Having the freedom to define your own career path is one of the many perks of becoming a contractor in the first place. However, this freedom can also be seen as a disadvantage. As a contractor, it’s your responsibility to develop your own skills and pursue the right training. For employees, these opportunities are typically provided by your employer. In today’s fast paced, highly competitive marketplace, ensuring you’re at the top of your game as a contractor has never been more important.
Professional development is an integral part of offering the best possible service to your clients. Setting time aside for such unpaid activities is difficult, particularly when you have to dedicate time to developing and implementing your own marketing plan. Developing your professional skills will pay dividends in the future, with the increased knowledge and experience giving you greater access to opportunities and making you a more desirable candidate. Here, we reveal why professional development matters and how you can develop your skills and experience for a more successful and profitable career as a contractor.
Why does professional development matter?
According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), 67% of professionals say that learning and development is extremely or broadly aligned with their business strategies. Dedicating time to professional development is vital since technology usage has increased across a multitude of industries. Coaching, training courses and development programmes are just some of the routes to better understanding and use of the latest tools and technology.
As well as increasing understanding of the latest tools and techniques used within your industry sector, professional development gives you the up-to-date information you need to stay at the very forefront of your market. You can also add any courses, self-taught skills, and acquired qualifications to your CV to make you a more versatile and desirable candidate. Learning new skills in accordance with your professional ambitions ultimately increases career satisfaction giving you the drive and enthusiasm you need to go further in your career, boost your reputation and up your earning power.
How much time is enough for development?
There are no hard and fast rules for setting aside time for professional development, but it’s a good idea to make it a regular part of your schedule. Just 30 minutes a day of research into industry trends and techniques can make a difference. Enrolling on training courses and other programs can help progress your career, enhance your CV and establish useful industry connections.
Developing your skills and experience
Keeping your contracting skills and experience relevant to your industry is the key to gaining access to the best paid contracts. There are many ways in which you can develop your skills and experience. One route is to create a professional development plan. It will help identify what you need to progress in your industry sector, as well as honing your skills to achieve these requirements. FlexJobs explains:
“Before you can draft a professional development plan, you first need to identify the skills needed to succeed in your field. Clients hire freelancers for their skills and their knowledge. What are the specific attributes that make someone in your industry attractive to clients? List anything you can think of, even if you don’t have them yet. Consider skills that are specifically related to your profession—whether it’s SEO copywriting or Photoshop—as well as “soft skills” that are helpful in any field, like communication, leadership, and multitasking.”
With thorough research into what’s required you can improve your skill set by teaching yourself something new. You can also try finding a mentor, enrolling on a course, attending seminars and workshops, reading learning materials, or joining professional groups.