Feast on Learning

Michele Warg
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Acquiring new skills is integral to administrative and clerical roles, but finding the time and money for formal education can be challenging. Fortunately, most professional development happens on the job, and your work environment is the best place to take advantage of informal learning opportunities. No matter how skillfully you do your job, you can always learn and improve. Follow these easy tips to make professional development part of your routine.

1. Find Leadership Role Models

Real people provide better examples of practical leadership skills than any formal course. Identify executives and managers in your organization who are exceptional at making decisions and building relationships, and take note of personality traits and leadership techniques that increase their success. Use your observations to define areas where you can improve, and practice using these skills at work.

2. Study Your Peers

Regardless of age, background or career level, everyone you work with can contribute to your professional development. Learn from your peers by paying attention to how they communicate, manage workloads, think about problems and add value to the workplace. Ask yourself what qualities set high achievers apart from others, and be equally mindful of behaviors that hinder career growth.

3. Follow Industry Trends

Know where your industry is going by being involved in professional communities. Subscribe to trade organizations and journals, or attend local seminars and conferences where you can expand your information network. From webinars and blogs to MOOCs and social media communities, the internet offers a wealth of free and low-cost resources that can enrich your learning experience and expose you to global innovators.

4. Make a Reading List

Research a list of beneficial books for self-directed learning, and commit to a schedule of goals, such as reading one per month. Going outside your comfort zone and leveraging existing skills in new ways are both essential for professional development. With this in mind, branch out from industry-specific topics, and choose books that help you approach your career from a variety of angles. Books on technical software, creative thinking, data analytics, emotional intelligence or entrepreneurship might be just as valuable as books on administrative operations.

5. Analyze Your Methods

Researchers from Harvard's Learning Innovations Laboratory identified three types of on-the-job learning: accidental, incidental and intentional. Accidental learning happens when you focus on getting a job done well with limited mental investment, and incidental learning involves greater investment without personal reflection. On the other hand, professional development is the product of intentional effort to evaluate your methods and refine them. Instead of becoming set in your ways, try new methods and compare the results to improve your efficiency and expertise.

6. Partner With Learning Buddies

Share learning resources with co-workers or people in your network who have overlapping goals. Chances are, you have used your practical experiences to develop smart problems-solving methods that can benefit your peers, and vice versa. Whenever possible, maximize your professional development by teaming up with people in various specialties, such as marketing, communications, finance or information technology, to build cross-disciplinary skills.

Learning opportunities are easy to create by simply embracing what you don't know. Avoid limiting your professional development to formal education or resources provided by your employer because real situations provide the context and motivation you need for personal growth.


Photo courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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