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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.

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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]

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  • 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?

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    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

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    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

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    Published on January 19, 2021

    What Is Learning by Doing And Why Is It Effective?

    What Is Learning by Doing And Why Is It Effective?

    The list of teaching techniques is ever-expanding as there are multiple ways for us to gain knowledge. As a result, there are multiple techniques out there that leverage those particular skills. One such technique I want to share with you is learning by doing.

    This technique has been around for a long time, and it’s a surprisingly effective one thanks to the various perks that come with it. Also called experiential learning, I’ll be sharing with you my knowledge on the subject, what it is deep down, and why it’s such an effective learning tool.

    What Is Learning by Doing?

    Learning by doing is the simple idea that we are capable of learning more about something when we perform the action.

    For example, say you’re looking to play a musical instrument and were wondering how all of them sound and mix. In most other techniques, you’d be playing the instrument all by yourself in a studio. Learning by doing instead gives you a basic understanding of how to play the instrument and puts you up on a stage to play an improvised piece with other musicians.

    Another way to think about this is by taking a more active approach to something as opposed to you passively learning about it. The argument is that active engagement provides deeper learning and that it’s okay if you make mistakes as you learn from those as well. This mentality brought forth a new name for this technique: experiential learning.

    What Are Its Benefits?

    Experimental learning has been around for eons now. It was Aristotle who wrote that “for the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”

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    Over the years, that way of thinking changed and developed and for a time was lost once computers were integrated into schools. It’s only been in recent years where schools have adopted this technique again. It’s clear why teachers are encouraging this as it offers five big benefits.

    1. It’s More Engaging and More Memorable

    The first benefit is that it’s more engaging and memorable. Since this requires action on your part, you’re not going to be able to weaken your performance. This is big since, traditionally, you’d learn from lectures, books, or articles, and learners could easily read—or not read—the text and walk away with no knowledge at all from it.

    When you are forced into a situation where you have to do what you need to learn, it’s easier to remember those things. Every action provides personalized learning experiences, and it’s where motivation is built. That motivation connects to what is learned and felt. It teaches that learning is relevant and meaningful.

    Beyond that, this experience allows the opportunity for learners to go through the learning cycle that involves extended effort, mistakes, and reflection, followed by refinement of strategies.

    2. It Is More Personal

    Stemming from the reason mentioned above, learning by doing offers a personal experience. Referring back to the cycle of effort, mistakes, reflection, and refinement, this cycle is only possible through personal emotions—the motivation and realization of knowledge of a particular topic tying into your values and ideals.

    This connection is powerful and thus, offers a richer experience than reading from a book or articles such as this one. That personal connection is more important as it encourages exploration and curiosity from learners.

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    If you’ve always wanted to bake a cake or cook a unique dish, you could read up on it or watch a video. Or you could get the ingredients and start going through it all yourself. Even if you make mistakes now, you have a better grasp of what to do for the next time you try it out. You’re also more invested in that since that’s food that you made with the intention of you having it.

    3. It Is Community-Connected

    Learning by doing involves the world at large rather than sitting alone in your room or a library stuck in a book. Since the whole city is your classroom technically, you’re able to leverage all kinds of things. You’re able to gather local assets and partners and connect local issues to larger global themes.

    This leans more into the personal aspect that this technique encourages. You are part of a community, and this form of learning allows you to interact more and make a connection with it—not necessarily with the residents but certainly the environment around it.

    4. It’s More Integrated Into People’s Lives

    This form of learning is deeply integrated into our lives as well. Deep learning occurs best when learners can apply what they’ve learned in a classroom setting to answer questions around them that they care about.

    Even though there is a lot of information out there, people are still always asking “what’s in it for me?” Even when it comes to learning, people will be more interested if they know that what they are learning is vital to their very way of life in some fashion. It’s forgettable if they’re unable to tie knowledge in with personal aspects of their lives. Thus, experiential learning makes the application of knowledge simpler.

    5. It Builds Success Skills

    The final benefit of learning by doing is that it builds up your skills for success. Learning by doing encourages you to step out of your comfort zone, discover something new, and try things out for the first time. You’re bound to make a mistake or two, but this technique doesn’t shame you for it.

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    As a result, learning by doing can build your initiative for new things as well as persistence towards growth and development in a field. This could also lead to team management and collaboration skill growth. These are all vital things in personal growth as we move towards the future.

    How to Get Started

    While all these perks are helpful for you, how are you going to start? Well, there are several different approaches that you can take with this. Here are some of them that come to mind.

    1. Low-Stakes Quizzes

    In classroom settings, one way to introduce this technique is to have many low-stakes quizzes. These quizzes aren’t based on assessing one’s performance. Instead, these quizzes are designed to have learners engage with the content and to generate the learned information themselves.

    Research shows that this method is an effective learning technique.[1] It allows students to improve their understanding and recall and promotes the “transfer” of knowledge to other settings.

    2. Type of Mental Doing

    Another approach is one that Psychologist Rich Mayer put together. According to him, learning is a generative activity.[2] His knowledge and the research done in his lab at Santa Barbara have repeatedly shown that we gain expertise by doing an action, but the action is based on what we already know.

    For example, say you want to learn more about the Soviet dictator Stalin. All you need to do is link what you do know—that Stalin was a dictator—and link it to what you want to learn and retain. Stalin grew up in Georgia, killed millions of people, centralized power in Russia, and assisted in the victory of World War 2. This technique even applies to the most simple of memory tasks as our brain learns and relearns.

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    3. Other Mental Activities

    The final method I’ll share with you is taking the literal approach—getting out there and getting your hands dirty so to speak. But how you go about that is up to you. You could try reading an article and then going out and applying it immediately—like you could with this article. Or maybe you could find further engagement through puzzles or making a game out of the activity that you’re doing.

    For example, if you wanted to learn about animal behavior patterns, you can read about them, go out to watch animals, and see if they perform the specific behaviors that you read about.

    Final Thoughts

    Learning by doing encourages active engagement with available materials and forces you to work harder to remember the material. It’s an effective technique because it helps ingrain knowledge into your memory. After all, you have a deeper personal connection to that knowledge, and you’ll be more motivated to use it in the future.

    With that in mind, I encourage you to take what you’ve learned from reading this article and apply that in the real world. It’s only going to benefit you as you grow.

    Featured photo credit: Van Tay Media via unsplash.com

    Reference

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