When was the last time you shook things up a bit in your working life? Took on a new project, learned a new skill, put yourself out there and did something weren’t particularly confident about? If the answer is “all the time”, give yourself a big gold star. If it is “in the last year” – well done you. If you can’t remember – then go stand in the corner.
One of the greatest enemies of the new is quite simply – the old and wise. The more experienced we become and the more in demand we are, the less time we have for keeping ourselves fresh. We all need to be seeking out new knowledge and experience because it makes us even better at what we do. But you have to consciously make time to do it.
This last year has certainly shaken us all up. We’ve had to adapt in ways we couldn’t have imagined. You may feel fresher than ever, at the top of your game because you’ve had to make so many changes to the way you work. Or you may just feel exhausted. You have to make time for learning and time is the one thing many have been short of. If that is unlikely to change for you any time soon, here are some quick-fire ways to actively bring learning into your working week and avoid the rot setting in:
- Look left and right instead of up and down. Get out of your silo. This means seeking out experience in and exposure to other areas of your organisation. It will give you a much better appreciation of the challenges colleagues face and how you might respond to them. Get as much exposure as you can to different disciplines. It’s fascinating, enriching and pragmatic. Pragmatic because there’s a big link between learning and earning. You’re making yourself more marketable.
- Commit to one key learning investment a year. That’s not too much to ask of yourself or your employer. Promise yourself you will learn one significant skill every year. It could be through formal study, a course or workshop, something online or simply reading deeply around the subject, but it should result in you being able to do something you couldn’t do before and something you can use in your work. Learning is liberating so don’t deprive yourself.
- Put your hand up more. Volunteer to take on new responsibilities, participate in different projects, take on a “problem child” task that no one else wants. It may be something you struggle with at times or feel scared too, but you’ll come out the other side of it fresher and better. To do this you may need to let go of another activity that could be done by someone else or perhaps doesn’t need doing it all.
No one wants to stand still. Sometimes we think we do. We tell ourselves we’ll tread water for a bit, enjoy the comfort of knowing what we’re doing and after the year we’ve had, who can blame us? That feeling won’t last long. Humans live to learn, we want to grow and get better and sometimes that means not being the smartest, it means being a beginner again. As the quote goes: “If you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room.”