Are You Standing Still, Or Are You Growing?

What have you done outside of work to make yourself better over the last two or three years?

That’s a question that Seth Besmertnik asks of interview candidates. Besmertnik, who was being interviewed by Adam Bryant for his New York Times column, “Corner Office,” said, “How people spend the time when they’re not working and when they’re not sleeping is the biggest indication in my mind of what they want in life.”

It’s a question I ask myself frequently. One thing that has helped me for the past two decades is my involvement with the National Federation of Press Women. Through that organization, I’ve developed my event planning skills, my networking skills and my leadership skills. The next conference is in Utah, and if you are a communicator, it’s a great time to get involved. If you already are a member and have not been to a conference, why not make this the year you do something to help your career? As a first-timer, you can apply for a grant to have the registration fee covered.

You can also learn new skills by taking online courses. One of my favorite places to learn is Lynda.com, which allows you to participate in tutorials on thousands of software subjects for a small fee. A one-month membership is $25 or you can sign up for several months or a year and access close to 1,000 courses 24/7. I’ve found the courses helpful for improving my skills in PowerPoint and Excel and for learning the basics of new technology.

Another way to improve your skills is to volunteer. One of my colleagues is a graphic artist and she volunteers those skills to help an animal rescue organization. I’ve been learning more about the world of publishing by volunteering at my local library to coordinate a writers’ series.

You could also pick up a book. I try to read four to six books related to my profession each year. I’m doing better now that I participate in a book club at work that is focused on leadership. Once a quarter we read a book and discuss it. We just read The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner.

The adage “If you aren’t changing, you’re standing still” is more true than ever. I ask again, what have you done outside of work to make yourself better?