I’m a modern learner. And whether you know it or not, you’re probably one, too. A modern learner is anyone working in an industry or organization that requires any or all of the following:
- Continuous advancement of existing skills
- Rapid learning of a diverse array of new skills
- Frequent application of, and experimentation with, those new skills and knowledge
- Constant honing of critical thinking, leadership, and collaborative skills to tackle increasingly complex challenges and opportunities
- Disruptive innovation that gives your business a competitive edge
… all which must be accomplished in tandem with getting the job done and contending with the barrage of information, pings, and requests that beg for one’s attention throughout each day.
Here’s a great infographic depicting the modern learner. While the possibilities for professional and personal growth are exhilarating, it’s clear to see they are also overwhelming. And a little bit mind blowing. And more than a little distracting.
So what is a modern learner to do?
Take control of your learning.
You can do this by developing a deliberate learning plan and then making the commitment to follow it. Here are the steps to get started:
Start by developing a running list of the critical skills and knowledge you need to be successful in your job (or dream job) today, as well as the emerging trends, technologies and tools you want to put on your radar. Include soft skills you’d like to develop such as communication, strategy, negotiation, or innovation that are key to your professional and personal growth.
Next prioritize the topics in order of importance and level of difficulty. If you create a one-year plan and break it down into 3-month segments, you can map out more challenging or time-consuming goals to stretch over multiple segments, keep track of smaller goals, and swap out topics as your priorities change. Approach your learning plan as a fluid, working document that will evolve and grow with you and your career. Each three-month segment can include a variety of 3-5 goals that might include:
- Learning a technology
- Developing or advancing a specific skill
- Mastering a critical tool
- Earning certification
- Building business acumen
- Staying sane and having FUN (seriously!)
For example my personal learning plan includes learning about marketing analytics and improving my writing skills, both of which are key to my success as a content strategist. Even though I’m an experienced writer, there are always advancements and trends to learn about and improvements to be made. Every field is evolving so quickly these days, that it’s not easy to attain or maintain true expert status. Other goals in my learning plan include developing good time management habits and incorporating yoga into my daily routine. Both of these goals have the benefit of reducing stress, increasing productivity and boosting my overall well-being.
Once you’ve determined your learning goals, start looking into the resources you’ll use to execute your plan, or in other words, learn your stuff. Find out what your employer offers in terms of training courses, a learning portal, and/or an education budget that covers learning materials, classes, conferences, or subscriptions. If you don’t have access to company resources, there are plenty of cost-effective options in the form of subscriptions and memberships, and of course loads of free content on the internet. Change up the resources and formats in your plan from quarter to quarter to keep yourself engaged and interested:
books – audiobooks – white papers – guides – articles – blog posts – video courses – certification courses – in-house training – in-person or online classes -workshops – conferences – webinars – tutorials – online forums – professional meet-ups – lectures or talks – mentors
I’m lucky enough to work at Safari Books Online, the business and technology learning portal with 35,000+ of the best and most current books, audio books, video courses and tutorials. This means I have on-demand access to a huge variety of content from leading industry experts and top publishers like Harvard Business Review Press. But I’m also including internet guides, blog posts, classes, and good old fashioned books in my mix.
Set a schedule (preferably in stone)
Once you’ve determined what you’re committed to learning and how, it’s time to set your schedule. Determine how much time you’ll dedicate each day or week to learning, then block off time on your calendar as you would any other important meeting or commitment. Like physical exercise, it’s best to make learning a daily habit, but if it isn’t realistic, set aside at least a couple hours a week dedicated to learning. Here are some tips for making the most out of your learning time:
- Keep running notes (here’s a fun way to take notes) for each topic so you can easily reference important information
- Save links to related blog posts, white papers and guides to read during your scheduled learning blocks and keep these links in your running notes
- Put your phone away and close your email and chat rooms during your learning time
- Track your learning on your own or use an online tracking platform
Ideas and Inspiration from Safari
Here are some titles to help you in developing your professional learning plan:
Learn Your Way to Success – Shows you how to customize your professional learning plan to accelerate your career.
Be Your Own Career Coach – This practical and accessible guide includes assessments, assignments, planning exercises and fascinating case-studies.
Experiential Learning – Experiential learning is a powerful and proven approach to learning that is based on one incontrovertible reality: people learn best through experience.
Building the Learning Organization – advice for learning leaders on how to harness the collective genius of people in organizations to build, maintain and sustain the power of the Systems Learning Organization model.
Safari is an invaluable resource for those committed to their professional learning and development. If you already have a membership, you’re all set. If you don’t use Safari, and want access the dozens of resources referred to in this post — along with 35,000+ other books, videos, articles, audio books, and tutorials — try a 10-day free trial. If you want to learn about Safari for your team or organization, click here.