Formal courses and learning opportunities are one way to advance your skills, but you can make learning a priority in your own workplace. Continuous learning is about learning any time, any place, and because of constant change our workplaces offer excellent opportunities to learn. A 21st century workplace is constantly asking for new skills because our daily work activities are continually changing. Formal training is expensive and time consuming when you may be required to learn something at speed. So it is up to you to find strategies.
Becoming an everyday learner through daily activities and work challenges
Everyday learners take a very active approach to learning, and seek out ways to develop themselves. Here are some ways to make the most of learning opportunities in your workplace:
- Find a learning buddy. You may be working alongside a colleague who has a greater degree of skill in a task area- ask for help, observe their work, and set yourself goals to improve.
- Observe experts in action - whether the skill is fixing a complex new machine, using a new software package or chairing a committee, you can systematically identify and analyse effective actions by observation, and take the time to focus on learning.
Mary watched hundreds of power point presentations during her junior experience in a government department, and decided that this was a skill she needed to develop, and she was going to become very good at it. She wanted to add ‘an excellent presenter’ to her personal brand. She observed closely the skills and data of the best presenters, and she took every opportunity to practice her own skills. It took time but she achieved her goal to become confident and expert in this task.
- Practice what you need to learn. Practice improves all tasks, whether physical, technical or communication based. Practice has become underrated – but it takes many hours to achieve mastery in a skill, and practice is still the best way to perfect a craft.
Ray worked as a sales representative for an office equipment firm, and his job was to demonstrate a range of print and copying products to potential buyers. He practiced constantly with the complex equipment to be able to demonstrate it flawlessly, and he credits his sales success to putting in the time to do this.
- Build learning relationships. A coach or mentor can be an invaluable guide to help you into a new role, and a senior manager can become an informal coach on behaviours that fit a particular firm. Getting this help and advice depends on building learning relationships with those you work with. Learning through relationships is often reciprocal – you may also be able to help others.
Take Rotation or Project Assignments. A great deal of learning comes from job assignments that stretch people’s abilities. This may be special projects, job rotations, or international assignments. Having the courage to step up, test and develop your skills in new contexts will be challenging but satisfying; and you will also have the opportunity to get feedback on your performance – another chance to learn.
Continuous learners are willing to look ahead, and anticipate the skills they will need in their future. They are willing to spend the time and effort to learn those skills; and by doing so maintain and improve their employability.
Go back to your results from Skills Quiz and the Personal Brand Exercise to review the skills that you want to improve in, and think about ways you can develop these on the job as an everyday learner.