Why is growing your skills not an optional extra?
By Charlie Britten
01 Mar 2019
They say "every day is a school day” and while established professionals may have left the days of chalk boards, dinner bells and uniforms well behind, there is no doubt that lifelong learning is vital for any professional career.
This is particularly true in disciplines like law and marketing, as both exist in changing landscapes where everything from new legislation such as the GDPR data protection laws through to developments in online technology and practice. Learning about change and adapting to it is very important.
Quite apart from that, everyone benefits from good professional development. You will bring to any role your own particular skills and experience, but by increasing your knowledge, you can both understand what your colleagues do and help them with it, as well as doing your own core job better.
Also, by being an all-round expert across different skill areas, you can play an important role going forward in training new staff.
Because the focus of our work is digital, we concentrate much of our skills growth on increasing knowledge in certain important areas. For instance, in digital marketing we look to use analytical software packages to study how well our content and marketing strategy are working.
The more we know and understand, the easier is it to know how to respond to the data. This might tell us that we need to change something because it isn’t working well, or that it is working well and we need to do more of it.
Other areas of learning cover matters such as content strategy. This is all about planning a way to take customers through what is known as the buyer journey. This involves four stages - awareness, when a potential client learns about a firm and its services, consideration, when they are thinking about whether to become a customer, the purchase itself and then the final stage where they can be retained as happy customers and provide recommendations to friends, family and colleagues.
Knowing how to build a strategy, make changes to it, produce interesting content and develop new ideas is all part of this, but increased understanding will always enable people to do it better.
For example, when deciding what the target audience for content is, marketers will build up a ‘buyer persona’ representing important aspects of the sort of person they want to attract. This will include elements like age, sex, profession, geographical location and much more.
By carrying out further learning, marketers can create more accurate and relevant personas, using the latest research data to help establish what aspects of a persona make a difference to the decisions potential customers make.
Other examples include the building of a social media strategy. As well as learning key points about how to make such a strategy effective, marketers also need to know how to monitor the results to assess how they have done and how they might improve it.
The same applies to all the other areas of the firm - be it the email marketing, sales, branding, or the understanding of customer behaviour.
Learning can come from different sources, of course. An obvious core element comes through formal training and study carried out as part of the job. As is usual when somebody starts a new role, this will dominate their early days and weeks as they gather the essential knowledge they need. However, learning is an ongoing process and it is vital to maintain an attitude of openness to new knowledge, ideas and situations in order to be able to provide the best possible services to clients.
As well as helping you serve clients better, a commitment to continually growing your skills will also help your colleagues. A common problem in many organisations is that many people are so specialised in their jobs that colleagues do not have a good understanding of what they do.
This can lead to problems when specialists have to collaborate with others, as it can be hard to make clear just how the work they do will achieve the intended goal. In addition, tasks can be left undone if a staff member is away because others lack the knowledge of how to fill in during their absence.