It'sYourCareerIn the course of my work coaching, managing and hiring, I encounter far too many individuals who have nothing to point to when it comes to skills development and continuing education.

How you answer these questions speaks volumes about you as a professional.

Four Self-Development Questions that You Must Be Able to Answer with Confidence:

1. What are you doing to strengthen your professional skills?

Too many interview candidates stumble all over this one. The lack of a clear, crisp answer is a big red flag. Good hiring and promoting managers look for people hell bent on improving themselves. Good effort, tangible examples of lessons learned and applied, and a visible record of consistently pushing yourself to learn and grow says a great deal about how much you care about yourself and your work. The same holds true for those who don’t have a good, current answer for this question.

2. Beyond compliance programs, what/when was the last development-focused workshop or course you attended and what did you take back from it into the workplace?

Perhaps not surprisingly, if a person’s firm doesn’t offer much in the way of professional development, many people tend not to pursue it on their own. That’s a mistake. From Toastmasters (public presentation skills) to professional development courses at community colleges to a growing array of excellent on-line programs, there are ample opportunities out there to learn and grow without busting your budget. If it’s been more than 18-24 months, it’s time.

3. What’s the last book you read or listened to that pushed you to think about your work, your professional skills or your career direction?

Much like the “strengthen” question above, people trip all over this as well. Reading/listening…whatever form you might soak up someone’s ideas, be prepared to answer this with confidence and with some examples of what you gained from the effort. While not everyone enjoys the cover-to-cover read, in addition to audio books, there are a number of services that summarize and present the key points of current titles. (e.g. Get Abstract)

4. Who do you follow on social media that pushes you to grow professionally?

The world’s great coaches, authors, motivators, educators and thinkers are easily found via blogs and twitter feeds and via other social formats. Find two or three who inspire and educate and follow them regularly. If you grow tired of someone’s content, there’s no harm or foul in switching. It’s time to graduate from sharing family photos on Facebook to reading and engaging with the people in your industry or vocation who are pushing ideas and inspiring people to action.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

If one or more of the questions make you a bit uncomfortable, good. You own your career and you own your professional development. It’s great if your firm helps along the way, but you can’t leave this important issue in the hands of someone else. Your career will likely encompass a number of different firms across a number of different industries. If you’re not investing in developing yourself, you’re falling behind.

More Professional Development Reads from Art Petty:book cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.

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For more ideas on professional development-one sound bite at a time, check out Art’s latest book: Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development.

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An ideal book for anyone starting out in leadership: Practical Lessons in Leadership by Art Petty and Rich Petro.