean to you, and better yet, how does it play into your professional development? From what we’ve seen work for most high performers, leadership boils down to three key components:  fostering skills in the next generation, engaging with your industry community, and building your personal brand.

Here, we’ve compiled how these three aspects of leadership contribute to making you a more well-rounded employee, as well as some tips to put these recommendations into action.

1. Lead from the Front

From Warren Buffett to Marcus Aurelius, Nelson Mandela to Jeff Bezos, our world’s greatest leaders possess qualities (focus, confidence, transparency, integrity, inspiration) that have been integral to their success.  Even more, they all manifest themselves in a style that’s engaged, empowering, and brings out the best in their people.

Providing direction and guidance to your junior employees (while providing the tools and support needed) is, in effect, one of the most successful leadership traits we’ve seen. Sharing knowledge, then, takes place through both formal and informal channels. If you have direct reports, you should build development into their performance plans, and actively look to coach employees on the career skills that will make them (and you) more successful. You’ve garnered a stash of tips and tricks along the way that can help your junior colleagues, so share them! If you’re aware of conferences and workshops that would benefit employees under your wing, then encourage them to participate.

When you approach your own role with a pay it forward attitude, you’ll find that not only will your employees appreciate the growth in their skills, but they’ll also value the investment that you’re making in them, and will in turn, be happier employees.

Bringing out the best in the next generation of leaders isn’t just about cultivating skill development, through; fostering lifelong learning and “soft skills” that make employees and managers alike more successful often takes shape in professional mentoring programs.

2. Engage with Your Community

Professional mentoring programs may focus on career development, leadership development, or skills development.  The formats can vary between personal one-on-one relationships to group formats. You can participate in a mentorship program by reaching out to your organization’s HR department, or look externally to organizations like MicroMentor (if you have an entrepreneurial bent). Perhaps one of the most effective ways to build your your leadership skills is to actually become a mentor—which you can easily do through organizations like Serve.org, Imentor.org, and Mentoring.org.

Community engagement doesn’t necessarily have to follow such formal paths, however. If you’re short on time, are looking for a more informal environment in which to hone your soft skills, or want to find opportunities that are strictly expertise-driven, you might want to look for alternative options. These options could include volunteering for an industry organization (for example, opportunities that leverage your marketing skills or web development skills) or contributing to a career skills platform like Brightmind.  Ultimately, framing your skillset within the context of your community goes a long way towards building your brand—and, ultimately—your future.

3. Build Your Brand, Build Your Future

Think about what’s gotten you this far:  likely, a mix of dedication, a lifelong learning approach, the emotional intelligence to sense what’s working and what’s not for your team and your employees, formal education, and the informal learning opportunities have all informed the career pathway you’ve taken. All these factors—whether you realize it or not—form the foundation of what’s called your personal brand.

Compassionate Leadership and Career Success

Compassion is on the rise both as a component of individual and corporate leadership (i.e. the “conscious capitalism” movement), and while integrating a “pay it forward” attitude aligns with the ethos behind becoming a mentor and sharing your knowledge, it can become a foundational element to creating your personal brand.

Link:  HBR.Org

Link: HBR.Org

What Defines You?

Think about what makes you “you” on the individual contributor level, as how your personal brand translates to the context of your organization. Your personal brand can be broken down into several components:  your technical skill set, your soft skills and how you use emotional intelligence, and your leadership style. From an organizational standpoint, your personal brand and expertise manifest as your career pathway. Below, a few questions you should ask yourself as you think about how to build a personal brand:

  • What technical skills do you have now, and which ones will you need to grow to progress your career?

  • What soft skills have you developed, and how has your emotional intelligence contributed to your personal growth?

  • What’s your leadership style, and how does it play into the relationships you have both with managers and employees?

Ultimately, connecting the dots of who you are as an individual with who you are as an employee is an exercise in establishing your expertise, and the time that you invest in yourself to create this brand foundation is really an investment in your future.

The best way to predict the future is to create it. - Abraham Lincoln

Exercise Your Leadership Skills

Now that the gears are turning on how you’ll lead, when you’ll lead, and what defines your leadership style, start thinking about where you’ll lead. We’ve mentioned a few formal and informal places to put your leadership skills into practice, but let’s dig deeper into the career skills platform, Brightmind.

With a select number of high-growth career pathways, this digital learning solution provides the community and instruction fundamental to skill acquisition. Without the red tape and formality of most formal digital skills platforms, Brightmind allows users to share their knowledge even while learning from more senior industry colleagues.

The best part about the Brightmind movement to democratize professional education? It’s free, because the team behind Brightmind believes that for the next generation of leaders to emerge, you shouldn’t have to pay. Experience Brightmind for yourself by signing up for our beta.