Weekly industry colleague lunches? Monthly board meetings? Annual conferences?
Who has time for all that?! Sounds like slacking right but it's not. Taking time away from being heads down at your job is critical not just for your career but the value you bring to your current employer. You may think that the face time value of your boss finding you at your desk before she gets into the office and after she leaves at the end of the day will make a difference to your career advancement, it won't. Actually being heads down at your desk can be a detriment to the work you do.
There is nothing more important to your job than getting perspective. Those who spend all their time inside their organizations only reinforce a myopic view of the world that they operate within. Spending time within your organization or worse, your own department results in the pan-ultimate expressions of silo thinking like, "this is the way do things here" or "that wouldn't work here". If these phrases are coming out of your mouth, then it's time for wake up call.
Your time is the biggest resource that you have. How you manage it, is the value you offer your organization. Being productive is important and this is often measured by management in the output you document in performance reviews. What doesn't get documented however is the way you achieved those results.
Having context is the greatest asset you provide to the work you are accountable for. Far too much is changing across every industry and with consumers for you not to be looking outside of your organization to secure insights that will make a difference to how you think about moving your business forward.
So how do you get this much needed context of your industry or consumer? Here's 5 career hacks to build into your career:
1. Get the latest and greatest
People often think that social media is a time sucker. When used correctly, it can provide you with some valuable information of what is happening in your industry. Twitter is an easy way for you to follow industry leaders, content providers and associations in order to access a daily news feed. Of course, you always use good old fashion google alerts but you won't get as good a perspective on what the "hot topics" really are.
2. Be a part of your industry
Your organization is likely a part of different associations. See how you can get involved. There is likely a continuum of opportunities from just participating in web-casts which don't take a lot of time to volunteering on committees. Evaluate what you have time for and look for opportunities to integrate yourself into the industry in which you belong.
3. Leverage colleagues
Make a list of at least 5 key industry colleagues that you like and respect and book coffee or lunch with them. Prepare some topics that you've been thinking about that you'd like to talk about to ensure that you leverage the opportunity to share and learn from one another. Don't be shy about asking questions about something that may be new to you. It shows that you are open and authentic. Surprisingly, you'll find that without breaching any confidentiality, there is plenty to talk about and you'll come away with each interaction with a clearer lens in which to see solutions to challenges and strategies to opportunities.
4. Look for learning opportunities
If you find that there is an area of your industry is becoming increasingly valuable and you don't have an opportunity to pursue in your current role, see if there are ways for you to learn outside of your job. Volunteering with non-for-profits is a great way to cut your teeth in something that may not be a skill that you currently have but are willing to work hard at developing. Board committees are a fantastic way to offer your support and develop broader experiences.
5. Last but not least, read.
There are so many amazing books and blogs that allow you to pause and think about what you do and how you're doing it. Absolutely read what you love but carve out a bit of time to explore the topics that those in your industry are writing and think about. Developing an openness to learn and willingness to understand to build a broader foundation of your industry.
You get to a point in your career when you stop clocking time. That's a good sign. You actually enjoy what you do in a way that energizes you. Time is finite. Energy regenerates. By spending some of your time on becoming more engaged in your industry, you'll find yourself more engaged on the job and more committed to your career.
Next time you say I don't have the time to at work, ask yourself how spend the time you have and how it's enhancing the quality of your work?
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