In order to become a sought-after professional in today’s job market, it’s more important than ever to be adaptable and a lifelong learner willing to gain insights and expertise throughout a career. Companies are increasingly looking for individuals with a broad set of skills who are comfortable moving across functions and teams.
How can you gain diverse skill sets and continue to develop yourself professionally, both on-the-job and in your personal life? We asked Wambui Kuria, formerly a Talent & Development Officer at Momentum Credit, a microfinance company providing structured working capital solutions to individuals, and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and now a Management Consultant at KPMG. Wambui has had quite a diverse career that has included financial auditing, entrepreneurship, recruiting and software. She describes her current role at Momentum Credit as “fifty percent human resources and fifty percent business development.”
Here are four tips from Wambui on how you can be a lifelong learner and become a more versatile employee:
1. Be comfortable outside your comfort zone to grow in your career
While she began her career as a financial auditor, Wambui quickly realized that she preferred interacting with people day-to-day in her work life. However, it was challenging to shift careers in a job market where you typically get a job based on what you studied for. In order to make a career shift, she first started scouting for jobs in sales where she could highlight transferable skills, eventually landing a role as a salesperson at a training company. “This anchored my passion for training, particularly when I would see the feedback from our clients saying how much the training changed their mindset.”
Her curiosity once again led her to move into a new role, this time in recruiting. There she found herself in meetings with software developers. She credits this experience with learning how to communicate with the tech team, in order to work effectively with the department to meet her timelines. Wambui used these experiences to push herself out of her comfort zone in order to chart a path of personal growth. “I often dare myself in different ways and praise myself when I learn something new.”
2. A lifelong learner loves and embraces technology
You don’t need to be an engineer or an IT professional to use technology to your advantage. Combining a desire to learn new things with technology can have added benefits. “I like to learn new things and I love technology. I’ve really enjoyed learning new software, creating beautiful designs on online tools such as Canva, and learning as much as I can on Google.” Being comfortable in Google Drive has paid dividends for Wambui, particularly when working with outside clients. “If you’re working across companies, everything is often shared online on Drive. This really makes it easier to work with my suppliers. I might have big files and need a lot of people to view them, so online tools are crucial.”
Being current with technology as a lifelong learner can be vital for just about any role within a company. “We all require these skills; When I started working I realized everyone needs to understand IT, as well as know how to operate smartphones. See, you might be a great lawyer, but if you don’t know how to sign contracts online, that’s dangerous to your business.”
3. Share what you’ve learned at work!
Your learning can be significantly enhanced by collaborating with your peers in the office. If done effectively it can even positively affect the culture in your workplace. Encouraging others to share their knowledge can make room for a more interactive environment where everyone is utilizing their colleagues to actively share their learning across departments and functions. Treat this like a form of on-the-job training that everyone can participate in.
Consider starting a book club or a small library in your office to create a culture of reading for professional development. While at Momentum, Wambui implemented a system to reward high-performing team members by giving them books to read. “We reward people monthly depending on their performance, and one of the ways we’re trying to do that is by reducing on other incentives and give them books to read instead.” Putting growth and development first can pay huge dividends for everyone to meet their professional potential.
4. Build your online learning presence
According to Wambui, using your online presence to show your propensity for learning can improve your professional brand. “My LinkedIn has articles, things I’ve read, and it really shows that I am more than my educational background. I would say that’s a major thing that’s worked for me.” This shows employers and your network that you are passionate about your interest areas and serious about continuing to develop yourself as a lifelong learner.
If you’re like Wambui and YouTube is your “school of life”, consider posting videos to your social media channels to spark a discussion amongst your friends. A good habit to get into is to comment on articles and other resources that thought leaders in your field post to their pages. This can increase your visibility to ensure that high-level professionals know you are actively engaging in your professional development.
Becoming a lifelong learner requires commitment, energy, and curiosity. It takes a willingness to take ownership and expose yourself to new situations and environments. The above tips are just a few of many ways you can apply yourself to professionally grow and show your professional value is more than what’s on your CV.
Thanks so much to Wambui for sharing her wisdom with us! We’re proud to partner with Momentum Credit and help them build happy high-performing teams. Interested to work with MCL? they’re currently hiring for an Operations Manager, Customer Relationship Officer, and Telesales Agents!
Related: Moving laterally to move upwards