2 Skills to Make the Most of Your Career

The ability to adapt to change and master learning are key skills for new grads.

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Curt Rosengren
For those of you who are graduating soon and plotting the course for your career, I have some news for you. I can almost guarantee 100 percent that things won’t turn out as planned. Whether that is good news or bad news ultimately depends on you.

Life is anything but neat and tidy. Things change, and it can get messy. That applies as much in your career as anywhere. If you want to make the most of that fact—and even turn it to your advantage—there are two skills I encourage you to start consciously developing right now: change and learning.

[See 9 Tips to Make Your Resume Stand Out.]

Become adept at change. The ability to effectively, fluidly change will have a massive impact on your career. Far too many people get attached to “the way things are” and cling to it tenaciously. But glomming on to the way things are is a surefire way to get left behind. At best, it creates a constant friction as you resist the pressure of that change. At worst, it renders you irrelevant.

You are at the time of your life when you are probably as naturally open to change as you will ever be. From here, that openness to change can take two paths. You can either develop it and consciously grow it as a skill, or you can watch it slowly harden and ossify into a rigid attachment to the status quo.

One way to consciously become adept at change is to make a habit of asking change-focused questions, like:

• What change is coming? (Watch for trends and developments.)

• What change can I take advantage of?

• Where is the opportunity in this change?

• What change am I resisting? Why?

• What change wants to happen?

• What would happen if I embraced this change?

• How can I make this change easier?

• What am I attached to? What doors would open if I let go of that attachment?

Ultimately, it’s about recognizing the change coming down the pike, seeing opportunities to embrace that change, dissolving your resistance to it, and taking action. The more readily you can do that, the more naturally you can flow with that change in a positive direction.

[See The Most Important Piece of Career Advice for New Grads.]

Master learning. Related to proficiency at change is developing a mastery of learning. This may sound like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised at how frequently people leave this one to chance. As you develop your learning mastery, keep these two components in mind.

How you learn best: Learning style

Since you are just coming out of a learning-intensive environment, you’re in an ideal position to start building that learning mastery. Take a look back at your school experience. What has been the most effective way to learn? Are you a visual learner? Do you learn best by hearing things? Are you a kinesthetic learner, preferring to get your hands on things and learn by doing? The more you can tap into your natural style of learning, the easier you can make it on yourself.

How you learn best: Create a learning ecosystem

Think about creating what I think of as a “learning ecosystem.” That means creating an environment for yourself that feeds your learning effort. Some elements to think about as you develop your learning ecosystem include:

• People: This includes both colleagues you can learn with and mentors you can learn from.

• Learning media (e.g., books, workshops, etc.): What are the learning resources available for the subjects you’re learning about? What kinds of media do you learn from best?

• Location / physical space: Creating or finding a physical space that is conducive to learning. This might be something like creating a reading room at home, or simply finding a place like a coffee shop where you can focus without your regular distractions.

• Schedule: Learning doesn’t happen without the time to do it in. Make sure you make time for learning in your schedule.

The more adept you are at both tapping into your ideal learning mode and creating an ecosystem to support it, the more potential you have to take full advantage of the opportunities your career has to offer.

With a fluid ability to flow with change and a mastery of learning, you can use the ever-shifting nature of life and your career to your advantage. You can evolve and grow. You can recognize doors that didn’t exist yesterday, and you can step through them into new and fulfilling opportunities.

Or you can insist on maintaining the status quo, in which case…well, good luck with that.

After years as a professional malcontent, Curt Rosengren discovered the power of passion. As speaker, author, and coach, Rosengren helps people create careers that energize and inspire them. His book, 101 Ways to Get Wild About, and his E-book, The Occupational Adventure Guide, offer people tools for turning dreams into reality. Rosengren's blog, The M.A.P. Maker, explores how to craft a life of meaning, abundance, and passion.