Learning to Enhance Your Career
Change is constant in today’s competitive workplace. To keep up, you need to keep learning.
When you’re committed to growing your work-related knowledge and skills, you reap many benefits—you’re more likely to enjoy your work, improve your performance, be invited to take part in rewarding projects, and earn a raise or even a promotion. Ongoing learning often makes it easier to land your next job, if you ever need or want one.
Think about the skills and knowledge you need to stay current now and prepare for the future. Then use the following tips to increase your effectiveness as you learn for work. For more information about these suggestions, see Other Relevant Tips at the end of this article.
Plan your learning with your career path in mind.
When you can see how your learning fits into the bigger picture of your life and work—your career path—you’ll be a more motivated, more effective learner. Career planning is the ongoing process of shaping your career path, based on your skills, experiences, interests and preferences. The process can help you make good decisions and take positive steps at all stages of your life.
Identify what you need to learn in the short term.
In the short term, learning can help you meet an immediate need, like mastering a new computer program or updating a technical skill:
- Check your most recent performance review, ask your supervisor or talk with a more experienced co-worker about skills that may need upgrading.
- Think about a typical workday and identify any tasks you may be avoiding or struggling with because of knowledge or skills you don’t have, e.g. preparing and delivering presentations.
- If your responsibilities have increased over time, ask yourself if you have the training to be effective in your new tasks, e.g. to supervise or train others.
- Take advantage of any short-term training opportunities your employer or other organizations offer, e.g. training to use new equipment.
Identify what you want to learn in the long term.
Build skills and knowledge that support your future goals, like increasing your value to your employer or getting a promotion:
- Develop new skills that will be useful beyond your current position. For example, if you’re interested in management and have an excellent supervisor, analyze your supervisor’s skill set and begin learning or improving those skills.
- Volunteer for projects that challenge you to learn new things or work with new people. Not only will you be improving your employability skills, you’ll be networking outside your area, and gaining valuable information about your organization.
- Talk with your mentor about learning goals that will help you advance your career. If you don’t have a mentor, consider finding one.
Adapt to a changing future.
If you can anticipate the changes that may affect your workplace and industry, you can plan your learning to help you adapt to change. Prepare and watch for change by staying in touch with the labour market, e.g. by keeping in touch with your industry and the economy in general, talking to others in your workplace, following industry leaders online and attending related events.
Understand your learning style.
Are you a hands-on learner? Do you learn best on your own or in a group setting? Recall the learning activities that worked well for you in the past and those that didn't. When the learning fits your style, it’s more enjoyable and more productive. If you have a choice, pick the opportunities that suit your learning style, e.g. a hands-on workshop if your learning style is kinesthetic (learn by doing) or a video-based course, if your learning style is visual.
Find out about learning options.
There’s a wide range of choices about where, when and how to learn, from one-to-one sessions with a co-worker to accredited online degree programs. Check with human resources or your supervisor to find out about the training options and support your organization offers. Many people find that part-time online learning is a good fit, allowing them to pursue their learning goals while they continue working.
Develop learning skills and strategies.
If you haven’t been in a formal learning environment for a while, your learning skills may be rusty. Learning skills increase your understanding and retention of the things you’re trying to learn.
Learning skills can be learned! Learning for work will be more enjoyable and easier when you improve any of the following skills:
- time management
Plan ahead so you learn manageable amounts of information in appropriate amounts of time. That way you’ll absorb what you’re learning and avoid the frustration of trying to learn too much in too short a time.
Make and follow a learning plan.
When you’ve identified your learning needs and explored your options, create an action plan to ensure that you follow through on your intentions. State your goals, timelines and resources, and then set up a series of steps to start you on your way to a successful learning experience.
When you recognize the importance of learning in a rapidly changing workplace, you’re in a good position to take positive action. Whatever, wherever and however you learn, having goals and a plan will make you a more effective lifelong learner. Learning for work will help you meet, and even benefit from, challenges in your workplace.
Relevant Tips (alis.alberta.ca/tips)
Additional Reading (alis.alberta.ca/publications)