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Develop Your Career 5 Minutes at a Time

December 1, 1996
In this era of downsizing, mergers and reorganizations, it certainly can’t hurt to make an active effort to demonstrate your value on a regular basis. David Peterson and Mary Dee Hicks, consultants of Minneapolis-based Personnel Decisions International, encourage all employees to continually develop skills by implementing something new every day.

Peterson suggests choosing a project you need to work on and then spending five minutes a day developing it. "Put it into practice and fine-tune it as you go," Peterson says. "Development is like exercise. To make it work for you, it’s got to be a regular part of your daily routine." He and Hicks offer the following advice for self-training, excerpted from their book: "Development FIRST: Strategies for Self-development":

  1. Give yourself a daily dose of development.
    Making development a part of your daily routine makes sure you learn to think of it as a priority. You’re already busy, so guarantee your time is well-spent by focusing on situations with serious change potential that allow you to control the outcomes, force you to think in new ways and challenge you to do more with less.
  2. Be opportunistic.
    Think through the opportunities to perform more effectively that you are faced with each day. Step back to look at the big picture: Determine how the issues appear from a co-worker’s perspective. Leverage a strength by using it in a new way or find an event that allows you to learn something beyond the scope of your job.
  3. Be proactive.
    Think of an aspect of your job you do particularly well. Can you make it more strategic? Can you get it done in half the time? Seek new opportunities by becoming involved in cross-functional or interdepartmental activities.
  4. Take intelligent risks.
    As you develop, you’ll have to redefine success. Intelligent risks involve a reasonable chance of success and a reasonable measure of doubt. Remember that learning comes at the boundary between being stretched to the limit and going over the edge.
  5. Face your barriers.
    Procrastination, inertia and lack of time are three common barriers that may prevent you from taking action. Begin by setting smaller, realistic goals, and don’t expect dramatic changes right away. Most importantly, make development a job priority and hold yourself accountable in terms of performance requirements.

Personnel Journal, December 1996, Vol. 75, No. 12, pp. 28-31.