We like to separate work from life. Work is work, and life is … well, what you’re doing when you’re not working.
It’s a useful separation to make, but sometimes even more useful to break. One example is to use your non-work time to help your career. Here are some great ways to do this:
- Take some classes. For most of us, nobody paid us to graduate from high school or college. So when we have a full time job, why would we assume that our employer would shoulder the burden for our career advancement? Maybe for helping you be effective in your current job, sure. But if you want to grow into something else, look into making your own investment. There’s a huge number of options for adult learners.
- Learn while you contribute. Maybe you’ll feel good by contributing to projects at your church. But there’s no reason why you can’t learn at the same time. If you want to get experience at managing, volunteer for a role that will let you practice on a small scale – at your kids’ school, in a local charity, or in your social circles. Groups always need committed volunteers.
- Learn from a hobby. For technical skills, sometimes you can treat it as a fun hobby. If you want to learn how to build a website, just go ahead and create your own. It doesn’t necessarily have to cost a lot of money, and removing it from deadline pressures can help make it more enjoyable.
- Learn as a group. One reason why classes are effective is that you’re held accountable for learning something to a certain level. Groups can do the same thing without a teacher – people encourage and challenge each other to apply what they’ve learned. Often this can be even more effective than a classroom environment, so get out there and find some other people who want to learn along with you.
- Read, read, read. Check out some books, magazines and journals. Spend some time in the library. Find some knowledgeable resources on the web which will help you get started. Keep up with news in the industry, including companies that you’d like to work for.
- Find people who are active in what you want to learn. Often this can start by joining some internet groups, who usually keep records of what’s been discussed. Or you might have local groups in your community. As opposed to the suggestion of learning as a group, this approach is more about connecting up with people who are actively discussing what you want to learn, and are reasonably knowledgeable. Sometimes even experts are drawn into these kinds of groups because they’re able to help others and establish a reputation, in a relatively unstructured and supportive way.
- Be a teacher. No, really. When you teach something, you’re forced to learn a lot more than the students, because you need to have a larger context in your mind. Sure, it’s tough to learn a new area and stay ahead of a group, but that challenge can be quite motivating too, if it’s something that gives you inspiration. If you’re not confident enough to lead a group, then volunteer to mentor just one person, a class of one.
- Form a partnership. Certainly you know things which are valuable to someone else, so form an agreement to exchange expertise with another person. It’s constructive, it’s personal, and it’s contributing to the advancement of others. And don’t be surprised if this turns into a life-long friendship.
- Make it a game. There’s no reason why learning always has to be serious. Give yourself some reward points for achieving levels, even competing with others toward the same objective. Incorporate silliness and playfulness into your activities.
- Add your own idea here. There are people with the knowledge you need, there is an unprecedented amount of free resources, and there are learning opportunities I haven’t listed here. Get out there, connect up, and apply some of your energy and creativity. When you do, you’ll be much more inspired than if you just take others’ ideas. Who knows where it might take you?
I hope you’re realizing that these activities can even contribute to your résumé. They show not only that you’ve been able to acquire and apply skills, but also that you have unusual initiative to do this on your own time.
That’s a big plus.
by Carl Dierschow