In this competitive job market, one way to differentiate yourself is to stay on the cutting edge of the industry. You can take professional development classes, work on extra projects, and attend networking events. But, how do you make sure you're growing in a way that builds into a meaningful career and a fulfilling life?
Shavon Brown, who works as a Manager of Learning and Development at Squarespace (she's the company's guru for continued learning) and moonlights as a holistic healer at Healing View Wellness, has unique insights into how people can continue to unlock their potential.
In both of her jobs, she's leveraged a multidimensional perspective to help hundreds of people break through the barriers that keep them stuck. “Continued learning," says Shavon, “provides a cushion that you can always build on to be innovative and creative. It keeps you abreast of changes and ignites your mental agility. If you're always stuck in the same realm, it really limits your capacity."
Shavon told us how she's always nurturing growth at Squarespace and her side gig, both personally and with those lucky enough to work with her. Here are her top five ways to make sure you're always growing in a way that serves you—no matter your goals.
1. Hone in on Your Purpose
Here's a little secret: aligning with your purpose is a surefire way to make sure you're always growing. Your purpose isn't necessarily the goal of your specific role. It's something deeper that ignites a sense of intrinsic value, or the sense that the work you're doing has inherent worth. If you're a marketer, your purpose could be to help potential customers. If you're a data scientist, your purpose could be to find meaning in numbers.
Shavon explains: “As long as I'm putting energy toward something bigger than myself and bigger for the world, the hustle is easy. So, you need to find greater meaning in the day-to-day grind." Because when you tap into that meaning or purpose, you'll find that you're over-the-moon about the idea of taking on a challenging project or signing up for a new class.
2. Focus on Foundational Skills and Processes
In her work at Squarespace and Healing View Wellness, Shavon has found that people are so excited to get ahead, they often skip the most important core skills. “Skipping the groundwork can be detrimental early on. Learn to love the basics of what your industry is because that's where mastery comes from," she says. That means not only practicing the fundamental skills you need for your specific role, but continually building processes that deepen your fluency as a professional.
For Shavon, that meant building systems that enabled her to grow Healing View Wellness before she took on any clients. She strategically planned and practiced every aspect of the business—bookkeeping, time management, scheduling, billing and her website.
For her website, Shavon says, "I needed something that allowed me the creative freedom to evenly reflect my dedication to this field, the alchemy of my services and the simplicity of healing in a chaotic world. Squarespace was and still is the best platform to build a website."
For you, it may mean finally figuring out a system to keep your inbox in check, implementing tactics to make meetings more efficient, or creating a website that really showcases your identity. These time investments pay back major dividends as you advance in your career.
3. Pivot Early and Often
Most people want to jump from “junior" to “senior" to “VP" with as few tangents as possible. A vertical trajectory is something to aspire to, but it's not the only way to grow. Shavon believes firmly in the benefits of taking calculated risks, especially when they take you beyond your current skill set.
“I'm a big fan of movement. Some of the best learning experience I've had came from quick and deliberate decisions that were critical in helping me to assess my strengths and weaknesses. Don't be afraid to pivot early and often."
So, if your director approaches you about a new role she's creating or the potential to move abroad to another office, assess the possible reward. It could pay off big time.
4. Tap Into a Community
Professional and personal development can happen in so many different ways: online classes, degrees, certifications, and licensing. But, once you max out on formal learning, it's easy to plateau. One of the best ways to keep growing is to tap into a community of thriving professionals who help challenge each other.
Shavon believes that by connecting with other professionals who want to learn, you can achieve a higher level of mastery. You can collaborate and consider how the skills you learned in the classroom work in real-time across various scenarios.
When you network, look for people who have a similar appetite for growth and set aside time to keep each other accountable. Plan regular meetups to talk about any pain points in your industry and possibilities for positive change. Bouncing ideas off others is a great way to push yourself and expand past your own ideas.
5. Embrace Failure as Growth
In both of Shavon's roles, she's come to a surprising conclusion: people who embrace failure are the ones who are most likely to succeed in the long run. These professionals take strategic risks and they're willing to be vulnerable, which are two key components for growth.
Learn from the example of these people, and when possible, reach out to them as mentors. Shavon suggests leading with appreciation: “You did this amazing thing — you took a lot of calculated risk. Tell me what that felt like for you. What have you learned along the way?" Approaching failure with a sense of openness and appreciation for the tenacity it takes to forge a new path sets the foundation for lifelong learning.
There are so many ways to grow. And the most important thing is that you find the ways to grow that work best for you and put them into practice as often as possible. By honing your skills and taking risks, you'll set the stage for powerful opportunities to grow your career by leaps and bounds.