Use Self-Isolation to Develop Professional Skills

Take time to give thought to things you like, skills that would benefit your career, and learning experiences that would be beneficial to share within your work group. Then establish goals and an action plan.

As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to change the ways in which we live and work, it’s vital to remember this is a temporary situation. This mindset affirms one thing: that we will one day return to normal. In the interim, as we experience travel bans, self-quarantines, shelter-in-place mandates, and other disruptions to everyday life, the one common denominator is time. Regardless of our work situation, we will still have a day to fill and, if business slows, an opportunity for self-improvement.

If we look at this current crisis with a glass-half-full mentality, we’re presented with the opportunity to plan and act on the self-improvement plans that we could have only dreamed of in the past. It’s time to focus on the things we can control and not let fear of the unknown consume us. Here are some recommended approaches to self-development:

1. Establish Your Plan

Take time to give thought to things you like, skills that would benefit your career, and learning experiences that would be beneficial to share within your work group. Once identified, establish goals and an action plan. Look within your organization or check online for educational resources. Utilize employer resources, associations, online libraries, and aggregators such as Coursera and EdX.

Next, establish a timeline. Consider what you can manage to accomplish during this period of isolation while still supporting the necessary business operations. Don’t bite off more than you can chew—this is already a stressful time, and you need to ensure you’re not spreading yourself too thin.

Self-paced learning can take on many forms, but it remains just that: self-paced. The key is to have a goal and timeline and to be realistic about what you can do in that timeframe—take an online course, watch a video, read an article, and more. Establishing learning as a regular practice or new habit will do much for self-development.

2. Explore Your Options

As we think about self-improvement plans, we typically just consider online learning as an option. However, there are many other development opportunities you can experience remotely.

Reading helps to build knowledge and vocabulary while stimulating thought. Online articles, case studies, books, and newsletters are all readily available (and often free) options to help improve upon yourself or a given skill set. Check within your organization to see which of these resources are available to you—often, your organization can provide you with logins that grant free access to articles, newsletters, or case studies existing behind firewalls.

This is a great time to leverage the power and benefits of networking. Schedule calls or virtual meetings with colleagues across your organization to learn more about their functions and how they operate within the industry. This will give you greater insight into the space and the directions available within it from a different perspective.

If it is appropriate to do so, reach out to your colleagues, clients, and managers and ask for feedback. View this as an opportunity to learn about your growth areas, re-tune, and grow as an individual. Let the wisdom of the crowd help you evolve to be a better worker and person.

If you don’t have one already, take this time to identify and establish a mentor. Think hard about someone you respect and believe has knowledge to share, and who would be open to offering advice. Use this time build a relationship and establish safe borders for both parties. A mentor can be a new learning channel and a friendship, and also will give you greater corporate exposure and direction.

3. Put Your Resources to Use

Let’s start with your available resources—at this point, you likely have a laptop, Webcam, meeting software, and a host of tools sitting within your VPN, including social platforms, subscription services, e-learning, and corporate communications. Here are a few ways to put them to use:

  • Establish a video conference series among colleagues and clients where you discuss a single topic. Create a handful of prompt questions and let the dialogue flow. If the concept catches on and becomes a bit more refined, hit the record button and make sure you save it as a future learning resource.
  • <Create a team learning challenge using gaming software, or maybe simply a Q&A industry knowledge session modeled on a Trivia Night you might see at a bar. Offer some modest prize to encourage participation and enhance the spirit of competition. Watch for momentum here and share in the enthusiasm generated.
  • Remember “show and tell” from your childhood? Bring this forward and take the time to offer a learning opportunity to others. Explain how a system works, how to access learning resources, or share any other opportunity with a group of people within your organization or industry. This can be a lunch and learn, a group huddle, or some other collaborative colleague environment. The opportunity to showcase knowledge, improve presentation skills, and learn something new are all upside arguments for this type of engagement.
  • Vendors will experience a true challenge in connecting with clients at this time—expect the void to be filled by Webinars. Be selective when choosing to attend, but be open to various subjects as any new knowledge is in some way beneficial. Engage in the chat, ask a question, provide an example, let the presenter know it was helpful. And, if you learn something valuable, share it.

Moving Forward

Let this be a starting point to learn during this unchartered, and hopefully short, period. Remember to share with others the ways in which you are channeling your energy toward learning, collaboration, and self-development. You would be surprised how inspiring your own self-development can be for others—it could create a domino effect of motivation and positivity throughout your network and others’.

Douglas Dell is vice president and director of Vale National Training Center, a center devoted to training the next generation of claims specialists.

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