Keep professional learning continuous
Many of us left university thinking that we could put exams and assessments behind us as we finally become professionals. After entering the workforce, however, it is easy to see that professionals are still benchmarked based on performance, skills and knowledge. This, accompanied with the advancement of technology and customer demand, has created the need to become modern learners.
Professional learning today
A modern learner is a professional working in an industry or organisation that requires support with continuous advancement of skills, application of skills and knowledge of disruptive innovation. At university, we were able to focus solely on learning new skills; however, as a professionals we must continuously learn while also making sure that the job gets done.
Some businesses recognise modern learners as vital for success and implement quality learning programs and platforms to assist employees with development, such as LMS programs. Other businesses, however, may not see professional development as important or may not offer programs that are in line with what each professional wants or needs for their personal development. To protect employability and improve skills, professionals may need to become responsible for their own personal development.
More reasons to learn
Many studies show a correlation between adult learning and sustained employment. Professionals that are willing to undertake adult learning are more adaptive to change in organisations and will gain a competitive edge in the job market. Conscious decisions about personal development show managers that employees are highly motivated and dedicated to improve their professional abilities.
Kickstart personal development
The modern learner can be constantly distracted by websites, applications, phones, etc. It can become a struggle to focus on learning, especially when individuals also have a lot of work commitments that need to be completed. Professionals can be overwhelmed with learning and it can be extremely difficult to start learning and remained committed to personal development.
Below are some steps to help adult learners get started.
Lists are your best friend
Before jumping in and learning all your new skillsets, it is important to start by developing a list of your learning aspirations. This list includes skills and knowledge that you wish to improve, as well as trends, technologies and new tools that you may want to learn. This list should also cover soft skills that you wish to improve upon, such as communication or innovation.
This is a running list, so you should plan learning into three-month segments and regularly review your progress. This does not have to be a bulleted list and many find it helpful to create a mind-map type of list to organise skills into different sections. Below is an example of learning plan list.
Narrow it down
When you approach your learning as a fluid working plan that will evolve with you, you can see how you progress and where you want to prioritise your time. Every three months, you should include around three to five goals that include:
- learning a technology or tool
- developing a specific skill
- mastering a soft skill
- earning a certification
Choosing large goals and sectioning them into three-monthly, six-monthly, yearly and three-yearly goals creates a visual for your current and future focuses. After identifying these goals, flesh them out into small goals that can be accomplished over the months and weeks, even over each day.
Add some fun
Learning is not always about becoming a better professional and should be utilised to lead healthier and happier lives. Adding in a goal for yoga, painting or a hobby that you find fun, will keep learning engaging and help you remain excited about your personal growth.
After identifying what skills you would like to improve over your chosen period of time, start researching ways to improve those skills.
First, start with what your organisation has to offer. Many organisations will offer professional development programs and LMS platforms to easily maintain records of learning. Other resources for learning skills include:
- books, research papers, articles and other reading materials
- volunteering at events and other organisations
- training others at public events and conferences
- joining committees
- applying for scholarships and awards
- joining an online academic program
Set a schedule
The next step for taking control of your learning is to set a schedule to achieve your learning goals. Decide on a set amount of time each day or week that you plan to dedicate to learning and then block off the time in your calendar.
Learning should become a daily habit and it is important to tailor your schedule to work for your individual needs. Check out the blog on time management for more tips on how to effectively schedule your time and focus on your tasks.
With any habit or change that you want to make, reflection is needed. Try to reflect each month on your goals and the progress you have made. Keep notes on what has worked for your learning needs, what hasn’t worked and how you would like to improve going forward.
- Brooks, W. (2015). Take Control of Your Learning: How to Create and Implement a Professional Learning Plan. Safari. Retrieved from https://www.safaribooksonline.com/blog/2015/10/30/how-to-create-and-implement-your-professional-learning-plan/
- Mills, C. (2013). Keeping your Professional Development Continuous. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/careers/careers-blog/keeping-professional-development-continuous