One of the top improvement areas in employee satisfaction surveys is almost always ‘training and development’. Similarly, there has been a lot of noise on social media about the employability of fresh graduates and MBAs. There is no doubt that it is crucial for our education system to focus on well-rounded personality development and for organisations to institutionalise structured training and development. But we live in times of free information. Often, with just a little effort and resourcefulness, fresh graduates and employees can easily upskill themselves and gain a competitive edge among peers. All you need is intent and, often, a working internet connection.
Lead the charge of your own career progression for training your skills for the jobs and roles you aspire for. Here’s how:
Social media can be your best learning resource or a bottomless pit of despair. The choice is yours.
It has become hard for me to imagine a time before Google threw up reading links on any subject I wanted to learn about and the good folks over at Quora and LinkedIn shared perspective and lessons in response to complex questions. The powerhouse of informed (and sometimes shrill and uninformed) opinion that is Twitter was nowhere around. YouTube and TED Talks did not throw up classroom training videos. There has been a lot of talk recently about how social media makes us unhappy. I can’t argue with statistics but I definitely have a lot to say about the power of choice. So you want to learn more about interview skills? Need to prepare yourself to take on the role of a manager but your employer will not tell you how? Want to be a better coder/writer/musician/cook/social commentator/person? There is always a quick and easy way to start – get online and use the right keywords. The internet is a powerhouse of learning resources, from presentations to videos, long form content and short form perspectives. Choose the company you keep online wisely.
But you must dig deep
Shallow knowledge can be dangerous, especially in complex subjects like gender discourse, leadership, work culture etc. It is tempting to believe all that a topic’s Wikipedia link has to say but look beyond. Find podcasts and read everything that domain experts have to say. Essentially, dig deep into the subjects you want to learn about. More importantly, learn to separate the wheat from the chaff, the substance from the fluff.
Develop a circle that believes in continuous learning
No prizes for guessing that conversations reiterate your lessons and etch them to memory. But more importantly, the company you keep can make or break your dedication to self-learning. Maintain a circle of friends and/or colleagues who, like you, believe in constant learning and self-development. It is also easy to crib about the absence of classroom trainings, even easier to use it as an excuse to not evolve continuously. But even C-suite must evolve continuously in order to stay relevant, mid- to junior level employees are no different. Instead of engaging in a sob fest with your colleagues over the absence of a training programme, put your hands and heads together and develop one to exchange ideas, inspire each other, and exchange domain expertise – it is much more constructive.
‘What got you here will not get you there’
A weakness that I have been combatting personally ever since school is my mental block against subjects I don’t enjoy. For example, in my third semester in engineering, I knew Computer Organisation inside out because that is all I ever studied. But even today, I don’t really know how I cleared my Engineering Graphics paper! Fortunately or unfortunately, I didn’t have the luxury to make these choices in full time employment. Not enjoying presentations that put me in the centre of the room didn’t mean I could get away with not learning the skill. YouTube videos and blog posts that broke down presentation skills helped me get at least above average at it. Sure, everyone has his or her subject matter strengths and weaknesses. In full time employment, make it a point to learn a little about what you hate too. It is only a sign of maturity and self-awareness. From personal experience, it also makes for a great talking point in appraisal discussions!
Take charge of your own career progression. Let your employers’ classroom training just be one element of it. Self-guided training and development is evolutionary. Even modern education systems are moving towards it. Join the movement if you want to stay ahead of the curve.