I truly believe in continuous improvement. In today’s world standing still really translates into regression. I apply that continuous improvement to different areas of my life: I keep pursuing knowledge on scuba diving in general and its physiology in specific, I am planning to improve my technical skills of motorcycling this year, I learn new things about a healthy lifestyle every day and of course I keep expanding my professional knowledge.
I started out in the investment banking world as an account manager for institutional clients. I decided that my drive for results and my desire to learn more about information technology would be better served in project management so I switched careers. I have never regretted that move. Since my first PM position was at Royal Dutch Airlines, I decided to follow a full year of evening classes in logistics management at the university.
After moving to the United States, I was introduced to the PMP and became certified in 2001. My desire to continuously improve continued with Toastmasters, a Scrum Master certificate, the PMI Leadership Institute Master class, a Myers-Briggs qualification, a Green belt in Six Sigma and currently an executive coaching certification. It is not the certificates I am interested in but rather the knowledge, experience, and interaction with other students from different industries. Some of the acquired knowledge I actively use on a day to day basis, other knowledge becomes part of the mental toolkit to be pulled out when the situation calls for it and some of it goes into the mental waste basket.
Especially in a job market that is a “buyer” market (like today’s) showing that you invest time and money in yourself will improve your chances in the job market. It demonstrates aspects like a curious mind, commitment to (self) improvement, and dedication to juggle a busy schedule with continuous learning.
What can you do? See it as the project “Investing in myself”. First, define the requirements:
- Figure out what you are passionate about and evaluate if this is something you can pursue.
- Look at your current skill set: are there skills you want to improve?
- Do you see skills in others that you would like to acquire?
A lot of my continuous improvement was triggered by one of these three points. For example, I joined Toastmasters because I was in awe of the speaking skills of some of the people I met here and being from Europe there is significant less emphasis on public speaking skills while they are crucial for a successful project manager.
Secondly, figure out what you can do to start working on the desired skills. This includes:
- What courses are out there? (PMI nowadays has a plethora of certifications as do many other organizations)
- What is your financial situation?
- Will your company pay for it?
- Can you obtain the skills through self-study (and are you self-disciplined enough to do this)?
Then schedule the time to work on those skills. None of us have enough time to do everything we need and want to do so it comes down to prioritizing our time. If the project “Investing in myself” is important enough to you, you will find the time to execute it even though it might mean having to (temporarily) give up other activities.
Okay, back to my coaching studies.