Every year, around this time, there’s a burst of new sign-ups from workers seeking new skills. Unfortunately, the initial commitment to learning often fizzles out. Those who give up miss out on reported career benefits, such as doing their current job more effectively or finding a new one. Below listed are four crucial habits that can make tremendous difference and help one follow through on their intentions to develop in their career mobility:
- Focus on emerging skills. With so many learning options available these days, one is often tempted to do a simple Google search, with generic terms, and start one of the first courses that pops up. That’s a waste of time. Job requirements are quickly evolving. To ensure relevance, one needs to focus on learning the latest emerging skills. One can do so in a couple of ways.
- Track the skills that leaders in your industry are hiring for. Look at the recent job postings from top companies, and see which qualifications keep popping up.
- Reach out to people in your network, or on LinkedIn, who have the job you want. If you want to know what sales skills and technologies are becoming most important, talk to some high-level salespeople. Ask them what they’re having to learn to keep succeeding at their work and what skills they think someone needs to acquire in order to become a viable candidate.
As you get a sense of the most important skills to learn, ask these experts whether they can recommend specific courses with practical value. Also take a close look at course descriptions to find content that will be useful on the job, as opposed to just providing academic insight.
- Get synchronous. In today’s era, micro-learning — engaging with online learning tools when and where it’s convenient — is becoming a large part of the training and development scene. This has its benefits, including freedom, convenience, and digestible content. But there’s also a downside – these asynchronous experiences are often solitary. And without at least some real-time interaction, whether in person or online, many lose motivation. Researchers have found that “the sense of isolation” for some online learners “may be the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful online learning environment.” Some have also identified interaction and collaboration as critical factors in fruitful learning.
When a live course isn’t available, one should find a “synchronous cohort” — a friend or acquaintance with similar learning goals. Make a pact to do online learning together weekly. You can learn a lot from hearing each other’s questions and by explaining things to each other as you come to understand them. The act of teaching can improve content understanding, recall, and application.
- Implement learning immediately. Research shows that performing the tasks you’ve learned is crucial, because “enactment enhances memory by serving as an elaborative encoding strategy.”
This is part of the problem many engineers face when looking for jobs straight out of college: They’ve been stuck in ‘theory land,’ with little experience of putting what they’ve learned into practice. One can run into the same issue with learning at any stage in life. If one doesn’t deploy what they’ve learnt, soon they’ll forget much of what was learned. So, whatever field one is studying, try to find opportunities for using the newly acquired skills.
- Set a golden benchmark. Just like runners in a marathon, online learners need to have a clear goal in order to stay focused. A return on investment (in terms of time and money spent) is hard to gauge in the near term. But those who persevere generally have their eye on a larger prize — a new job, a promotion, or the chance to lead a project. Of course, that benchmark may change as you develop. Learning is a career-long process. After you achieve one big goal, set your sights on the next one. That’s how you make learning a part of your normal routine. The more you do that, the less likely you are to stop.
The team at Actuate Business Consulting, a knowledge based management consulting firm in India, believes, that utilizing the aforementioned insights into habit formation can go a long way in making learning a part of life.