A well-known quote attributed to William S. Burroughs says that “when you stop growing you start dying.” There are many reasons to view this as a powerful rule for life in general. When you stop pushing to improve any skill, you can expect a backslide. When you stop working to become more fit, you likely become less fit. When you stop working on your relationships, they suffer, and may fall apart.
But this sentiment doesn’t just apply to the more personal and subjective aspects of our life experience. It can also be seen to apply, in a big way, to our professional lives. After all, how many people out there are stuck in a rut, working jobs they hate, and never going anywhere, specifically because they just go through the same motions each day?
Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comics, notes in his autobiographical book “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big” that to reliably move up in your professional life requires productive systems that prevent you from stagnating. For example, always being on the lookout for a better job, and always keeping up at least one side-hustle at any given time.
More broadly speaking, it’s quite universally acknowledged that the more you develop your skills, the more employable you become in the kinds of jobs that tend to pay well and include a good deal of personal responsibility.
On that note, here are a few ways in which you can develop yourself that have the potential to improve your professional prospects.
Take a course in cyber security
The rise of the internet as a fundamental cornerstone and tool of life in the 21st Century has brought with it all kinds of opportunities, and a whole new economy. To an extent previously unheard of, vast numbers of entrepreneurs are now living “location-independent” lives and are working from home, or while travelling the world.
What’s more, the internet has removed many of the traditional barriers to entry, and gatekeepers, that have stood in the way of entrepreneurs in the past. These days, anyone with a plan and an internet connection can make serious moves to start up their own business and become the master of their own professional destiny.
And yet, the benefits of the internet are counterbalanced by risks and forms of exploitation that would have been hard to conceive of even in the recent past. Hackers, online hucksters, fake websites, and other assorted scam artists are a constant threat to all businesses with a serious web presence, and they are often very skilled at doing damage and defrauding their targets.
Fortunately, the ever-growing threat from online troublemakers has given rise to a robust online security industry. Not only will companies such as Alpine Security take steps to secure and monitor your company’s web presence, but they also offer training in cybersecurity.
Knowing the risks that face businesses in cyberspace, and being armed with a skillset that helps you to address and account for these risks, will invariably be an asset for any entrepreneur, and will also make you more valuable to prospective employers.
Take a course in SEO
Another inescapable part of the song-and-dance of the digital age, is the necessity to know how to gain your website the maximum possible amount of exposure.
In practice, this largely comes down to having a good understanding of the principles of SEO — Search Engine Optimisation — which, these days, is essentially the art of knowing how to please Google’s ranking algorithm and get your website bumped up as close to the top of the search results as possible, for your chosen keywords.
SEO is an odd and slightly arcane art. There are certain fundamental principles that seem to remain more or less consistent over time, such as producing quality content, with quality backlinks. But the specifics of what makes for good SEO are often a hotly debated topic, and there’s plenty to learn.
SEO is big business, and many people make a living solely through their expertise in this field. No matter what your day job may be, if there’s any serious internet component to it, taking a course in SEO and developing your understanding of the fundamentals of the practice, will make you a more valuable asset.
Become comfortable with writing basic web copy
Marketing, in one form or another, is essential for any business that wants to thrive and succeed in the marketplace. You simply can’t expect to do well unless you know how to put your product or service in front of prospective interested parties, and convince them of the benefits.
Virtually all forms of marketing involve written content to some degree. More broadly, though, every company relies on written content to communicate with their audience, the majority of the time.
Learning how to write basic web copy — that is, learning how to write in a compelling, grammatically sound way, that aligns with the attention span and reading habits of the average web-surfer — is invaluable and will only ever be a benefit to you.
There are books, guides, and courses to help you out here. The key is that you begin to practice your web writing. You don’t have to become the next great author, or even enjoy the process of writing, but you really should be able to produce at least passable web copy on your own.
Always have at least one side-hustle on the go
In his book, “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big”, Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert comics, argues that no matter who you are and what type of work you’re doing, you should always have at least one side-hustle on the go.
Adams lists some interesting reasons for this.
For one thing, having a side hustle that you find interesting and exciting, and that may become profitable, will keep you enthusiastic, proactive, and hopeful, both in and out of the office. Suffice to say; this is a good thing for your professional life in general.
Side-hustles also teach you new skills, and expose you to new areas of potential growth. And they may make you a successful entrepreneur, too.