A major challenge facing technical professionals is identifying ongoing opportunities for the development of their knowledge and skills and obtaining a recognised qualification.
Most technical professionals currently learn ‘on the job’, being mentored by more experienced professionals and gaining experience over time. For example, related qualifications in engineering, planning, technology and the sciences are the usual areas that transport professionals come from.
So how do professionals develop their capability further?
With constantly changing work and skill requirements, life long learning and continuing education becomes a necessity. Rules of life long learning include:
- stay current in your field and continue to develop your skills and knowledge
- broaden your knowledge and understanding about related fields – more and more we need to be a specialist in a particular area, but also have a broad knowledge about your industry
- take courses, attend seminars and conferences, read books and journals, develop and practice new skills
- consider investing in your future by taking ‘time-off’ to undertake full-time education.
Consider new developments in learning, beyond traditional institutions or modes of learning. New education opportunities are being provided using short courses and flexible learning using the Internet, at your own pace and time.
Will you be better off in the future as a specialist or a generalist?
The answer is, BOTH. You need to have strong enough specialist skills to get you in the door – something that makes you unique and puts you in a place to add value to an employer. But that is no longer enough.
You also need to be able to use those specialist capabilities in working with teams of people from different disciplines. You need to be able to organise your work, manage your time, keep to a budget and sell your project.
So the answer is not so much one of either/or, but one of degree. Should you be more of a specialist or more of a generalist?
If you prefer to specialise, conduct a searching self-assessment to make sure you have what it takes to rise to the top of your profession. Take an equally careful look at market conditions to make sure that you are investing your career assets in an in-demand speciality.
Stay on top of the newest trends and information in your profession. And develop you will more than likely have a number of different careers in your lifetime your generalist skills.