Professional development is about more than seeking out promotions, projects, courses and certifications, says a recent article from Harvard Business Review, noting the benefits of proactively surrounding yourself with a circle of advisers and confidantes who will push you in unexpected directions.

Rather than passively waiting for these people to come into your life, the author suggests engaging in a deliberate, determined search for wise individuals who can inspire and advise you. Among the guidelines he offers:

  • Think about the people who inspire you. These can be teachers; inventors; entrepreneurs; business, social or public leaders.
  • Aim for a mix of people inside and outside your organization. External contacts can have the benefit of greater independence, a broader perspective and potential new connections.
  • Proactively offer help, with no strings attached. Not only will this show your gratitude for their assistance, but it most likely will also bring more opportunities for learning and growth.
  • Have crucial conversations in the right settings. Meeting face-to-face with no distractions will help you reach a level of intimacy that can’t be achieved remotely. The author notes that many of his life-changing moments have occurred while walking with trusted friends in beautiful surroundings.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask the big questions. What shall I do with my life? What really motivates me? What am I doing that I really don’t like to do?

See the full HBR article: “The Key to Career Growth: Surround Yourself with People Who Will Push You