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Developing on the Job

No matter what kind of job you have, whether full-time, part-time, internship, co-op, volunteer, or otherwise, you are putting your skills, education, and experience into action.  

A job also offers you opportunities to continue to develop your core skills while learning new ones. This professional development can be enhanced through mentorship, skill development plans, networking, and sourcing out professional development opportunities.

Graduates today can expect to hold roughly 15 jobs throughout their career, with nearly 60% changing career paths two or three times. So take each position as an opportunity to learn, grow and build your network as much as you can.

Find a Mentor

A mentor is an experienced professional who assists you, the mentee, in developing knowledge and skills that will enhance your personal and professional growth.

Mentors can be found within, or outside of, organizations  you work for. Some employers provide mentorship  through formal career-focused development and training programs to employees. Depending on what areas you wish to develop, your employer can appropriately match you with a mentor.

Other forms of mentoring exist outside of your workplace environment, with a person(s) you connect with at a work related conference, through a volunteer opportunity, or via social engagement. Mentorship opportunities can also be found using online resources, such as:

Keep in mind that your mentoring experience may be short or long term, depending on what you and mentor agree upon, such as a 6 month company sponsored mentorship program, or a relationship that naturally grows and continues on for many years.

Mentorship can be a great way to help:

  • Assist you in remaining qualified in your role - a mentor can recommend additional certifications to acquire

  • Link you to valuable knowledge about your organization’s culture

  • Provide you with critical feedback in key areas, such as interpersonal relationships, technical abilities, communication, and leadership skills

  • Develop your focus on what is needed to grow professionally within your organization, company, and industry

When seeking mentorship, be intentional about your mentoring goals. Know what you are looking to gain from the experience. This is key to the relationship being successful.

Create a Skill Development Plan

You don’t always need a mentor to initiate your personal and professional growth on the job. Consider designing a job skills development plan, identifying short and long-term goals in achieving skills that align with your career aspirations.

Here’s a two step approach in designing this plan.

Step 1

Write out your short and long-term career goals and build connections between the two.

For example, a short-term goal may be to take a certificate course on building your computer skills. This course may be offered with your organization or you may register for one offered within your community.

Your intention may be to advance your knowledge on these skills as you feel it will give you a more competitive edge when applying for future positions that require more detailed administrative duties.

In achieving this short-term goal, you can move towards your long-term goal with a sense of confidence, knowing that you have developed a valuable and useful skill to support you in your present and future roles.


Step 2

Make a list of your highly developed skills, and what skills you feel you need to improve upon. Consider how one can be used to improve the other

For example, if you excel in being organized, with excellent time management, you can capitalize on this by setting up a schedule and sticking to it, in order to practice presentation speaking, a skill you’d like to further develop.

Consider who else you can speak with about developing these skills, such as your manager, a co-worker, or a mentor. They can provide constructive feedback, resources, and support as you continue to develop.

Tap Into & Grow your Network

When you start to grow your network, prioritize quality over quantity. The more people you build relationships with, the more likely a good job opportunity will be presented, simply from having a conversation. Remember, the people you build relationships with know other people in their networks. When you tap into your network, you will:

  • connect with people who are in your field

  • learn more about your sector and stay current on developments

  • gain insight into possible job opportunities and raise your profile

It’s critical to continually build your network as you develop your skills and receive mentorship. So who’s in your network?

  • Co-workers - Take your co-worker up on their offer to attend a professional engagement or networking event.

  • Other professionals in your industry - Attend networking events. Take business cards with you and find out what others are doing in your industry to develop personally and professionally.

  • Friends - Find out if there is room for professional collaboration between you and your friends. The industries they work for may benefit highly from your consultation and expertise.

  • Social Media - Create a LinkedIn and Twitter profile, and stay active on both. Join groups within these social media platforms and share/comment on what others are saying.

Being an avid networker means building your connections and professionalism at every stage of your career development. With over 65% of jobs today not advertised, it’s important to keep your profile live and active. Don’t stop once you get a job. Each job opens the door to new networks. Stay active in job-related and social activities that provide professional development.