If you’re in Sales, it’s often said (by Alec Baldwin and others) that you should always be closing.
Whatever your role or profession, it’s also certain that you should always be learning. Here are 5 strategies to advance your knowledge and skills as you pursue lifelong learning.
1. Set CLEAR goals
- Decide which areas to choose to deepen your existing knowledge and where you want to learn something new.
- Align personal and professional interests with your company’s mission and your department’s goals. If you find metrics and data meaningful, start with the methods or tools currently in use at your company. If you have a passion for diversity and inclusion, review your organizational goals for improving your workplace and culture. If your company is expanding into a new industry or territory, those could be good areas for targeted learning about the industry or a new language.
- Create accountability for achieving your goals. Make your learning goals SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. Many organizations make learning goals part of performance management – does yours?
2. Broaden your learning sourceS
- Online – There are many benefits to online learning. You can do so via professional associations, universities, MOOCs, apps, and more. There is so much learning available 24/7, at different price points - all it takes is a bit of research to find what you are looking for!
- In your organization – Does your organization have a Learning Management System (LMS) with online content? What type of mentoring programs are available? Schedule a virtual lunch with someone with expertise in your area of interest.
- From your network – Who do you know with experience in this area? Reach out to that person and ask to chat. Be specific about what you want to learn, and how, as well as what you can share in return.
- Volunteer opportunities – Volunteer organizations can be a great incubator for leaders to stretch into new areas, while providing service to the organization and the community they serve.
3. Develop a learning mindset
- Look for learning opportunities as you work with new projects, individuals, or teams. One interesting benefit of working alongside others is observing their methods and approaches to achieving success, then adapting their tactics to your situation.
- Review your motivation for learning. What inspires you to continue learning?
- What have you learned so far? How have you applied your learning to your work? What’s next?
- Understand how you like to learn. Is it by reading, watching videos, trying new things, or talking with experts? Are you more hands-on or do you prefer to learn by reading? Look for more opportunities to learn that are aligned with your preferred learning style.
- Create a learning journal. Here, you can list the learning goals you’ve completed, as well as future-oriented goals and opportunities for continued growth.
5. share what you've learned
- Find or create your community. Whether it's joining LinkedIn or other online groups, following and engaging in blogs, or building a network of your own, its time to start or get involved in the conversation.
- Collaborate with others in your area of interest on a joint project. How can you put your areas of expertise together to help others?
- Teach someone else what you’ve learned. It's time to put your mentor hat on and help others avoid mistakes you've made or take advantage of resources and opportunities you've missed out on. Talk to your network to see where your guidance is needed.
- Write a blog post to share with others - like this one you're currently reading!
With these strategies, you will be continuously learning, developing, and growing. The more you focus on how you can grow both personally and professionally, the more ready you will become to take on new challenges.