Most of us have now recognized how important it is to develop your skills after graduation, so that you continue to keep up with advances in your field. This is something that’s mandatory for a healthy career, whether or not you get reimbursed by your employer.
But for many, the primary tools for learning are reading books, magazines, and going to classes. That can get repetitive and boring, and may not be the best way for YOU to learn. So here’s some ideas of other ways to learn.
- Volunteering: If you want to learn how to create a website, why not volunteer to help someone else with this kind of task? It may not carry deadline pressures associated with doing something on your job, so you have more time to try different approaches and do some research.
- Play: Play is the natural way for humans to learn, not schoolwork. There’s something about enjoying the experience that helps to internalize the information better and give you more energy. If you want to learn how to build something, why not create something fun?
- Online newsgroups: People are having a tremendous number of interesting discussions online. A simple way to find good groups is to simply Google a question you have, and then find out where things like that are being discussed. After you’ve been following a group for a month, challenge yourself to start helping out others.
- Teach a class: If you’ve signed up to teach a topic, you have to know a lot more than just the information you’re conveying – because it’s important to link all the concepts in your mind and be able to answer questions. And the deadline pressure of knowing you’ll have to teach something on a specific day can be helpful to get motivated. I do this a lot at my church, but I always make sure I have a month to do my own research and preparation.
- Being mentored: Like being an apprentice, you can ask other people for continuing advice and help. Look for people who are more expert in an area than you are, and ask if they’d like to help guide you as you learn. This is especially powerful for complex and advanced areas, ones that may be hard to learn by reading.
- Mentor someone: The mentor also has an opportunity to learn and grow. Look around for people who are less experienced than you, and offer your supportive help. Then learn things together.
- On the job: Bosses are often looking for people to volunteer to get more things done, even things that are outside the normal job responsibilities. If you sign up to put together a group outing, use that opportunity to learn some new techniques in organization and team alignment.
- Off the job: You have a lot more hours in the week beyond your work, so can you do things in that time that help build your skills? Are there activities you can do with your family that will also help you at work? What kinds of volunteer groups are you engaged with so you can contribute to the community while learning?
- Special Interest Groups: In addition to online discussions, there are often people who meet up and talk in person, or in teleconferences, about any kind of topic. You’ll find folks who are really passionate about an area, and probably willing to help you along. Go prepared to help make a contribution, and they’ll welcome your participation.
- The Big Leap: At some point, you may just decide to jump into the unknown, even leave your job so you’ll have the time to look for new work or go back to school. This can feel terrifying, yes, but can be useful for the most important changes in your life.
Don’t wait for your boss to send you to a class. Jump in and take some action yourself!
by Carl Dierschow