By Dr Thomas Brown | May 13 2019
Seven out of ten people say that professional development and career growth opportunities influence their decision to stay at a job. If you can relate to this, we hear you.
Like so much clay in a potter’s hands, we are reshaped a little every day. This is what it means to learn, to be moulded by external influences, to find ourselves subjected to new thoughts, new skills, brand new ideas, to absorb these and change slightly in the making. Imagine working for a person who not only recognises this but values it, someone who celebrates it every working week.
We're all products of our environments, given voices by schools and the streets through which we walk to reach them. The same applies to our places of work. We're taught to speak up, speak out, write well, express ourselves, and listen.
Yet research suggests that over 70% of learning on the job occurs informally, restricting opportunities for more structured training and coaching plans aligned to the individual passions and organisational needs.
Learning is active and it's passive. It's one of the greatest gifts we have, and making time for it is key to both personal enrichment and professional success. Let’s look at why:
Earlier this year I took the day off and drove down to the University of Southampton to submit my thesis. After almost five years of independent research and writing, this was certainly a milestone, and as I sat outside afterwards with a sandwich in the sun, I was reminded of the first ever presentation I gave as part of my postgraduate research project.
The event lasted for a full day, during which time I was privileged enough to listen while a dozen other speakers outlined their own research topics and areas of interest.
The speakers demonstrated a strong academic understanding of their subject matters, but what impressed me the most was the high standard of the presenting. Voices were clear, talks articulate. Many speakers moved around the floor as though it was their natural habitat, young men and women at home in front of an academic audience, with the glow of a Powerpoint across their hands and faces.
In the drive to demonstrate measurable growth, it's easy to overlook the benefits of personal and professional development:
Related read: What I’ve learned over five years from writing a thesis
We all pigeonhole ourselves. I’m a writer. You’re a salesperson or a marketer. James, from finance, he’s the numbers guy. We describe ourselves as one thing over and over across CVs, resumes, the office, the company website, the whole plethora of social media channels. This is me. This is who I am and this is what I do.
There’s comfort in knowing ourselves so assuredly, but at the same time, the skills and traits that make us so well suited to our role are rarely exclusive to one area or profession. Public speaking translates across a host of job specs, for example, and is probably more useful in practical terms than much of the critical theory I’ve read over the last few years.
My research remained very much focused on storytelling, but where storytelling began to blur into content marketing, and content itself began to evolve from a marketing channel into the beating heart at the core of every business unit, I recognised opportunities to learn from it in order to inform the content campaigns I was running for our clients.
It's the same with communication and decision-making, technology and research, inbound marketing strategy and the other skills I practice on a daily basis when planning how we can best tell our clients’ stories. Learning carries implications for us that reverberate well beyond a classroom, a workplace, even an industry:
It's no secret that inquisitiveness is one of our core values. (We're a firm believer in the relationship between curiosity and marketing.) This isn't just a mantra; we're all encouraged to schedule out half a day every week to focus on our development, underpinned by a structured quarterly plan. As investments go, this speaks volumes for how much we believe in the importance of personal and professional development that brings together individual passion and ambition with the company's long-term goals.
So what shapes do these sessions take?
Sometimes, such as earlier this year when we had a training session with the SEMrush team, this looks like the kind of learning opportunities you would expect from a top-tier HubSpot Diamond service provider: improving digital skills, keeping up to date on industry trends, familiarising ourselves with new technology and software updates with which we can better do our jobs.
Other times, I'm reminded how clearly the company recognises the value of the diverse kind of personal development and transferable skills I’ve written about here. In the last month, my colleagues have started MBAs, puzzled over personality assessments, and dipped their toes into project management training, all in the name of bettering themselves.
As well as researching and writing articles, BabelQuest also allows me half a day every week to dedicate to my personal development, whether that’s through completing HubSpot certifications, personal branding, or other training programs. Aaron Aquilina, Content Writer
It's easier than ever to describe yourself as an expert, to fall into the trap of thinking you've learned everything you can, but the second our figurative potter takes his hands from the wheel, we begin to lose direction and shape.
I've been with BabelQuest almost two years now (a lifetime by industry standards), and I’ve already learned a transformative amount about the relationship between sales, marketing, and services, and how best to structure a content team that can empower all three.
On the other side of the desk, content meets sales services as Alice and Chris collaborate on the details of a forthcoming article. In the upstairs meeting room, Gem and Eric are discussing a client strategy. I can see the evidence from where I’m sitting, a pleasing scrawl of mind maps and nurture sequences colouring the whiteboard. The wild gleam in Eric’s eyes might mean he’s hit the creative jackpot (or lost his mind trying). I fear it’s too late for Gem.
All around me, we're learning from one another, taking cues, growing our understanding, sharing the niche details of our respective skill sets to tell the stories, start the conversations, and build the meaningful relationships central to our clients’ success.
American physicist Richard P. Feynman advises that you ‘study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible.’ We're a little more structured in our approach here, but the sentiment stands.
You're clay again, wet in the potter’s hands. Your career potential is limitless. What shapes will you take?
We're hiring! If the thought of half a day's dedicated personal development time every week makes you giddy, we'd love to hear from you. Check out our careers page and see if any of our vacancies catch your eye.
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Head of Content at BabelQuest responsible for steering and implementing the content roadmap. PhD Creative Writing at the University of Southampton and novelist with Sparkling Books.
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