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Why You Should Always Be Growing in Your Career

Written by Courtney Sembler | @CSembler

Originally published on HubSpot Career Blog

Why should you always be growing in your career? What does always be growing mean? To grow you need to learn and to always be growing you need to always be learning.

When you’re always learning you’re constantly developing new skills to help you move forward in your career in whatever way you want. Whether you’re just getting started in your career or are counting down the days to retirement, learning will always be a valuable asset.

So how can you always be learning and growing your career?

On the HubSpot Academy team we have a set of principles that help guide us to create content and serve our users better. One of these principles is ‘always be learning’.

We define it as:

Always be learning: never stop thinking. Your eyes and ears are always open; everything and everyone gives you an opportunity to learn.

When first joining the HubSpot Academy team back in January of 2017, I realized how well this principle aligned with my career development as well as personal growth.

Mark Kilens, the leader of the Academy team, stresses this in everything that we do and even in his personal life. He is always learning by reading every day and exploring new areas for team growth and his personal growth.

In 2017, I took a hard approach to always be learning and set out to read 200 books in 365 days. My goal was to change the way I spend my life and learn as much as possible before starting to write my own novel.

While you don’t have to set out to reach 200 books in one year, setting goals for what you want to learn and how you want to learn it can help you develop skills to reach your next career objective.

Author, Whitney Johnson, describes growth in the terms of our S Curves and how we want to grow until we’re ready to jump into our next S Curve. But how can always be learning help you jump?

When sitting in an interview or even in discussions with your manager regarding a promotion, showing that you can get your day job done and do it well is one piece — but there is another piece, too: what else you know. The other skills you have than what is explicitly asked of you.

The skills that show you’re a hard-worker, a mentor, or even the knowledge you gain from reading 200 books and learning about different writing styles that could propel you forward faster when writing blogs for example.

When you’re always learning you’re setting yourself up for the success you’re striving for.

So why is always be learning so important to your career development? How can it help you grow and get to where you want to be?

There are three key steps that I use to keep my always be learning attitude in present in everyday lives.

  • Having a growth mindset
  • You don’t know what you don’t know
  • Developing new skills

Let’s explore each of these.

Having a growth mindset

Having a growth mindset is something that’s extremely important when looking to advance your career through learning. Let’s look at this always be learning skill through the lens of developing skills for a job that you currently have or want to have.

In the novel, Myth of the Nice Girl, Fran Hauser describes research by Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford. Dweck’s research shows that people with a growth mindset achieve more because of their focus on learning.

People who have a growth mindset believe that through training and hard work, their talents can be developed. Hauser discusses that “In many ways, this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you believe you can get better at something, it’s more likely that you will”.

A growth mindset comes in handy when receiving feedback. When you’re looking to grow, getting feedback can be a huge asset and if you’re framing this feedback through a growth mindset then the feedback isn’t taken as negative but as a pillar in which you can use to grow.

As Fran Hauser states, “Instead of criticism, it will feel like an opportunity grow growth”

Tips for having a growth mindset:

  • Ask for feedback from your mentors (such as managers, colleagues you work closely with, or leaders on your team).
  • Position the feedback conversation with growth in mind. Try asking questions like: “As I’m working through this new skill, what are areas that you believe I could improve on?”
  • Above all, be honest with those that can help you. Communicate to them that you want to grow and keep the growth mindset in mind and focus on what you want to improve.

You don’t know what you don’t know

When looking to grow in our careers, we don’t know what it is that we don’t know. This can be especially true when looking to advance your career from outside of a company. You don’t know the internal processes that they use, or how your skills will best fit on their team.

This principle of always be learning has been a huge driver for me personally. When we don’t know what we don’t know, it can be discouraging and put questions in our head such as “Should I really be going after this opportunity?” “What if they ask a question I can’t answer?”

This is where your always be learning attitude will come in handy. For example, When I was applying to be an Inbound Professor on the HubSpot Academy Team, I knew there were a lot of processes that Mark Kilens and the rest of the team used to grow every day. But I didn’t know their depth or understand what they were. In essence, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

To help me overcome the fear that comes with this I sat down and started learning. I made a spreadsheet of all the individuals on the Academy team I would be interviewing with.

I started to document what I did know about them and identified the gaps of what I didn’t know yet. Then I started to Google, search LinkedIn, and even speak internally with other individuals who did know them. What happened was I started to understand what I didn’t know.

When it came time to the interview I was prepared with what I did know and when a question came up that I didn’t know, I felt comfortable answering with: “While doing my research on HubSpot Academy and your processes it sparked a chord with me, would you mind telling me a little more about your processes and how you use them to run the team?”

I didn’t know everything there was to know about the processes but by trying to learn, I was on the right path and able to show my always be learning mentality in the interview.

Tips for not knowing what you don’t know:

  • Do as much research as possible, the gaps will get smaller the more you are learning
  • If you’re in an interview and want to learn more, ask them to tell you more, this can show you’re interested in learning and eager to explore further.

Developing new skills

Lastly, let’s talk about how always learning will help you develop new skills.

When we enter into our careers, or even after we’ve been in them for a long time, we can feel stalled. We have skills and we do our work well. Why do we need to continue to develop?

When you’re always learning you gradually pick up new skills all the time. It can become a habit rather than work. When you can make a habit out of learning you are making a habit out of developing new skills.

When looking to become an expert in a skill or even highly proficient you can do three things:

  • You learn (do research, read about the skill, practice the skill)
  • You put the skill into motion
  • And then you teach it to someone else

If you’re always learning then you’re always in the beginning stages of becoming proficient. It helps propel you forward. Even if the skills aren’t used today you never know where you might want to take your career. So always learning new skills will keep you as fresh and prepared as possible.

Tips for developing new skills:

  • Find online resources to reach (I use Medium.com to do research every day)
  • Talk and meet with others who have skills that you don’t to explore them as options
  • Attend workshops or meetings in your local community to learn what’s out there.

When we’re always learning, we’re always growing, which in turn will help you grow your career in any way that you want. And even more importantly, it helps you do so in a productive and seamless way that feels natural and valuable.

In the end keep growing, never stop thinking, and above always be learning.

Want to chat more with me about how you can always be learning? Reach out to me on Twitter or email me directly at csembler@hubspot.com.

What are ways you’re learning in your careers? Let me know in the comments below!