You probably realize that to get a better job and income, you’ve got to learn new skills. But you can’t afford to quit your job to devote time to education, can you? How can you maintain your full time employment and still learn things to advance your career? You can do both at the same time!
1 – Get Yourself a Mentor, Maybe Two
You’ll learn and develop higher paying skills much more effectively when you have someone to help teach and motivate you. Mentors can show you the ropes and share information not available in textbooks. How should you get a mentor? Find someone who has the knowledge, skill, and experience you want and ask for coaching and feedback. Sure, some insecure people won’t agree to this because they see your ambition as a threat. But you’ll compliment most people with your request and they’ll often make time in their busy schedules to help you.
2 – Volunteer for Challenging Projects
When my director said our company needed training videos created for a safety program and new hire orientation, I volunteered to produce them. The projects encompassed enormous amounts of work and coordination, but I learned video production from start to finish. Do you have opportunities at work to volunteer for new projects? Be selective about which ones to pursue. Step up to those projects that offer opportunities to learn something new, not those that just increase your workload.
3 – Keep a Work or Project Journal
You take notes in school or training – what about at work? I know several people who keep “little black books” of notes and hacks for getting things done. My older brother is a professional sound engineer and he uses these “sidekicks” frequently. He’d probably sacrifice a limb before parting with these notes. Did you make a mistake on a project that ended up costing time and money? Write down what you learned as a hedge against it happening again. Discovered an efficient shortcut to being more productive? Take notes so you remember to use it the next time around.
4 – Bring a Book
I worried, initially, when my managers saw design, programming or project management books open on my desk. They didn’t seem to mind, so I worked through a chapter each day and incorporated what I learned into current projects. Businesses and employees both benefit in an atmosphere that encourages learning and improvement.
5 – Ask!
Absorb as much as possible in your work environment by asking everyone questions about what they do. Don’t tax their time expecting in-depth explanations. Ask them to define a term you haven’t heard before. Invite them to diagram a process for you. Ask them how they got to where they are in their careers. Making this informal learning a habit will give you a broad grasp and build that marketable trait known as “business acumen.”