Overview on Importance of Learning
There are many ways to learn; the most important thing is to be open to learning. I think for a lot of people, the idea of new-ness is scary. I get that; I really do. As a Project Manager for my whole career, I know how much change scares people to the point that the defense mechanisms kick in and it becomes an uphill battle from day one to implement something new.
Before I even knew I was a project manager, I observed the launch of a brand new computer system while in university – this was moving from typewriters to computers for the staff of the office and it was one of the most painful things I have ever seen. The staff was predominantly older women and the idea of using a computer literally paralyzed most of them with fear. The old way of doing things was so ingrained for most of them; they had been in their positions an average of 10-15 years per person. This was not just switching a switch or pressing a button this was a radical re-learning and learning curve for brand new processes and steps.
I learned a lot just by observing. I did not understand why the training documentation glossed over the bare minimum of computer technology training that would have helped make the new machines on their desk a little less scary. I got to be a part of the training as it impacted my work, too, and I remember stopping the training and going back one on one with people on general computer know-how overviews.
The launch happened and no one was injured or hurt but the memory remained of the fear which led to stress and issues across the board. I slowly started my career in Project Management and always got rave feedback from teams because I always took the time to tailor the lessons, the training(s), and the launch to the unique needs of my user base. So much of project management is about communication and helping people learn – all of which helps people stop rejecting the change.
Mini-Case Study Review
A big part of my dissertation (drafted a few chapters only) was to be about the impact of learning styles on project success. Or something like that. The question always becomes how can you quantify. You can use Meyers Briggs or some other learning ideal to gauge success / failure rates but I did not get that far.
For what I can tell you is that being a learner will only help your career. I think this goes hand in hand with my previous post about being entrepreneurial in your career because as entrepreneurs, you are always learning. More on that post here: http://www.thenextstep1234.com/blog/manage-your-career-like-its-your-own-business-applying-entrepreneurial-traits-to-your-career
Think about how you like to learn and how you learn best; for some of you this might mean thinking back to your school days. However, if you work at a large corporation, you have probably sat through training and/or had to teach yourself something along the way. My plan is to influence you to take on these types of learning methods more often because learning is the key to career growth.
I am using the terms self-directed learning and learning from others as two learning styles to encourage. Ideally, you can and should have a mix of both learning experiences in building and growing your career.
Self Directed Learning
What does this mean? For our purposes, I am calling self directed learning something you can do for yourself. This can be done via online tutorials, reading materials and / or other things that you do on your own. This is a great way to unlock your potential and learn; you can do this at anytime and without relying on someone else to be present and/or online to do it. Also, you can learn at your own pace – if you need to go back and review previous chapters or lessons, you can do so without worrying about “other-itis” or what the other people are doing.
You can do this one on one with a book. Now, some people cringe at the sight of a book; I have never met a book I did not like. I adore reading and cannot stand to listen to an audiobook – maybe you prefer audiobooks. This is great; make the time to identify a skill set you need for your career. Remember the idea of soft skills and hard skills (more on soft skills here http://www.thenextstep1234.com/blog/improving-your-communication-skills-quick-hacks-to-being-a-good-communicator.
You can do a lot of self-directed learning if you think of the plan and execute on it. A good way to do this is to make a list. Make a list about what skills you are considered excellent at – are you the go to person for numbers on your team? Are you the go-to person for HTML coding on your team? Are you the “research” person; like someone needs to know how X is done in Y country and you find it? Are you natural at languages? Whatever these things are that you are already sharpest at, see if you can continue to improve on them – make yourself “known” in this field – do your research and share it in a blog or other place (post coming soon on building a brand online).
With that list, also add in the things that you are not so good at. Do you struggle with public speaking? Do you cringe when you have to write a report? Is email correspondence something you were asked to improve on? Think back to your performance review (cringe, shudder and move on) – what were you asked to improve on? And think about reviewing my tips on how to handle the performance review here: http://www.thenextstep1234.com/blog/how-to-do-your-first-or-50th-performance-review.
Now consider how you can move forward on those items – what books are available, what can you find on the web via YouTube (do not forget my YouTube channel for learning, too) and what can you do on your own to sharpen and improve those skills.
Learning from others
We are by nature sociable people (most of the time) and for some of us learning with others it the only way we stay on task and motivated. Also, it is a whole learning experience to have others taking the steps with you. Of course, as an educator, I am a great person to learn from in person or via my web channels and I am moving towards creating more interactive content and experiences for my followers. There are seminars and training courses you can take that can fit any budget (http://www.thenextstep1234.com/seminars-offered-by-the-next-step-and-wagner-college-office-for-lifelong-learning.html) and there is online and in-person options that can fit your schedule.
Identifying Your Learning Style
For this, you need to know which way is the best way for you to learn. Do you need concrete deliverables the type often found while learning from others? Or are you better working independently?
I have a quick learning story when I was leaving the country, I was 21. I had never spoken Italian – I mean, I took Italian for four years in high school and all I could do was the vowels and a prayer. Now I was moving to Italy and really wanted to learn the language. I could have went there without the language as the classes were all in English but I wanted to get “more” – that is who I am, I am a learner.
So I got a textbook or two and began studying almost every day for a few hours. I also found a tutor who was a friend of the family and went to her house once a week to study more. I literally re-wrote about 2-3 textbooks in memorization. Since this was 1998, there were limited online options for anything in terms of uhm anything so when I got off the plane with my dad I was flabbergasted with the sounds I heard coming out of everyone’s mouths; I thought maybe instead of studying Italian for the past 2-4 months that maybe I studied German by mistake. I then committed myself to doing and learning as much as I could in Italian and by 2 months of immersion living there and doing everything outside of class and studying in Italian, I was dreaming in Italian.
When I think about what I could have done with that lesson plan today with the wealth of information and “course” materials everywhere; I could have been watching Italian movies on Netlfix (still do this), reading Italian news on line (done) and watching YouTube videos, Rosetta Stone and more. Oh, and my tutor would have been someone who was fluent and would only speak to me in Italian… This is just one idea of how to use a mix of self and with others learning to move forward.
How can you use learning to identify and improve your skill sets? What do you think about learning for your career? Consider joining me in person to learn for your career: http://wagner.edu/lifelong-learning/career-workshop/ and here on Project Management http://wagner.edu/lifelong-learning/career-management-seminar/.
Lisa Vento Nielsen