"Isn't it up to my employer to teach me what I need to know?"
Have you ever said or thought this? If you are being totally honest with yourself, the answer is probably yes. We've all been there at one time or another. You are not entirely wrong in thinking this, but let me suggest something: If you rely on your job to provide all of the learning you need in your career, you risk missing out on much greater opportunities for both professional and personal growth.
WHAT YOU LEARN ON THE JOB?
Most jobs require learning as you go and some even provide official training. Either way, the assumption is that a certain amount of what you do on your job will be learned on your company's dime. Therefore, you can assume that your employer will provide some sort of opportunities to learn what you need to know. However, if you find yourself relying on your job to provide you with everything you need in your career, perhaps you should try asking yourself this question:
"What am I not going to learn through my job that could help me (both in my current and future jobs?)."
NEGOTIABLE VS NON-NEGOTIABLE LEARNING
Non-negotiable learning: When strictly speaking about work - your day to day job and the tasks associated with it - there is a certain "body of knowledge" associated with those tasks that you need to know in order to be effective in your job. Chances are, your employer will provide you with the learning opportunities you need in these areas.
Negotiable learning: You could think of any learning that isn't directly related to your work as negotiable. It isn't absolutely critical that you have knowledge or skills that are beyond the scope of your job.
You can have a perfectly rewarding career by sticking to the non-negotiable learning opportunities that will be presented to you in the various jobs you will have in your lifetime. You may still get promotions, raises, increasing responsibilities, and the respect of your peers. You may also decide to take advantage of non-negotiable learning opportunities only to still find yourself stuck in dead-end jobs.
If you're thinking that I'm making my own counter-arguments against the entire premise of this post, you are not wrong. I'm doing this to drive home a point: learning in and of itself doesn't provide you with the magic bullet for career success.You still need to "show up" for work in all of the other ways that phrase implies if you want to increase your chances of a career well spent.
I CAN'T AFFORD MORE EDUCATION/I'M NOT INTERESTED IN ANOTHER DEGREE
Learning doesn't have to happen in a classroom (virtual or otherwise) and it doesn't have to cost money. Here are a few ideas for cheap or free learning opportunities:
Used books. They're not just for students! There are many sources for used books at a fraction of the original price (think of a website that sounds like ‘spamazon' and you'll get the idea). Almost every book I buy is used. Find a book you want, and then scroll a little further down to find what are likely to be much cheaper copies (even with shipping).
Free books. Libraries are not only still around, they are used by more people than ever (and yes, many of those people are even using the library to read books). At any given time, I have 10-20 books checked out. Check out your local library's website, because there's a good chance that they'll even pull the books from the shelves for you (don't feel bad, they want you to read books and they are more than happy to provide this service).
I DON'T HAVE TIME
You work long hours, maybe you even work multiple jobs, and maybe you have kids that eat up all of your non-working time. You are an undoubtedly busy person and how could you possibly find the time to take a class or read a book? I will not try to convince you otherwise. I don't know you personally, and any attempt by me to tell you that you have more time than you think you do will surely be met with skepticism.
Instead, I will tell you how I find the time that I don't think I have:
- I consider any time to be enough time to read something. Five minutes may be enough to read an article or maybe even a short chapter of a book.
- I don't worry about reading it all. I rarely read a business-related book cover to cover. I'll get the main point of the book at the beginning, and then skim the rest.
- My bag is always with me, and it always holds at least one book (or my e-reader). I do not consider my phone or tablet to be a good medium for reading, and that's for one simple reason: It holds too many distractions.
- Speaking of distractions, I kill plenty of time on social media (and given the statistics of social media users worldwide, I'm going to take a wild guess that you do, too). To give myself a fighting chance of learning something during a social media session, I have filled my social media feeds with sources of information that can help me in my short- and long-term career (e.g., business- and career-related sources of information).
- My commute is by train, and I find myself usually doing some work during this time. However, I also force myself to set aside some of this commute time each day to reading something that benefits me personally (e.g., books, blogs, online magazines, trade publications).
- I'm an early riser, even on weekends. For me, early on a Saturday and Sunday morning are a great time for me get in some reading.
- Books and magazines are everywhere in my home. In every room there is something to read within arm's length.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO LEARN?
While this may be a slight tangent to a discussion about learning, reading, and knowledge gathering, it bears saying nonetheless: the more you learn about yourself (e.g., your likes/dislikes, behavioral preferences, working and learning styles) the more you can ensure success in your life and your career. By knowing yourself well, you will know what strengths to leverage and what things to improve upon. In this way, it can help guide your other learning activities by providing a roadmap.
TAKE YOUR LEARNING INTO YOUR OWN HANDS
Information and the opportunities to take it in, process it, and turn it into something "learned" are all around you. I'm not only talking about the internet, which didn't create this situation (though, it certainly made access to information that much easier). Through almost any information source you look at or hear, or in talking with, emailing, and interacting with others online, the opportunities to learn something are constantly present.
Whether you're currently in school or left school behind long ago, as the old saying goes:
"You learn something new every day."
I'd like to challenge that saying by suggesting the following:
"You are provided opportunities to learn something new every day."
It's important, therefore, to ask yourself this question:
"Am I listening?"
PS. What's been your experience of learning on the job and beyond it? Are you taking your learning into your own hands or do you feel that employers (or even schools) should teach you everything you need to know? Leave a comment to share your thoughts!
About David Freedman
David Freedman is a Success Coach at MySuccessPlatform.com. He has more than 15 years in human resources consulting. His wide-ranging experiences include resume and career coaching, emotional intelligence training, talent acquisition, and employee engagement. MySuccessPlatform.com offers their Rock*it Resume service as well as a Competitive Edge Boot Camp - customized and highly interactive workshop designed specifically for job seekers. Parent or recent college grad? Check it out.