lessing Malandu at adidas HQ smiling with a coffee cup in her hand.

3 Simple Steps to Drive Your Career Through Personal and Professional Development

It can be overwhelming to decide what to learn to maintain interest and keep adding value at work. But these three steps will set you in the right direction.

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Career Development at adidas

When you have something you love, you want others to experience it, too. Last year I stepped into a role that feeds and challenges me in all the right ways. When reflecting on the personal and professional development journey that brought me here, I noticed a pattern: three steps emerge.

Blessing Malandu having discussions with colleagues sat in a circle
The new awaits with unknown splendors.

By sharing these three steps, I hope to inspire someone (maybe you) to join me on a wild career journey. Wild how? you may be wondering. When I took my current job in Retail Concept Management, I was looking for something new. I got that in abundance: a new space, new area, new people, and new responsibilities. I was terrified, but that is also what made it fun. The opportunities to learn and grow were exciting. So, at least let me give you a quick tour of this fulfilling and inspiring path.

Professional Development Step 1: Find a black box that sparks your interest

Find is the operative word in this step. Sometimes things fall into our laps, but often action is an important ingredient in stirring up intrigue.

In finding my current role, for instance, I saw the opportunity on the adidas job site. “Oh, my goodness, that looks cool,” I remember thinking when I saw the job ad. I was delighted by the surprise of my discovery. Retail Concept Management had not been on my radar.

Blessing Malandu working on her laptop with plants in the background
Curiosity can be the perfect guide.

I have often seen new jobs as black boxes – realms with mysterious inner workings that I am eager to understand. For instance, before moving into Retail Concept Management, I worked in Global Operations. I had always been curious about what happens in distribution centers. How do orders come in? How are they processed? What are their challenges? What sorts of technologies do they use? It is one of the biggest areas in our organization, and it was a complete black box for me.

My curiosity about distribution centers grew naturally out of my previous work in e-commerce and omnichannel sales, with distribution centers being the last leg of the process. After learning the other stages of e-commerce, I wanted to know what happened next. Of course, I entered the e-commerce and omnichannel sales field because it, too, was a black box to me at one point.

Professional Development Step 2: Explore the black box

Once you identify the area of interest, you get to dig in. Methods for exploration vary depending on the type of information you want to crack into and your preferred learning methods. For instance, one of the appeals of my current job is that I get to manage a team for the first time. To figure out how I wanted to form my team, I turned to online courses that adidas made available.

Blessing Malandu having a coffee break with a colleague.
Sharing ideas with those on similar learning journeys deepens our knowledge and offers support.

One of these courses introduced me to a book that I love, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. The author, Dr. Carol S. Dweck, makes the persuasive and appealing case for moving out of your comfort zone. This concept resonates with me and has been instrumental in my personal and professional development.

The online courses on leadership increased my awareness of what I needed to think about, such as establishing frameworks, boundaries, and ways of working. To explore these topics further, I set up coffee chats with others who were new people managers. We shared challenges and perspectives. Sometimes we also talked about something we’d read or offered ideas for useful resources.

There’s one more point I want to make about learning at work: I block time for this each week. I encourage my team to do the same. We have all set aside time on Friday afternoons to do something that stimulates the growth that is required to keep us inspired. Sometimes it’s as simple as taking time to free your head by doing yoga or going for a run. Other times it might mean working on creative projects or planning the week ahead. Often, for me it involves reading Harvard Business Review articles or doing online courses. In fact, I’m pretty sure I got this idea to block time for learning from a course or article.

Blessing Malandu sits on a sofa working on her laptop.
Blocking time for learning and other replenishing activities is a priority for me and my team.

Professional Development Step 3: Ace the black box’s contents

Becoming proficient in a new area is exciting. In addition to the kinds of learning mentioned above, this stage of gaining expertise involves learning on the job. During this phase, it is important to have people who offer honest feedback. I’ve been lucky to have great managers, like the one who once told me, “I see your confidence wavering. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Keep at it. You’re good at what you do. Don’t be afraid to fail.” I really took this to heart and have shared it with my team.

There will come a time when you realize you have learned what you needed to learn. This is when you look around to see if there’s anything else you can pick up in your area. You might consider volunteering for assignments that allow you to stretch your knowledge and experience. But if you can’t find enough to keep excited, if you feel empty, if each day begins to feel like the last, you may be ready to move on.

Blessing Malandu sat opposite a colleague chatting and having a conversation.
Honest conversations with colleagues can encourage and inspire growth.

Four questions can prepare you to find your next black box:

  • Where do I want to go?
  • Where do I want to grow?
  • In what do I want to improve?
  • How can I address that gap?

And the exploration continues. Thankfully, the personal and professional development path lined with gleaming black boxes goes as far as the eye can see.

What drives you in your career and personal growth? How do you figure out what to learn and how do you like to learn best? I look forward to seeing your comments.

10 COMMENTS & EXTERNAL REFERRALS

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by Elise 11.02.2022
This is a truly inspiring and practical profile!
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by Shawn Clarke 28.02.2022
What a fantastic read for me, while doing my best to run my business. Super inspiring.
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by Alice Thomas 01.04.2022
Thank you for sharing your insight and background. I found your tips very helpful in trying to find out which direction/path of my goals would best fit myself
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by osbaldo llanos jr 02.04.2022
this is inspiring
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by Hugo Batista 18.07.2022
Amazing article! Let's make it an action :D
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