Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on December 22, 2020

How to Learn at Work in the Most Effective Way Possible

How to Learn at Work in the Most Effective Way Possible

The world of work is changing rapidly when it comes to professional development. It’s common for professionals to be expected to do more with fewer resources. This is why it’s so important to be able to learn at work in a way that is efficient and effective, as it will help you avoid stress and overwhelm.

At work, especially when starting a new job, 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, 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 in your work life. 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 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 to 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 can be good steps.

Advertising

People learn more when they 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 for each learning opportunity.

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

4. Budget Time to Learn at Work

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

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 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 your calendar, you 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]

Advertising

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

The 70-20-10 Rule for Leadership Development & Learning

    Here are 7 specific 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 one?

    Advertising

    Observe Someone Who Inspires You

    Maybe this person is an effective project developer or seems to navigate workplace conflict with ease. What is it about this person that inspires you? What leadership behaviors does this person show, and how do they act on a daily basis?

    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?

    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.

    Try asking more open-ended questions 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 in order to learn at work. 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

    Advertising

    What efforts have you made to enhance your knowledge and skills? Share with your mentor the actions 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.

    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. S/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.

    Ask to be Introduced to New a Colleague

    Building positive relationships across the organization can help increase your cross-functional knowledge and learn at work.

    Speaking with people outside of your department can help you better understand different perspectives as you work towards team and organizational goals. Furthermore, employers recognize collaboration as a key skill to build organizational capacity and influence without authority.

    The 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.

    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 at bay to gain new perspectives.

    More to Help You Learn at Work

    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

    Signs You Need a Career Change at 30 (And How to Make It Successful) How to Learn at Work in the Most Effective Way Possible 7 Steps to Achieve Career Success on Your Own Terms 9 Tips for Starting a New Job and Succeeding in Your Career How to Recon Like a “Spy” to Manage Conflicts in the Workplace

    Trending in Learning

    1 How to Take Constructive Criticism Like a Champ 2 How To Apply the Stages Of Learning (With Free Worksheet) 3 10 Best Methods of Learning Smarter and Faster 4 What Is Double Loop Learning And How Is It Valuable? 5 7 Reasons You Won’t Start Studying Until It’s Too Late, And What To Do About It

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Published on April 12, 2021

    How to Take Constructive Criticism Like a Champ

    How to Take Constructive Criticism Like a Champ

    Did somebody just say the words “constructive criticism”? Great, just what I need—someone to tell me how to do my job, like I don’t know how to flawlessly execute on my job. Well, maybe not flawlessly, but I think I know what I’m doing thank you very much.

    This is how many people react when they hear the term constructive criticism. And it makes sense, as most of us don’t like to have someone telling us how we did something wrong or how we can do better. We like to feel like we are good at the things we choose to do unless, of course, we are trying something new. We take a certain amount of pride in how we do our various jobs and don’t like to have our shortcomings pointed out to us.

    Before we get too worked up, let’s take a look at what constructive criticism is and how we can utilize it to help us improve at work or wherever we want to. we will learn that constructive criticism can be used to our advantage.

    What Is Constructive Criticism?

    First and foremost, it would be helpful to make sure we have a good understanding of what constructive criticism is.

    When we hear the word “criticism,” our minds typically think negatively and hostile—like one person is standing over another person telling them that the way they are doing something is all wrong. And that is being critical.

    However, this is not the intent of constructive criticism. Constructive criticism is a helpful way of providing feedback that provides specific and actionable suggestions. Instead of one person acting like a manager giving a team member general non-specific advice, constructive criticism is specific to the actions and situation. Given properly, it provides specific and clear recommendations on how to make changes and improvements that will lead to a more positive outcome in a given situation.

    Accepting Constructive Criticism

    As we just read, constructive criticism is provided to help someone improve in one manner or another. It’s not negative generalities or complaining, it’s specific actionable input provided with the intent of helping someone improve on something they’ve done so they get more desirable results the next time.

    Advertising

    This is exactly the context in which you should accept constructive criticism. It is meant to help you improve. Anyone who is interested in getting better and better at their job or craft should welcome it.

    Think about a time when you got a big win at work or were part of a team that scored a big win. What an incredible feeling! Now, think about a time when a big project crashed and burned at work, or you didn’t land a huge new client, or your team played poorly and lost a big game—not a good feeling.

    The way you handle these losses and learn from them to get better and score more “wins” is just like receiving constructive criticism. Learn from what went wrong to make things go right more often.

    How to Handle Constructive Criticism

    Now that we have a clear idea of what constructive criticism is, let’s look at the best ways to handle constructive criticism.

    1. Stop Your Initial Reaction

    When you see that some criticism is about to come your way, recognize it. Make yourself see what’s about to happen and tell yourself you will not react.

    The key here is stopping any sort of reaction you are going to have when your brain realizes what’s about to happen. The challenge is that our first reaction is not generally a good one, and we don’t want to wear an initial expression that comes off as highly defensive or angry.

    2. Don’t Take It Personally

    I’m so happy I fully embrace and believe in the “don’t take anything personally” mentality. It’s important to remember that nobody is doing something to you specifically. They are sharing their personal experience and insights from what they’ve learned and seen. This does not make it universally right, it’s simply the way they’ve experienced it. And we all have different experiences that make each of our points of view unique. It’s not about you, it’s about the situation. Don’t take it personally.

    Advertising

    3. Remember the Benefit

    This is a good thing to do when your first initial reaction of “no” comes into your mind. Receiving constructive criticism is a way to help yourself improve. Remember that you don’t have to digest and implement every single suggestion word for word. Take the parts that resonate with you and use them the next time a similar situation comes around. This is how we learn and grow.

    4. Listen to Understand

    Active listening

    is very important here. Make sure that you are paying full attention to the speaker’s words and body language. You are attempting to understand completely so you are able to truly process the feedback and utilize it down the road. Keep your eyes and ears on the speaker and be present in the moment of receiving the feedback.

    5. Be Thankful

    It’s not easy to be thankful when someone is telling you how you could have done something better. This is where you put on your “big person pants” and tell them, “thank you for taking the time to share the feedback.”.

    If you think about it, they most likely want the best for you. Why else would they be taking the time to share their insights and input with you? If they didn’t care or have a vested interest, why would they take the time? Exactly. Remember this when saying thank you.

    6. Ask Questions to Understand Fully

    This is where you want to ask clarifying questions to make sure you are fully understanding what the person is saying to you. Make sure you are on the same page as what they are telling you. If you don’t take the time to ask questions to clear up any confusion, then, in the long run, this feedback won’t be of much value to you.

    Using Criticisms to Improve

    Now, let’s take a look at how constructive criticism helps us improve, as we’ve read that reviewing when things don’t go right and analyzing why they didn’t go right help us figure out ways to change what we did to gain better results next time.

    Advertising

    1. Feedback Is Always Helpful

    The first way you can use constructive criticism to improve is by acknowledging that feedback is always helpful. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all feedback is beneficial to you. It just means that it’s helpful.

    You may disagree wholeheartedly on part of the feedback you receive, and that’s fine. The main thing to remember is that it’s always helpful. Gathering data, reviewing, and listening to others help you look at situations from an angle different than your own.

    Speaking of which…

    2. You Get Another Point of View

    A great thing about listening to someone provide constructive criticism to you is that you get another point of view. Too many times we base what we think we should do on only our own perceptions of something. It’s very possible to be so close to something that you don’t truly see it in an objective light.

    I know from back when I was an artist, I could get very locked into a certain project or painting. When I finally would take a break and ask someone else what they thought, many times they pointed out things I’d never noticed or thought of. The same concept applies here.

    3. It Shows You Are Worth It

    When someone takes the time to provide constructive criticism to you, it shows that they care and feel like you are worth it. They wouldn’t take the time if they didn’t think it would matter or that you weren’t worth it. This is something to think about the next time your manager wants to offer you some insight or advice.

    4. It Helps You Improve

    If you are willing to truly listen to constructive criticism, it can help you improve greatly. I think about a wide variety of times when I’ve gotten feedback and constructive criticism. I am known to invite it.

    Advertising

    I look at it like this—we are all on the same team (whether that’s an actual team or work team) and trying to work towards the same goal. What can I do better that can help us collectively win as a team? I like to think that I’m pretty good at what I do. I also know that I can always get better. Help me to help you, which helps us both.

    5. It Can Inspire You

    Finally, constructive criticism can inspire you. Sometimes, the person providing you feedback will make you see something you never saw about yourself. This is how another point of view can be so valuable. This can be incredibly eye-opening and sometimes be even one of those “Aha!” moments.

    Summary

    We’ve looked at what constructive criticism is and how to accept it. We’ve seen how if we allow ourselves to listen and accept the feedback, it can incredibly valuable to our growth and improvement. Constructive criticism can help us get better and better at what we do. Not any less important, we’ve discovered how to take constructive criticism like a champ.

    Remember, getting feedback from others is critical to our growth in many areas of our life. Use constructive criticism to improve yourself.

    More About Constructive Criticism

    Featured photo credit: Mimi Thian via unsplash.com

    Read Next