How to develop & protect your professional skills


Racquel Simpson, Youthlink Writer

Whether you do something to denigrate your professional career or someone else does it for you, there may be lasting effects that can destroy your chances of future employment.

How can young professionals develop and protect their professional skills? Director of sales and services at Scotia Insurance, Lana Forbes, shares some valuable tips with you.

Have a Plan for your Life

It's important to have a plan, as this will direct the choices you make in life. It's a good idea to write down your dreams and put in the steps you will take to achieve your goals. This will help you to know that you are moving in the right direction. Take out the document and remind yourself often of the plan. This will help you stay on track. Once you know what you want to do, it becomes easier for you to present yourself in an appropriate manner, both in attire and persona. For example, if you decide that you want to be in the corporate world, then most definitely a corporate/professional image (shirt and tie) is what you should go for, as opposed to being a musician whose attire is less formal.

Connect with/emulate people in that field. Once there is a definite idea about what you want to achieve, you should begin to link with progressive people in that field and try to emulate them, and stay away from those who idle a lot. By emulating these progressive individuals, you can become more steadfast in your career and professionalism. When talking to someone with experience, she/he may be able to share some of the pitfalls or surprises he/she has encountered which may not be documented anywhere in a book.

Always Do your Best

With every given task you should be diligent and do it as best as you can. You should have everything planned out so that when it is being implemented it is done well. This could get you around in the industry and could augur well for future jobs. If you come up with a new idea and want it to be implemented, it is key that you have all the necessary information and plans for implementing that idea. The worst thing that could happen is to see that your idea gets nowhere and to be looked at by your colleagues as mediocre.

Be mindful of the ills of technology

The social media is certainly entertaining. However, any information placed there will stay around forever. Thus, any inappropriate or damaging material placed will be available when your potential employer for that dream job is researching you before an offer is made. Therefore, it would do you a bit of good to edit your statuses and profile pictures to something more respectable and less degrading of your professional character.
These days it is easy to be put in an awkward position if a picture was taken with you in a compromising position or in inappropriate clothing. This could be embarrassing and could impact your career, if such pictures are seen by your boss or other senior managers, and could probably lead to you being not hired, suspended or fired. Attire creates an impression of your character, so be careful what message you are sending.

Be Pleasant and Helpful

Invariably, almost every job involves working with other persons. If you are selfish and difficult to be around, your boss may find it difficult to promote you when no one wants to work with you. Being difficult may hinder the achievement of your objectives as persons may not wish to support or respond to your initiatives. The important thing to remember is that it never hurts to at least be respectful, pleasant and helpful to others.

List and explain two things that you have been practising to help build your professional image. Send your answers to