Want to develop your strengths? Then you might want to think outside the box and take your skills outside of the office.
Learning and growing should be a lifelong pursuit. If you want to grow in your personal and professional life, you have to make an effort to expand your skills and take yourself out of your comfort zone.
And learning doesn’t have to be confined to the workplace. While the office is great for taking workshops and learning lessons from your coworkers, there is also something to be gained from taking yourself out of your work environment and putting yourself somewhere new.
For instance, if you’re great at public speaking, why not try your hand at performing at a storytelling show?
Or if you’re great with logistics, why not volunteer at a community theater and help manage a production?
Or if you’re a manager who loves the outdoors, why not try leading a nature walk?
It’s important to note that building your skillset outside of the office is different from a typical side hustle. A side hustle tends to focus on generating extra income, whereas building your skillset outside of the office is about having a more well-rounded and fulfilling life–while also letting your strengths shine.
Here are just some of the other ways that building your skills outside of work can benefit you:
- You’ll be outside of the office so you’ll get to practice your skills without the same work pressures or expectations.
- You’ll encounter new challenges and find creative solutions.
- You’ll meet new and interesting people.
- You’ll grow and develop your skills by being in a different environment.
- You’ll create a niche for yourself and build a strong reputation.
Identify your skills
Having trouble figuring out your skillset? Here’s a short exercise that can help you define your strengths and special skills. You might want to grab a notebook and a quiet spot to help you reflect.
- What is something that you enjoy doing at your current job? It could be as big or mundane as you like. Maybe you love meeting new clients or organizing office birthday parties or you find it thrilling to color coordinate your online calendar.
- What kind of adjectives do people use to describe you? Maybe your manager is always describing you as super efficient and productive. Or your friends are always telling you how organized you are. These adjectives are like little breadcrumbs, leading you to where your strengths are.
- What is something that you wish you could do more of in your daily life? Maybe you wish you could spend more time helping kids. Or spending more time outdoors. Or doing something crafty with your hands.
- What is a strength that you have outside of your current role? Maybe you work on data all day but you also have a creative side. Or maybe you’re a writer but you don’t always have a chance to show-off your illustration skills.
- What is a non-work related skill you can improve? This would be a skill that is outside of your professional role like public speaking or marketing. Instead, think of traits that can help you grow as a person, like mindfulness, patience, and creativity.
Brainstorm ways you can build your skill set
Now take a look at your responses. Do you see any common themes emerging?
For example, if you’d love to work with kids and your coworkers would describe you as patient and dedicated, maybe you could volunteer as an after-school tutor.
Or if you find yourself drawn to the outdoors and nature, maybe you can find a way to volunteer at a local park or garden.
Or if you’d like to work on being more patient and mindful, maybe you can take a painting or yoga class.
Find the common themes and connect the dots to help you build your skillset outside of work.
Figure out your schedule
Take a look at your weekly schedule. What is a realistic amount of time that you can commit to your skillset outside of the office?
It also helps to look at your schedule in the macro and micro view.
- Macro: What is your schedule looking like for the next 6 months to a year? Take note of special events, occasions, and holidays coming up, as well as big work projects on the horizon.
- Micro: What is your weekly schedule like? Do you work 9-5? Do you have to pick up the kids or take care of your relatives? What days and time slots do you have available?
Don’t forget to take into account your personal and social obligations. You don’t want to stretch yourself too thin by committing to too many activities.
Maybe start off small and block off 2-3 hours a week to build your skillset outside of work. And then once you get used to the routine and your new schedule, you can adjust your time commitment as needed.
Identify a goal
It’s always a good idea to identify a goal to help give you structure and accountability.
- What do you hope to get out of building your skillset outside of work?
- How long do you intend to work on this? Do you have a set deadline? Remember to give yourself enough time to make progress. A quarterly or year-long goal should be an ample amount of time.
- What obstacles do you foresee and how will you manage them? For instance, will time management be an issue? What about your budget? When you think of back-up plans and solutions beforehand, you’ll be more likely to stick to your goal when challenges arise.
Reach out to people in your personal and professional network
Let people in your network know that you’re looking to build x or y skills outside of work. These could be old coworkers and former bosses. Or your friends and family. You never know if they might have a lead on someone who could use your skills.
If you’re hesitant to ask for help, remember this: people are always excited to hear from you and they want to help you succeed.
Keep a journal to reflect on your progress and don’t forget to track your wins to keep yourself motivated. Good luck!