5 Ways To Take Charge Of Your Own Learning (Because No-one Else Is Gonna Do It For You)
Gone are the days when you could coast through your entire career on the back of your university degree.
In today’s fast-changing world, what you learned last year has probably already been superceded by better, smarter ways of doing things.
If you want to stay ahead, you must stop thinking of yourself as an employee, and start thinking of yourself as a business-of-one. Ask yourself: Am I delivering what my customers (i.e. my current or potential employers) need? Am I all over market trends? Am I offering something my competitors can’t?
While great companies will provide you with some or even most of the training you need to keep competitive, you need to take responsibility for your own learning. In your business-of-one, you are the only asset, and you must invest in yourself. And employability aside, learning new skills is hands-down the best way to keep the passion alive in your career.
The good news is that it’s never been easier to learn new skills in almost every area imaginable, for free (or at a minimal cost).
1. GO BACK TO (VIRTUAL) SCHOOL
How lucky are we? For the first time in history, access to education is truly egalitarian. Many of the world’s top universities offer free courses to anyone with an internet connection. Coursera and Mooc List are excellent places to start getting inspired by the huge range of courses on offer.
Don’t want to sign up for an entire course? Listen to online lectures through iTunes U, or sign up to short classes on platforms like Udemy.
2. READ, READ…AND THEN READ SOME MORE
Focussed reading is crucial to a successful career. Many high-achieving business leaders say it’s the first thing they do every morning. Try replacing your morning aimless internet browsing session with 30 minutes of reading one well-chosen blog, book or article.
Where to start? When reading books, use the appendix to see where the author got their information – this will often lead you on a trail of discovery.
You can also follow industry experts on LinkedIn or Twitter to see the content they’re sharing.
And don’t just look for people to follow – many companies also publish great content. For example, the Big 4 accounting firms and companies like Xero have really helpful blogs and technical updates for accountants.
3. PUT YOUR LISTENING EARS ON
If you’re short on time (or just don’t want to spend any more time looking at a screen than you have to), try listening to podcasts, audiobooks or even TED talks during your commute or your workout.
There’s a huge range available now, so whether you’re looking for industry-specific or more general career-development or lifestyle material, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for. Here’s a great list to get you started.
4. GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR MEMBERSHIP FEES
If you’re a member of a professional organisation, don’t forget they’re not just good for formal professional development courses and conferences. Most also offer high-quality free or low-cost learning resources, including online libraries, articles, webinars and short courses.
For example, CPA Australia’s offers some great courses!
5. ATTEND EVENTS
Professional organisations host frequent events to help you keep your skills up-to-date, but there are a tonne of other options, too.
Check out Eventbrite for conferences, classes and networking events sponsored by companies, universities and other organisations. Or try LinkedIn or Meetup to find a local networking group in your industry.
If you miss an event, many organisers will share presentations or notes on YouTube or SlideShare (another great source of information).
Developing your skill set is your responsibility, and no-one else’s. And in this age of information, there’s nothing stopping you from starting right now.
I recently moved into a new career, so I’ve certainly been practicing what I preach in this article! Although the learning I’ve been doing is in the areas of digital marketing and social media, I’ve written this with accounting professionals in mind. Are there any specific resources I’ve missed? Please share with the class!