What are the benefits to “cross training” in your career?

When most of us think of cross training we first consider the world of athletics or health and fitness. Having previously worked for the YMCA I learned a little about health and wellness during my time there. Cross training can be of great value to anyone in the health world and it can also be a life saver, or a career saver, when it comes to your own personal career. Let’s spend a few moments today exploring what you might consider when it comes to cross training to support your current career or to prepare for your next career.

Wikipedia has the following definition for Cross Training:

Cross-training (also known as conditioning) refers to training in different ways to improve overall performance

In athletics this might mean participating in a different sport to develop a different muscle group or different skill set in order to maximize performance. When I was in high school there were many of us who ran cross country in order to build our fitness level for basketball or other sports. We also occasionally played soccer (football) in order to improve conditioning or our balance and finesse. I have read many articles about football players who used ballet or yoga to help with their balance or footwork or to help with their stretching. All of these are great examples of how cross training can be beneficial in the world of health and fitness.

What does cross training look like in the world of career development or career change? Here are a few simple examples:

  1. Take on an assignment that is outside of your normal work responsibilities
  2. Get involved with a non-profit organization
  3. Attend events or meetings that are outside your normal level of knowledge or interest
  4. Read materials that differ from your normal area of expertise

What would this look like?

Many times it is a great idea to let your supervisor or manager know that you would like to broaden your knowledge or skillset in your firm. You may be the best accountant in the world, but getting involved with a project in Human Resources or Operations would be a great way to broaden your overall knowledge of the business. Many other methods can be employed, but letting people know of your interest is the first step.

Non-profit organizations provide many opportunities do things you might not do in your daily work. I worked as a Quality Manager in manufacturing in the early 1990’s and got involved with bringing a YMCA to our community. During that process I learned a lot about team building, fund raising and building a case for support, not only for raising funds, but for getting projects approved. That single episode allowed me to leave manufacturing, get involved in talent acquisition and development, (along with a degree from Peabody College at Vanderbilt) and eventually help start my own firm.

I know that I sometimes get “in a rut” when it comes to involvement or attendance at events or meetings. Find a way to “get invited” to other meetings in your workplace or talk with some friends outside of work to learn how you could broaden your exposure. I am not usually a big patron of the arts, but you would never know how valuable a knowledge of the arts might be until you meet someone who has that interest.

We all have a choice about how we spend our free time. Instead of burying your head in that favorite TV show, get a book on a subject you have always wondered about, or take a non-credit course in an area that is different than what you normally do.

The opportunities are endless. You can start this anytime.

The most important aspect is to always have a goal in mind. Even if you just want to be different, know what “different” will mean.

Cross training is great for developing those skills and behaviors that might not fit for today, but could be priceless for tomorrow.

We’ll talk about this more next week.