When discussing diversity in the workplace, we usually think about what cultural, gender or educational diversity means for a company. Countless studies and think pieces discuss the correlation between a diversity-rich work environment and improved business performance. However, an individual’s diversity of experiences and what that means for career growth is a rare part of this conversation.
While people based careers on expertise, duration, and rewards in the past (as Deloitte‘s article revealed), working professionals today favor a variety of experiences during their time in any role.
Why does diversity matter?
In the past, career paths were mostly defined by vertical climbs, i.e., going up the corporate ladder. However, the spotlight on talent diversity in the workplace suggests that individuals can explore off-beat paths to reach personal and professional goals, even exploring roles with different departments.
Such horizontal spreading brings varied learning opportunities, improves networking options, and prepares you to adapt to different situations faster and with greater ease.
Finally, perspectives based on diverse experiences also hone problem-solving abilities, as you learn to connect seemingly unrelated pieces of information to find new solutions to challenges. No wonder, professionals like Beth Castle highlight how gaining a diverse work experience can improve one’s professional trajectory.
Building a diverse skill and experience portfolio
While university education and student internships can introduce you to different skill development possibilities and industry experiences, you can enhance your skillsets even after setting off on your career path.
- Sign-up for courses. With e-learning gaining traction, a plethora of online skill-based courses (for example, on platforms such as Coursera and Skillshare) are available. Apart from a range of subjects, they offer a high degree of flexibility, allowing you to learn at your own pace. Courses often come with certificates of completion, which can be used to add credibility to your profile on social networking platforms, or even during your workplace review conversations.
- Step outside your professional comfort zone. Volunteer to assist peer group members on projects that differ from your routine work or ask to be placed on projects that give you ample learning opportunities. For example, if you usually write code for products, collaborate with the marketing team to see how the product goes to market, or assist the sales team during client meetings to learn what problems clients have and how your product features can be tweaked to address them. Apart from helping build diversity of perspectives, such experiences allow you to create a vision for your own career journey.
- Pursue a hobby. Set aside time to pursue a skill or area of interest outside of work – from music and photography to even astronomy or deep-sea diving. The learning experience can itself be fulfilling, and might help ‘connect the dots’ as Steve Jobs famously spoke of, referring to his interest in calligraphy and how that helped design the Mac range of computers with beautiful fonts.
Today, networking sites like LinkedIn and professional online forums provide opportunities to connect with a range of people – from experts in your own field to pioneers in other areas – who are willing to share knowledge. It also opens up avenues to attend skill-building workshops and conferences. Moreover, employers too recognize the benefits of talent diversity and support employees looking to widen their horizons. Some even provide financial assistance to access such opportunities. Then, why not spread your wings wider and see what skills you can nurture?