Sharpening Your Professional Toolbox this Back to School Season

By: Susan Schlink


August and September… a time that’s filled with all things back to school! As you get your kids ready to head off to school, don’t neglect yourself. How can you be preparing yourself to continue to grow in your career? What tools need a little sharpening to take you to the next level? This time of year is perfect for making yourself more attractive to companies through a bit of professional development. 

Now some of you may be saying, “Well I am not looking to leave my current job, so I’m good!” While it’s great that you’re currently satisfied where you are, it never hurts to do a little self-care for your career. What if something happens to your current position? What if your company sells, gets purchased by an investment company or suddenly downsizes? Or what if you simply decide you’re ready for more? Even if you love where you’re at and are not looking for a career move, beefing up your skills through some professional development never hurts. If anything, it will make you that much more productive, efficient, and satisfied. No matter your current circumstance, now is always a great time to sharpen the tools in your toolbox. 

Here are a few practical ways to get started. 

1. Head back to school, too! 

  • As the kids are heading back to school, maybe you can too! Does your company offer any educational reimbursement? If they do, take advantage. Take that advanced excel course or even some various computer courses to keep your skills sharp. Did you always want to finish your degree? Now is the perfect time to take 1-2 classes to finish up. What about an MBA? There are so many remote learning options with COVID, take advantage of them. 

2. Get certified. 

  • Why not try and get a certification that is relatable to your career? Take courses, starting with 1-2 a year, to get that extra credibility to your name. Not only will you hone your skills, you’ll also be distinguishing yourself as an expert in your field. 

3. Join a professional association. 

  • Find a professional association that helps stretch your skills and helps meet some personal goals. Memberships can be relatively inexpensive and most of the time your employer will help pick up the cost. You might choose an association based on your industry, your goals, or possibly based on your clients’ needs. These groups allow you to learn from others in the space and provides you with access to countless resources! 

4. Check out the freebies. 

  • There is a tremendous number of free resources (podcasts, videos, books, and even LinkedIn) that you can leverage. If picking up a hardcopy of a book isn’t your thing, what about diving into some audiobooks or podcasts? Even just reading blogs, like this, is increasing your knowledge base. There are also groups on social media and pages you can follow to keep yourself in the loop on the latest in your field. As beneficial as those online communities can be, you may also want to consider attending local Chamber of Commerce meetings or networking hours to connect with others and build your network in-person! 

Remember that tools need to be maintained. If you don’t keep your chisels sharp and your hammers free of rust, they may not be reliable when you need them. This is also the same for our brain and professional skills! Clear out the dust, keep your skills sharp and your brain active by taking steps to honing your expertise or exploring a new area of professional interest. You never know where it could take you! 

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