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Published on November 27, 2019

How to Learn at Work in the Most Effective Way

How to Learn at Work in the Most Effective Way

The world of work is changing rapidly. It’s common for professionals to be expected to do more with fewer resources. This only fuels stress and feelings of overwhelm.

Not only do you need to perform tasks on hand, but you also need to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge to sustain your career, advance your career and improve your work performance. When you feel too busy to upgrade your skills, how do you make time to learn at work?

Continuous learning impacts your employability. It is essential to show employers your willingness to stay updated or even ahead of trends. Your ability to think critically, be agile from learning and consistently apply what you learn is critical in a constantly changing economy.

In this article, you will discover how to learn at work effectively:

1. Identify Your Learning Goals

Here are a few questions to help you think about your learning goals:

  • Why do you want to learn?
  • What do you want to learn?
  • What’s the motivation behind your learning?
  • What knowledge or skills can help advance your career?
  • What knowledge or skills can help enhance your work performance?
  • What do you need in order to grow in your career and as a person?

Consider feedback or comments from your peers, managers, and stakeholders. There is no limit on what you can learn. The learning can range from technical skills to interpersonal skills.

2. Take Concrete Action

You need to take control. If you’re not invested in your own learning, no one else will be. This means you’ll need to take steps to realize your learning.

Taking action comes in different forms for different learners. For example, asking your manager to be considered for a project or seeking advice from your mentor.

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Take the initiative. When you show others’ that you’re a continuous and willing learner, they will likely see your growth and be more likely to invest their time and resources in you.

3. Make Learning a Habit

Set realistic and achievable learning goals. Select one to a maximum of three learning goals.

Commit to your goal like you would to eating healthy foods or exercise. You may want to find an accountability partner or inform your manager so that you have a supportive network to keep you on track.

Take a look at this article and learn how to do so: How to Develop a Lifelong Learning Habit

4. Budget Time to Learn

You need to make a conscious effort to learn. This means intentionally making time and space to learn.

Make sure that you learn in bite-sized pieces so that it’s sustainable over the long-run. This could mean blocking off 15 minutes daily in your calendar or whatever suits your learning style. For example, if you learn one new word daily, you will learn 365 words in a year.

We all know that life and work happens, and you may feel too busy to learn. However, by being mindful of why learning is important to you and making it a priority in our calendars we are reminded to turn a learning habit into a routine.

5. Learn On-the-Job

A common perception is that the majority of learning happens in the classroom. However, 30 years of research in leadership development has proven that 70% of learning happens on-the-job. Here’s the breakdown of effective leadership development learning experiences:[1]

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  • 70% challenging assignments
  • 20% developmental relationships, and
  • 10% course work

And here’re 7 ways to learn on-the-job:

Stretch Assignments

Once you’ve identified your learning objective, you can find stretch assignments or projects that can facilitate your learning.

For example, if you’ve identified that building relationships is a skill that you’d like to enhance, you may want to seek projects that involve multiple stakeholders.

Create New Experiences

Whatever knowledge-base you’re trying to expand, try to get out of your routine and find new experiences related to your learning goal. Sometimes, in order for you to learn at work, you’ll need to create new experiences.

Review the strategic direction of your organization for development ideas. New experiences can entail activities such as new client opportunities, more cross-functional partnerships, job shadowing, job rotations, or volunteer work.

Learn from Others

Learning from others is a simple and easy way to pick up quick tips.

  • Heighten your observation skills. The next time you’re sitting in a meeting, what do you notice about the presenter? What do you see in their body language? What do you notice about the participants in the meeting? What lessons did you learn from the meeting that you can apply the next time you run a meeting?
  • Learn at work by observing someone who inspires you. Maybe this person is an effective people developer or seems to navigate workplace conflict with ease. What is it about this person that inspires you? What leadership behaviours does this person show? How does this person act?
  • Learn from your manager. We’ve all had managers that were remarkable and those that are unforgivable. What qualities do you want to exhibit? What qualities are better left behind?
  • Learn from your peers. Notice the strengths of every peer on your team. What do they do well? How do they contribute to the team? What do they have in common?

Ask Questions

There is a lot to learn in any organization. Learn at work by being curious and asking questions.

When you ask questions, you are clarifying and seeking to better understand the situation and people involved. The information you gather expands your mind and knowledge-base.

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Try asking more open-ended questions beginning with Who, What, Where, When, Why, or How so that you can get a more descriptive narrative from the other party.

Find a Mentor or Trusted Advisor

We all need someone who we can talk things out with. A mentor or trusted advisor can provide you with a safe space to express your feelings without being judged.

Be very specific about what you need from your mentor: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

What efforts have you made to enhance your knowledge and skills? Share with your mentor the action you have taken. This is a great starting point to show your mentor that you have experimented with a few options and would now like to have a discussion on how to move forward. This approach will likely be better received than just asking your mentor for advice.

A peer once told me to bring RIBS – Raise an Issue and Bring a Solution.

Remember that your mentor’s time is valuable. Show him/her that you have invested in yourself and tried to make improvements on your own first.

Get Support

Let your manager know that you welcome opportunities for learning. She/he will likely have exposure to on-the-job opportunities that are aligned with your learning needs and the organization’s goals.

Keeping them updated on your learning progress can also support your performance goals. This will give you an opportunity to tweak your learning goals based on your career aspirations and their observations of your performance.

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Ask to be Introduced to New a Colleague

Building positive relationships across the organization can help increase your cross-functional knowledge.

Speaking with people outside of your department can help you better understand different perspectives as you work towards team and organizational goals.

Employers recognize collaboration as a key skill to build organizational capacity and influence without authority.

Bottom Line

You need to be very intentional about your own learning.

The most effective way to learn at work is on-the-job. This means you need to identify your learning goals, create a learning habit and identify on-the-job experiences that will effectively facilitate your learning.

Some key ways to learn on-the-job include:

  • Stretch assignments
  • Create new experiences
  • Learn from others
  • Ask questions
  • Find a mentor or trusted advisor
  • Get support
  • Ask to be introduced to new a colleague

No one can take knowledge away from you. It’s in your own interest to continue to grow and develop yourself.

Learn with a beginner’s mindset, stay curious, and keep your assumptions a bay to gain new perspectives.

More to Help You Learn Faster

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Center for Creative Leadership: The 70-20-10 Rule for Leadership Development

More by this author

Ami Au-Yeung

Workplace Strategist | Career Coach | Workshop Facilitator | Writer | Speaker | Past Business Professor

7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success How to Learn at Work in the Most Effective Way Top 10 Interview Questions for Hiring the Best Managers Is People Management the Right Career Path for You? 7 Ways to Ensure Effective Communication at Work

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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

10 Highly-Desired Skills You Can Acquire By Self-Learning

10 Highly-Desired Skills You Can Acquire By Self-Learning

When you look past the swarms of shallow content, the internet can be an extremely helpful database. Never before did we have access to such a vast amount of knowledge, and it is distributed for free. With the right sources, each and every one of us has an opportunity to acquire a decent level of expertise in any particular field. It is also worth mentioning how a lot of tutorials are now uploaded in video form, allowing us to learn much more efficiently, due to the fact that we retain more information from watching a video than from reading a book.

Passion for self-learning is truly great, since we are, in a way, always perfecting our skills and constantly improving. In addition to self-improvement, you can easily acquire useful skills, and become competent enough to earn a good income. Another advantage of self-learning is attention to detail. People who took the time to educate themselves about a certain topic did it because they loved it, and managed to turn their hobby into a professional skill. They are, in the majority of cases, their own boss. They take special care of their customers, and not because someone else ordered them to. Of course, sometimes your skill-set will require you to work for someone else in order to efficiently monetize it. However, thanks to self-learning, you may be able to advance to a better position within the company much easier.

Finally, even if you don’t have a passion for certain jobs, do not be afraid. When you fully invest your time and effort into mastering something, it eventually becomes interesting. As long as you advance at a normal pace, you are highly unlikely to back off from self-learning projects.

Here are some great suggestions of skills anyone can acquire, and in time make some profit within the next few years.

1. Become a self-made handy man

Due to the vast change in lifestyle, and various advancement in technology, modern job descriptions usually involve a lot of sitting and typing. It is quite rare to be a proficient handyman, considering how these skills were usually passed on from our mentors face-to-face. Moreover, our educational system has conditioned our minds to regard these professions as something only underachievers take up. This is wrong. These skills are actually essential for a normal life.

So, if the ambition of your parents stirred you in a different direction, and you had no chance to learn how to be a handyman, you can go through some tutorial videos to learn how to do some basic tasks. You can also learn how to repair items – as long as the job you have to do is simple enough.

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Once you have fully mastered your handyman skills, you can start charging for your services. Believe it or not, there are job platforms that are specifically designed for handyman and people who are in need of house projects.

2. Learn photo and video editing

The art of photography and video making are skills that will rarely be left underutilized. As long as you are creative, and have a sharp eye for aesthetics and composition, you can become extremely successful in this area. Once again, these skills are compatible with self-learning procedures. There are plenty of tutorials on how to manipulate videos and photography. If you don’t find this line of work appealing, or you don’t really like to pay attention to details, I strongly suggest that you do not attempt to master these skills, since the whole thing will start to irritate you pretty quickly.

Photo and video editing is extremely slow at the beginning. It is only once you are fully acquainted with the different software that you can do achieve greater speed and efficiency. Then again, you can grow to love these hobbies, since your progress is clearly visible, and you will always strive to bring your photography editing skills to the next level. Job platforms like Upwork or Elance are the best places to start you career as a freelancer. IT firms which develop games and posters are constantly employing people with these skills. When you look for a job, there is no need for prior academic qualifications. All you need to do is show the sample of your work. This is definitely a plus.

3. Learn how to blog or vlog

Blogging is a great hobby. If anything, you will hone your writing skills and find your particular style, allowing you to eventually advance to blogs of greater quality and higher authority. Bloggers are really popular, since they offer valuable insights, tips, and hacks for people who need them. In fact, the tutorial videos and articles that are mentioned here all come from bloggers and vloggers. Because of their usefulness, some become popular enough that they are approached by companies to do product reviews.

Now, becoming a minor celebrity is not easy, and relying on celebrity status to make a profit is foolish. Luckily, even regular bloggers with good writing skills are noticed. Their services are financed by small business owners, so you can easily operate within your own niche. Also, there are sites like CareerAddict that are willing to pay for a quality post, so you can build your portfolio and get paid in the process. When it comes to self-learning, I strongly recommend finding a niche you are comfortable with and blogging on the subjects that are close to heart.

When we see a channel with a ridiculous amount of subscribers, we always wonder if we could pull the same thing off. Making videos on a topic you love and getting money for it is a dream job, right? Well, you don’t have to be a professional in order to get there; however, solid video editing expertise is also required. You will also need to know how to be a good performer if you want to make your show more enticing.

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Another important aspect of blogging and vlogging is how you present the information that you have. You can be an expert data-wise, but if you are unable to efficiently transfer your knowledge or get your point across, you won’t be able to attract a massive audience audience.

4. Learn to be good at a particular video game

Becoming an active member of the gaming community can be a true gold mine. Personally, my dream was to get paid for playing video games, but realistically speaking, it would only result in me hating what I do for living, since it becomes your obligation and really takes all the fun out of it. Now that is only my opinion, plus it only applies to extremely popular games with competitive play, mostly MOBAs (like League of Legends and DOTA).

A great deal of people who stream their gameplay experience and make “Let’s Play” videos are making good profit out of the hobby. The website called Twitch is filled with streamers and some of them receive ridiculous amounts of money. However, you do not work for anybody. Basically, people donate their money as they watch you play. If you are considering this option, do not bother with mastering the games which are already popular, find what’s the upcoming trend in the industry and begin with it immediately. You’ll have the best chance of attracting visitors.

5. Software and hardware hacks

This one is really self-explanatory. We heavily rely on our computers, so both software and hardware problems present quite a challenge. Due to the sensitive nature of the stored data, we choose not to try anything, and immediately call for help. Well, self-learning can eliminate this feeling of powerlessness, and knowing your way around the brain of the computer will always be useful. This does not apply only to computers – smartphones, tablets, and consoles are devices that we use all the time and are afraid to fix ourselves.

In other words, buy an external hard drive and store all the essential documents there, so you’ll have no fear if something goes wrong. If or when something goes wrong with your PC or other device, just browse the web for help, people have definitely experienced the same problem before. Find solutions and try to fix it yourself. If you are going to pay someone to do it, attempt to fix it yourself first – you are already paying, so why not make it a learning experience.

I did not have much experience when it comes to PC problems, but have conducted more than enough experiments on my Xbox. I always used a forum for figuring out those problems. Trust me, once you are capable of fixing these problems you become a hero in your neighbourhood, and your reputations starts to spread. One day you can definitely charge for those services, or provide great tutorials on the topic.

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6. Become an expert on a particular subject

This one is closely connected to blogging and vlogging. A high level of expertise will be helpful, especially if you pick a field which was not explained thoroughly so far. Now it is also important how you present your subject matter, because if it isn’t fun, people won’t stay on your channel for long. This is what being an expert is all about. Finding the best way to explain something to someone who has no idea about the subject. We all love to learn, but if we are unable to understand the subject it becomes tedious. I recently started to watch crash courses on YouTube, and I was sad I did not have this during elementary school and high school. I found most of these subjects tedious, but now I just go through the videos one after another. I can’t help being amazed by how good they are.

Another good example of this sort of channel is Extra Credits. They are really good at giving tips for game design, as well as covering interesting events from history. In other words, find what you love, delve deep into that topic and provide some constructive criticism. You should try to incite good debates and introduce some new points of view. If you love a particular book series or TV series, express your theories or find other good fan theories, and make videos to incite engagement among the community. These kinds of efforts are always noticed, and people in a similar niche are always willing to help you get noticed. When it comes to self-learning these channels are outstanding and the community is indeed friendly.

Experts are always needed. By having proof of your expertise, you can find a job more easily. A lot of firms rely on their websites as marketing tools, but Google made sure that spam material is no longer regarded as a viable link. In other words, you need to have truly useful information on your site, the type of information an expert can provide. I recently stumbled upon a great blog on one website. You can actually find out a lot about law and rights and how it works. This is a topic people usually neglect to study, we only memorize a few rules which we see in crime and lawyer TV shows. There is another section about criminal psychology, which is a topic I personally find extremely interesting.

These were all examples how one topic can provide a myriad of unique content ideas for vlogging and blogging, as long as it is tackled in a correct manner. So, do your research, become an expert, show your expertise, and you will surely get noticed. Use the links as your guidelines to adequately transfer your knowledge on video or text.

7. Start inventing your own recipes

We have all seen those shows on 24 hour food channels, and yes a lot of meals look delicious, but when I look at all the ingredients they use, it just seems like too much trouble. Wouldn’t it be so much better if one could come up with a recipe for a delicious meal made out of things that are most commonly found in the fridge and cupboard. If there is one thing people love it is easy and delicious solutions, and this is quite hard to pull off.

You do not even have to be a professional cook to be famous, take a look at the Epic Meal Time channel. They rely on excessive use of bacon and other ingredients high in cholesterol, but their meals are simply awe-inspiring. You do not need to learn how to cook simply to have your own show, and there are many more advantages. Believe it or not, cooking can be helpful if you want to travel the world. There are many programs in search of cooks who are willing to prepare food for passengers on a cruise. The job is exhausting, but the pay is good. Plus, you get to visit all sorts of interesting locations.

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Cooking is one of the best examples of self-learning. After all,  you can’t become good from reading a recipe – you have to try it on your own, add a personal touch, and experiment with ingredients before you find the perfect balance. Here is a good place to start learning, it’s called the Cooking ChannelOnce you master some of the meals, you can add your personal touch to them.

8. Learn some artistic skills – illustration or photography

These skills are best combined with the previously mentioned photo and video editing. Being a designer and drawing what you want is great, but working for clients can be bothersome. It can be difficult to transfer someone else’s vision to the screen or a piece of paper. We live in the era of comic books, video games, and movies packed with special effects – good illustrators are always welcome. Once again, this is a dream big scenario, more down to Earth solutions include working for IT firms or designing covers for books and albums. Still, it is an impressive skill that can be attained through self-learning. Once again, rely on tutorials to aid you in your progress, and learn how to be a self-made graphic designer.

With all this new technology, photography is much easier now than it used be. Plus, with all the filters and different lenses, high quality photography takes up significantly less time. However, you’ll still need some sort of guide to get you started and a good camera, of course. After that, you can let your imagination and inner artist guide your actions. People are always willing to pay money for good photography. They need it for articles, blog posts, commercials, posters, web sites, etc. A good photographer is also hired to take pictures and record special events, making this another good choice for a self-learning career.

9. Learn how to code

If you know how to code, create, and maintain websites, you’ll have job in no time. It is hard to master, and will take some time. It is also not as interesting to master as other skills, but the pay is great. WordPress is the most learner-friendly platform. Everyone will tell you to start with this one if you are new to programming. In order to be good at coding you will need to learn programming languages, but after numerous drills, you’ll get a hang of it. I really love that one saying, “Programming is like writing a book… except if you miss out a single coma on page 126 the whole thing make no sense.” Unfortunately, this is quite true, and once you start learning you’ll see why people pay good money for this job. It’s not impossible to learn on your own, but buckle up for one uncomfortable ride.

Also, coding will not get the job done on its own. You’ll need to be a solid web designer to create a website that someone would buy. We have all seen poorly designed sites and did not bother to check what they were about, since no one is impressed with sloppy work. Once you master coding, go through some web design guides, and build your own website as a portfolio. You can start as a freelancer, and you’ll be able to find a job offer rather quickly. In other words, if you are looking for a high-paying self-learning skill to master, you can’t possibly go wrong with this one.

10. Learn how to present what you are capable of

Finally, in order to get the job and be chosen over your competitors, you’ll have to know how to present yourself. After all, you only got one shot at a first impression. Find out how to build your resume, find out what is required of you as an employee, and how to adequately express yourself during a job interview. You can be brilliant, but if you lack certain qualities of a good employee, you’ll have a hard time monetizing your skill-set. We commonly feel nervous during these situations. However, if you can manage to navigate through the interview correctly, you can score your first job.

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