Zig Ziglar, one of my all time favorite motivational speakers and a great source of inspiration, was one of the first people I remember who used the term "Sharpening the Saw" to refer to keeping your COMPETITIVE EDGE sharp and mastering the process of LIFELONG LEARNING and professional development.
Today, more than ever, it is critical that we continue to "Sharpen the Saw" -- to improve upon our strengths, shore up our weaknesses and stay current in the latest thinking in our field of knowledge. With budgets tight, many companies are temporarily suspending traditional learning and training initiatives. It is therefore up to each of us to take the initiative in “sharpening the saw” – improving and enhancing our ability to add the highest value possible.
Those who make learning and professional development a priority will create significant competitive advantage for themselves, which in the current job market and economic times, has never been more important.
Consider the following ways to continue to “Sharpen Your Saw ":
1. Read More. Commit to reading a minimum of at least one book a month focused on professional development, personal development or some other aspect of your work life. Keep a book at your desk, in your car, next to your favorite chair at home. Find time to read daily. Listen to audio books during your morning commute. Reading is the absolute BEST way to consistently sharpen your saw.
2. Become Certified. Obtain a key business license, certification or other professional designation. Enhance your credentials and professional standing in your field. Many certification programs are now offered online. The certification and licensure process offers an excellent learning opportunity AND awards you with a highly marketable designation in the end – a double bonus.
3. Join Toastmasters. Improve you public speaking skills. The “art” of public speaking is, and always will be, a highly marketable skill set. Toastmasters offers a structured and disciplined program for improving your ability to speak comfortably and effectively to small and large groups. It is also an excellent business networking opportunity.
4. Enroll in a Class. Seek out classroom learning opportunities at your local college or university. Consider an advanced degree or simply deepen your knowledge base in a chosen field of study. Many local colleges and universities offer excellent after-hours and weekend study programs.
5. Focus on Your Strengths. Dive deeper into one or more of your areas of strength. Actively seek out opportunities to spend more time in the areas where you add the highest value and which align best with those things that strengthen you.
6. Identify Your Weaknesses. Determine if any of your weaknesses are "career blockers" – areas that may hold you back from advancement. Make a commitment this year to shore up any areas of weaknesses that you determine to be career blockers.
7. Teach Something. Offer your expertise to others through a teaching or training opportunity. Teaching is a great way to deepen your learning.
8. Publish Something. Begin writing a book; write an article for a professional publication; launch a “blog” focused on your area of expertise. Share your wisdom and knowledge with others. Writing will, by default, create opportunities for learning. Writing is also an excellent means for enhancing and building your personal brand.