Learning doesn’t end when you leave the classroom, submit a paper for grading, or finish a test. Most of our learning in life happens informally through conversations, stories, actions, and mistakes. Have you met people who always seem to know how to find an answer quickly, who to ask for advice and where to go for help? The truth is you can be one of those resourceful people. You just have to master informal learning. Here are 7 pointers to get your started:
- Build awareness. Don’t be a zombie who operates on autopilot. Be mindful of what is going on around you. There are many things at work that with experience, we can do almost automatically. But in order to learn, we need to pay attention. Get informed about your company, understand its history, the services you provide, markets, processes, culture and politics.
- Embrace the “TEAM” approach to learning:
T = Test your understanding;
E = Evaluate the results of your test;
A = Assess the strengths and weaknesses of your current position in light of the results;
M = Modify your understanding if needed.
Repeat the cycle.
- Reflect. Get into the habit of reflecting on the experiences of your work day. What excited you? What frustrated you? What was the most important thing you learned today? Did you manage your time effectively? How can you improve your work processes? You can come up with your own list of questions and use it as a checklist at the end of the day.
- Be strategic about your professional development. Don’t assume that you will get the necessary training and resources. Develop your personal learning agenda. Identify the skills you will need as your career evolves and set a timeframe for developing those skills. Create a personal curriculum that covers all possible ways and methods for you to learn. When time comes for the conversation with your boss about your professional development, be prepared.
- Seek feedback whenever you can. Constructive feedback can open new learning opportunities.
- Be social. Talk to people. Ask them about their passions and areas of expertise. The more people you know, the easier it will be for you to access information when you need it. Figure out how knowledge flows in your organization. Who generates it? How is it distributed? Who are the connectors?
- Develop a curious mind. A curious mind is inspired, attentive, ready to solve problems and build new connections. It welcomes challenges and envisions possibilities. It is a great mind to have when you want to learn.
Orientation Series: 21 Steps to Becoming a Better Learner:
Step 1: Setting your learning objectives
Step 2: Taking an inventory of your skills
Step 3: Taking an Inventory of Your Learning Tools
Step 4: Finding opportunities for cognitive apprenticeship
Step 5: Determining the "IIQ" of what you read
Step 6: Choosing helpful books for law students
Step 7: “The Three 'P's of Performance” in Action
Step 8: Tapping into your social networks
Step 9: Identifying your learning barriers
Step 10: Finding your sources of motivation
Step 11: Managing your energy
Step 12: Focusing on how you think