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Two messages, one theme.

I recently listened to two sermons (yes - religious sermons).  One was about the importance of striking a balance between being selfish and being selfless. The second one was about the importance of continuous learning and investing in yourself while sharing your knowledge and experience with others. Interpreting everything in terms of careers (that's what we do here), I started to think about the conversations I seem to frequently have with people who have maintained a laser-focus on doing their job AT their desk, only to find themselves isolated and out-of-date.

Can two religious sermons come together to give career advice?

I think the answer is yes.  I was recently sitting down with the past head of human resources from a pharma-related company here in the Twin Cities.  She had been with the company for multiple years and had been very focused on her job.  Her company was sold and she found herself in need of new employment. We talked about normal topics - networking (my personal favorite) and continuing education (as part of her resume).  She had lost track of her network - people she had known over the years. She was too busy.  She HAD taken varying courses/seminars for her role and company - most of which were actually good in terms of her professional development. She had only thought of them in terms of direct impact to her past role.

Let's tie sermons to job searching

Balance - people hear networking (while working fulltime) and get completely overwhelmed.  And when we are overwhelmed, we focus on what we know - doing our job. Networking is NOT heresy. We get things done through people. Companies talk about 'best practices.' How can we find out about these practices if we don't ask people? Networking does not have to be constantly reaching out to people.  We do indeed have a job to do (and a life to live).  How about the following?
  • Have lunch outside of your office one or two times per week.
  • Make a commitment to calling a key contact you have not talked with for too long - and doing so once a week.  (Just leave a voicemail; they will call back.)
  • Go to a lunch seminar through your professional or industry association one time per month.

The lunch seminar mentioned above combines the two themes

Attending an interesting seminar once per month (usually 90 minutes plus commuting time) doesn't sound too overwhelming.  Most professions require more than this to maintain a certification. Many people have started to get their continuing education through webinars.  The only negative - we aren't face-to-face with the people we participate with.  Networking and true connections are more personal. They include a handshake, trading stories and trading business cards in a more personal way.

Balance and continuous learning - make it this year's commitment!