While the pandemic has waylaid many professional development plans, some people have still managed to pursue a lot of growth and development. And not only is that growth going to feel great, it’s also likely to have a positive career impact.
A new CollegeFinance.com report surveyed over 1,000 people who self-isolated or self-quarantined in recent months, as well as more than 200 hiring managers, to assess how people spent their downtime.
An encouraging finding from the report is that 83% indicated learning something new while staying at home during COVID-19 and 78% expanded their existing skills or knowledge during the pandemic.
And for anyone who took the initiative to grow their skills, here’s some really good news: 90% of hiring managers surveyed said they were more likely to hire and promote someone who worked on their professional development during the pandemic than a person who didn’t.
Notwithstanding the likely career benefits, 60% of people said picking up a new skill set during the pandemic was a self-development pursuit and 39% indicated they were trying to reduce their stress levels.
It’s also likely that these self-development pursuits will have longer-term carryover effects. In the Leadership IQ study, “If Your Employees Aren’t Learning, You’re Not Leading,” we discovered that employees who are always learning new things are ten times more likely to be inspired than those who are not.
The respondents in the CollegeFinance.com report didn’t just dabble in learning. People who were out of work because of the pandemic spent more than 12 hours learning each week and those who were employed spent nearly nine hours per week.
Now, it would be fair to wonder how people can dedicate that much time to self-development and learning every week. There are really two answers: First, the data above makes it clear that learning generates great returns for one’s career, happiness and motivation. When you have an activity with such positive benefits, it makes perfect sense that people would spend a lot of time pursuing it.
Second, a majority of people are actually more productive working from home than they were working in an office. In the study, “The Truth About Working From Home In 24 Shocking Charts,” we discovered that 29% of people say their productivity is much better working from home, and an additional 24% say it’s a little better. When your productivity is significantly better, it’s much easier to find the time for big self-development goals.
People weren’t just pursuing technical skills, as 41% indicated learning self-motivation during the pandemic. And 45% of hiring managers said self-motivation was more important than ever before and 65% said it was an essential employee trait.
One of the great lessons of the past few months is that people have far more control over their mental well-being and self-motivation than they might have previously thought.
In the Leadership IQ study, “Employee Engagement Is Less Dependent On Managers Than You Think,” we discovered that employees’ self-engagement (i.e., their personal outlooks like optimism, resilience, proactivity, etc.) could actually matter more than working for a great manager.
For example, having a trustworthy boss statistically explains about 22% of an employee’s inspiration at work. But having resilience (i.e., surviving difficult times with little trouble) explains 25% of an employee’s inspiration at work. And that’s clearly a more powerful statistical driver.
None of this is meant to downplay the horrific impact that the pandemic has inflicted upon so many. Rather, these studies are pointing that, notwithstanding our current chaos, there are still ways that each of us can advance our career and our psychological health. Investing time, and even money, in professional development is one of the greatest emotional salves for stressful times, for several reasons.
First, in frightening times, there’s a natural inclination to burrow under the covers and wait for the badness to pass. The problem is that hiding under the covers only reinforces our powerlessness. By contrast, learning new skills is a way to take back control and essentially shout to the world, “I’m in control of my own destiny!”
Second, few things feel better than accomplishing a goal. It’s a chance to prove your resilience to yourself, and it’s an opportunity to celebrate your success. When you achieve a goal to learn something new, whether it’s self-motivation, a technical skill or whatever, you’ve given yourself license to celebrate your accomplishment. And by infusing your days with legitimate celebrations, you’re giving yourself an antidote to some of chaos in the outside world.
It’s no wonder that hiring managers were inclined to want to hire and promote those who pursue self-development during stressful times. Not only is self-development a smart way to protect one’s emotional wellness, it’s also a wonderful signal that the learner has an optimistic and resilient mindset.