5 Ways to Power Your Professional Development

Life-long learning is no longer an aspiration of select few but a widespread necessity of our fast-paced, technology driven, ever-changing economies, no matter what industry you work in.  Employees that cultivate a growth mindset are more likely to succeed professionally and attain those coveted leadership roles.  The good news is that professional development is easy to achieve with the digitization of information.  Anyone can now go on the internet and learn something new in minutes.           

According to a 2019 study conducted by IBM, as many as 120 million workers in the world’s 12 largest economies may need upskilling in the next three years as a result of AI. While some skills will become obsolete, new ones will emerge to work effectively with AI.  To stay competitive and relevant to your organization, take charge of your professional growth and continuously be on the lookout for opportunities to learn, acquire new skills, explore novel technologies, and stay on top of industry trends. 

1. Join Online Courses & Training Sessions

Earning a certificate for a specific job function, to complement your college or university degree, is a great way to set yourself apart from the competition, stay up-to-date on skills and build out your resume.  There are many online platforms that offer a wide range of training sessions and courses, which can be done flexibly, on your own schedule.  LinkedIn Learning, Google Academy and Lynda are some of the more popular platforms for specific skill training.  Many colleges and universities also offer continuing education courses focusing on select topics.  And don’t forget about professional development certifications through industry associations.           

2. Expand Your Scope of Work

Many employees become disengaged at work because their tasks turn stagnant and their scope of work does not allow them to grow.  Don’t wait around for your manager to assign something new and challenging.  Instead, propose it yourself.  Look to your peers in the industry to gain inspiration for new projects.  Learn something new about the technology you’ve been using and share your knowledge with your team. 

3. Find a Mentor

Learning from someone else’s experiences is very valuable.  A mentor, someone you admire and aspire to become professionally, can share those industry secrets that you’ll never get from a book or a course.  They can provide you with objective guidance, motivate you, and offer tips to be more efficient and effective at your job.  Mentors can also be good constructive critics, often helping identify your shortcomings or areas for improvement, something that is not easy to do on your own.

4. Read & Write Regularly

There is no shortage of valuable content.  Regularly read industry blogs, articles and books to stay up to date on trends and data, discover new technologies, and much like with a mentor, learn from other people’s experiences in your field.  Not everyone likes to write but if you do, set up a blog of your own and start writing!  Blogging requires specific research and will expose you to new types of information.

5. Attend Industry Conferences

Conferences are a great way to network but also to expand your area of expertise.  You get to listen to speakers in different sub-fields of the industry and attend topic focused workshops or roundtables.   You often learn new techniques, get insights into unpublished data, and meet some of the biggest names in your field. 

Learning something new could be scary but it is also thrilling and satisfying.  Our roles, our industries are constantly changing and so must we.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Remote Leadership

Currently almost 40% of Canadian employees are working remotely due the COVID19 outbreak. If given a choice, 80% of employees would prefer to continue working from home at least some days of the week, according to Global Workplace Analytics. Employees consider remote work as their ideal work scenario because it leads to greater work-life balance and increases productivity levels. But managing a remote team is not always easy. Managers struggle with feeling of decreased control over their team, monitoring challenges, and problem solving.

Here are some tips to help leaders become better remote workforce managers:

Do

1. Communicate Frequently: Keep your team engaged and connected on a daily basis. Utilizing communication channels and collaboration software is a great way to build and retain engagement. Schedule regular check-ins via video meetings to ensure inclusivity and provide opportunities for employees to raise any issues. Make sure to develop and communicate appropriate work-from home guidelines that define expectations. Just as you would at the office, encourage collaboration on projects and regular feedback.

2. Be Flexible: Regular work hours might be difficult to impose especially under the current circumstances where many kids are at home with their parents. Recognize that this is an un-ordinarily challenging time for many of your employees and being rigid will do more harm than good. Trust your team and provide them with flexibility to work on a schedule that helps them be the most productive. If productivity becomes an issue, especially with an employee that has always been outstanding at their work, learn what is causing this decrease, and work together to develop a solution to get back on track.

3. Set Your Team Up for Success: Remote team collaboration is highly dependent on reliable technology. Ensure that your team has access to appropriate resources and equipment to help them get their work done effectively and to work well together. Also provide your team with sufficient IT support should something go wrong. Remind your team to take breaks and take good care of themselves, physically and mentally. Develop strategies to keep motivation up such as rewards or positive feedback.


Don’t

1. Avoid Video Calls: Digital tools have made remote communication convenient, but that does not guarantee effectiveness. Face-to-face interactions are extremely important to understand non-verbal cues and develop reactions based on what you see, rather than what you read or hear. In addition to emails and texts, managers should incorporate adequate face-to-face communication in their daily routine.

2. Focus On Control: Sometimes managers tend to focus too much on controlling scenarios and how work is performed. This creates a hostile environment for employees, who may already be feeling the pressure of a new way of working. Trust your team and focus on the outcomes, not processes.

3. Lose Company Culture & Connectivity: Remember staying well into the evening, eating pizza with your colleagues, working on that milestone project? Or popping your head into your co-worker’s office to bounce some ideas off of them? This is part of what builds a strong corporate culture and binds people together. Try to translate traditional office activities into your new virtual setting. Organize in-person team gatherings at least once a month, bringing everyone together to reconnect in person.

5 Tips for Successful Business Continuity During COVID19

By our sister company, ProVision Staffing

Even under these unprecedented circumstances, some businesses are continuing to operate smoothly. What’s their secret? They acknowledge the challenges and also focus on the opportunities to make their company more resilient.

We offer 5 important strategies for businesses on a mission to stay alive, stay relevant, and come out of this pandemic less harmed:

1. Invest in remote work setups – Since 2010, the amount of people that work remotely once a week has grown by 400%. (Hubspot Research) Prior to the global pandemic, only 41% of global businesses offered remote work flexibility (flexjobs.com). Now is the time to increase your company’s investments in videoconferencing tools and collaboration software, many of which do not require a huge budget.

2. Consider contract employment – Contract employment gives businesses the freedom to “hire talent on-demand”. The flexibility and scalability of contract staffing allows businesses to achieve their long-term and short-term growth targets, which makes this staffing solution ideal for challenging economic times.

3. Keep communicating with & supporting your employees – It becomes extremely crucial to calm and reassure your workforce during such uncertain times. Employers must encourage upskilling, boost morale with special incentives and schedule regular video calls etc to maintain your teams momentum.

4. Plan for the future – Use this decrease in pace to re-evaluate and identify new business opportunities. Start building new connections, growing your social media presence and developing a strong comprehensive plan for COVID19 recovery.

5. Support your client base – Show your clients that you are here for them, and that you care about them. Avoid pushing for sales and take the time to listen to their concerns. Strengthen existing relationships by providing solutions that will appeal to them and that are relevant under existing circumstances. It is important to be recognize and plan that your customers’ requirements might change post COVID19.

It’s important for businesses to be adaptable and open to change. Post COVID-19 the world will likely be a different place, at least for the next little while, and businesses that are set up to adapt to the “new normal” will have the competitive advantage.

Coping With Job Loss: Take Charge & Keep Going

Two-in-five Canadian households have already experienced some type of job loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Losing your job is stressful under normal circumstances but during this time of uncertainty it can be especially daunting.  But don’t give in to despair and anxiety.  Take charge of the situation and develop a plan for being mentally healthy and focused on your goal of finding another opportunity in due time.  

We would like to share some tips for staying on track and remaining optimistic as you find yourself stuck at home, isolated and/or frustrated, and with much more time on your hands than you were used to:

Keep job searching:  Stay positive and recognize that this is a temporary setback.  While getting back out there with an aggressive job search and networking agenda right now might be tricky due to office closures and social distancing, keep moving ahead and don’t stop looking for opportunities.  Hiring may have slowed in many industries but hiring managers and staffing firms are building a pipeline of talent at all times.  Reach out to them and pitch what you have to offer.

Hone your skills:  Use this time to update your skills as well as learn some new things.  Research which skills are most valuable to employers in your industry and sign up for online classes or free tutorials.  There are also many charitable organizations who can use a helping hand right now.  Volunteering is a good way to gain some hands-on experience in a different capacity and will help to fill the employment gap in your resume.

Grow your network: This might seem an impossible task in today’s world of social distancing and isolation, but growing your network is still achievable.  Join a webinar and interact with the participants and/or presenters, engage in conversations by email or phone, and connect with new groups on social media. Start with your existing network and devise a plan for how you can build out.  Because many opportunities go unadvertised, having a strong network is very helpful.

Connect with a staffing firm: We don’t bite.  In fact, our recruiters can help you assess your skills, provide tips on best resume writing practices, and talk you through the necessary steps for finding a new job, all without any cost to you.  Think of us as your support system during this time.  Friends and family can offer sympathy, but we will take charge and set you on a course to a new career opportunity.

Losing a job is never easy.  Companies are having to make difficult decisions during this time and employee layoffs are unfortunately the consequence of having to cut back on operations and expenses.  No matter what your personal situation is, try to remain motivated and set yourself up for job search success for after everything returns to normal.      

For information about what the Canadian government is offering to workers who have lost their job due to COVID-19

The Key to Differentiation: Your Employees!

For many companies, finding points of differentiation is a struggle as they compete in a generally oversaturated landscape of similar businesses. Your service offering alone will not get you very far nor will a fancy new, avant-garde website. So how can you crush your competition and be the first-choice company for your customers? Start from within: recognize that your employees and those you hire are key to setting your company apart.   

Think of employees as your brand ambassadors. The more they believe in your mission and the more passionate they are about it, the better they will pitch it and provide more effective customer outreach. Let’s not forget that 93% of customers are more likely to make repeat purchases with companies who offer excellent customer service. (Hubspot Research)

Below we share 3 tips to empowering your employees and turning them into exceptional brand ambassadors:   

Communicate and keep communicating: Maintain open lines of communication at all times.  Inclusive communication and feedback build understanding and respect within the workplace while keeping everyone engaged. Employees also need to have the right information to be able to share your brand’s story and deliver a consistent message. 

Recognize and Acknowledge: Boost employee morale, regularly with positive, upbeat messages and company events.  Embrace a culture of self-improvement by supporting professional development initiatives and reward accomplishments with special gestures. Celebrate successes and share losses together as this binds employees and creates a greater sense of belonging. 

Encourage Brand Stewardship – Create opportunities for employees to promote your brand through social media and allow them to be the voice (make sure it’s a positive voice!). Motivate employees to share your story through videos or podcasts, and encourage them to share authentic content that is relevant to your brand.

Treat ALL employees like partners and hire with emphasis on cultural fit and personality.  Show your customers that you’re different through their positive interaction with your staff, something that will impress them a lot more than anything else.    

Use Self-Isolation to Advance Your Career

As you find yourself with more free time at home during COVID19-imposed isolation, take this opportunity to reflect on your career.  Are you feeling challenged and satisfied by what you are doing in your current role?  Can you improve or update some of your skills?  What is the next step for your professional advancement?  Many of us don’t get to ask these questions on a regular basis, as we struggle to keep up with many every day demands.  Now is the time to evaluate and be proactive. 

Update your online presence

Start with updating your LinkedIn profile. If you don’t have one, create one!  Employers nowadays look at LinkedIn regularly and it could be their first impression of you.  Spend time building your personal brand and displaying your professional strengths.  Make sure that all your social media platforms show you in the best possible light.  Blogging about your area of expertise is a great way to demonstrate thought leadership and give credibility to your qualifications.  Use your online presence to network and reach out to potential employers of choice.

Train and re-train yourself 

This is the best time to learn and develop a new skill.  Look for online courses that can help you enhance your knowledge.  Most provide a certification of completion that you can add to your portfolio and resume. Also, start reading those interesting industry publications and blogs that have been sitting on your list but you haven’t had a chance to get to.  Catch up on trends, refresh necessary software skills, and learn about new technology platforms that might benefit your career in the long run.

Reconnect with your contacts

Use this downtime to catch up with your friends, former colleagues, past employers or anyone that you have not heard from in a long time.  During this time of social isolation, they will appreciate a friendly hello and the extra bit of human interaction.  As you reconnect with them, new and surprising career opportunities might present themselves.

Participate in online discussions. 

Online forums are a great way to connect with like-minded individuals and discuss shared experiences. Join discussions that align with your interests and share resources that can benefit you and the community. Online forums provides you exposure to different job opportunities, help you grow your circle of friends, allow you gain feedback from industry experts and empower you with access to new and relevant information.

Staying isolated at home is certainly not easy but we’re all in this together.  With a focussed and goal-oriented mindset, you can make the best of it and set yourself up for success once society returns to normal.