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Julie Anne Christmas
August 3, 2021
Conferences can be invaluable for professional growth. I recently returned from MozCon, the yearly conference put together by the dynamic Moz marketing team at Moz. Moz started as an SEO blog and online community in 2004 as a place SEO experts could share research and ideas. Moz has since transformed into a consulting firm that has created some of the best tools in the SEO industry.
Like PHOS’s passion for shining a light in a crowded digital space, Moz was built on a passion for bringing openness and integrity to the SEO industry. Many SEO users and digital marketers, including myself, cut their teeth on Moz’s free, well-known resources such as Whiteboard Friday and their Beginner’s Guide To SEO.
Since entering the digital marketing field, MozCon has been on my professional bucket list. This year, I got to cross that item off my list as I had the opportunity to invest 3 full days at their 2021 conference. And while there were many great presentations and takeaways from the conference speakers, one takeaway stood out in particular. That takeaway: There is no substitute for planning and routine when it comes to professional development.
The speakers at MozCon were excellent, but I found that in my push to stay relevant as a digital marketer and keep on top of the latest trends, I’ve become familiar with much of the subject matter presented this year. So, for me, this conference was an opportunity to reflect on previous lessons or ask myself deeper questions.
There is a cycle to professional development. First, you identify your learning goals then plan and execute activities that help you achieve those goals. From there, you need to reflect on and apply your learning. Once you’ve made a successful application, you are ready to start teaching it to others, beginning the cycle anew. An old manager of mine referred to this cycle as, “See one, do one, teach one.”
For many, a conference like MozCon is that “See one” opportunity. It’s the first time they will hear certain concepts and, hopefully, it will light a fire to further pursue those topics and develop a routine to learn more. For me, this year’s conference was an affirmation of my professional growth plan and an endorsement of PHOS’ commitment to our team’s development. But, while I’m grateful for PHOS’ commitment to continuing education and employee growth and thankful for the people who spend the time and money to organize these incredible opportunities, you just can’t beat focused, ongoing training when it comes to professional development.
I thought it might be helpful to share a few tips and techniques that have helped me grow in my professional walk, tips that I hope will help you to develop in your career, whether in digital marketing or something different — the best part is they’re all free assuming you are willing to put in the work.
Before you can get started on your growth path, it helps to understand where you currently stand. This is a time to be vulnerable and assess your strengths and weaknesses in your professional life. Most industries have helpful assessments, but I’ve found it best to just map out the skills of others in your industry and grade yourself on each. From there, you can plan how to use your resources and decide where to dedicate the most time. For instance, if your goal is to learn SEO, you may want to grade yourself in areas like the fundamentals, technical SEO, content marketing, link building, local search, eCommerce SEO, international search, SEO tools, and automation. Then, once you’ve identified some areas you want to grow in, pin down the steps to take to get better.
For a couple of years, I have been trying to become more conversational in Spanish using the Duolingo app, which helps you learn vocabulary and grammar. One of the main reasons I enjoy Duolingo is because of its “skill tree.” When you first log in to Duolingo, you take an assessment, and based on your learning goals, the app provides you with a path, or tree, to success. With this tree, you can easily evaluate your progress and plan your next steps. Creating a plan doesn’t have to be overly complicated, but it should provide structure on using your time.
You don’t need anything as complicated as Duolingo, but a simple roadmap can help you identify short-term and long-term goals and help keep you accountable for those goals. It’s said that people with a specific game plan for their goals are 10x more likely to achieve those goals. As an example, here is an amazing roadmap to SEO mastery, complete with free guides and resources to help you on your journey.
Take your professional growth seriously and try to do something every single day toward achieving your goals. The hard truth is you will not make real progress at anything if you only show up occasionally. Work your professional development into your daily schedule. Personally, I incorporate professional development into my morning routine. I tend to save articles and videos that I come across throughout the day into a folder that I then review with my morning coffee. Usually, it’s only a few minutes each day, but over time, those minutes have become invaluable to my professional development.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but finding resources that you trust and enjoy using can positively affect your success. We live in a world of information and, while I wish this weren’t the case, much of it is garbage. One of the first things I do when learning a new skill or heading down a new growth path is identifying the tools that I connect with and are reputable. This may feel like a never-ending process, but once you start, it becomes easier to find similar resources. A few things that have helped me in this process are following sources on social media, subscribing to newsletters, and finding ways to engage with them whenever possible.
As with finding good resources, it’s important to find a group of people who are in the same field as you who you can bounce ideas and questions off of and you can pour into as well. For me, the team at PHOS has provided this opportunity. If you don’t have access to a distinguished team of professionals you are privileged enough to work with, there are plenty of local networking groups, industry conferences, and online forums to help get you around a tribe of people with a similar mindset.
Once you’ve found your tribe, identify people who can act as mentors to stretch you to be better and challenge you to grow. We all have blind spots, and when it comes to our professional growth, having someone who can point these out in a caring and helpful way can be indispensable.
Many studies show positive results from the technique called immersion learning, which promotes that once you’ve spent some time learning a new skill, you need to use it. This can be challenging at first, but there are few ways to solidify your professional development better than implementing it in a live environment. It’s been said that you can’t learn to paint by looking at paintings. You have to get your hands dirty and make mistakes. This is true for professional development and continuing education as well. Just make sure you regularly review your work and learn from those mistakes.
Like going to the doctor to keep track of your health, it’s important to do regular check-ups on your professional development. These times can be extremely encouraging, as they show your progress, and equally productive as they identify areas of weakness to help you develop a strategy to address them. As a side note, have someone more experienced review your progress if possible because, as my dad used to say, “You just don’t know what you don’t know.”
One of the best ways to master any skill is to help others learn that skill. Teaching the things you’ve learned can help solidify the skills you’ve developed and even challenge some of your assumptions. It may be uncomfortable, but there aren’t many better ways to grow professionally than to teach others.
The best thing you can do is always keep a student mindset, no matter where you are in your career. Set the right goals, stay around the right people and resources, and step outside of your comfort zone as much as you can — I think you’ll be surprised by the results.
The experienced team at PHOS is passionate about professional development and growth and using those skills better serve our clients. If you need marketing insights or services, reach out to us today.