Where are you going?

As I waited at my Raleigh-Durham gate recently for a flight to Oregon, I found myself contemplating the question. Figuratively, I mean. This first trip back to the West Coast since I moved to North Carolina last fall was to attend my sister’s grad school graduation and visit with family.

Although I’ve been at my independent contractor-writing job at UNC-Chapel Hill only since March and don’t earn vacation, I made sure I got approval for this brief trip upon my hiring. I have my priorities straight. Finally.

I also have learned to avoid becoming complacent in my professional life. Sure, I took a six-month, self-funded sabbatical upon leaving my 16-year reporter job at the Sacramento Business Journal. And it was only toward the end of that break from work that I returned to networking and began taking free, small-business classes offered by the local community colleges.

Over the last two months, I have allowed myself to ease off on the physical networking events and classes, although I’m still networking online through social media and by volunteering to interview Raleigh-Durham marketers for a Q&A profile series for the Triangle Interactive Marketing Association blog.

Now, though, I’ve adjusted to rising early for my hour-long commute.

It’s time to jump back into professional development full force.

Especially nowadays in a still uncertain and very competitive job market, complacency is dangerous. We must continually grow our network and our skills. Here are some ideas for keeping fresh and adding value to your organization:

• Get involved in and contribute to your industry trade association

• Find some Meetup groups at which you can learn or expand your social media or WordPress knowledge

• Improve your public speaking skills by joining a local Toastmasters group

• Blog to demonstrate and share your expertise in your field and to improve your writing skills

• Sign up for classes at your local college or university, or enjoy the flexibility of learning at home through Lynda.com, Massive Open Online Courses or other online providers

• Volunteer for special events where you can meet and learn from professionals who have expertise that you value, such as a Startup weekend or a digital marketing conference

• Learn new software programs and otherwise upgrade your computer skills

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