Have you ever experienced the feeling of finally having ‘arrived’? That sense we get of knowing that a long-cherished dream has come true is the subtle line between building a career and going to work. And yet, that isn’t a journey to undertake in a day or even a year. Some things pan out the way they do because of the years of consistent work that preceded them.
In her bestseller Becoming, the most famous FLOTUS in current memory has this to say, “People called my husband an overnight success, as though the decades he spent inhaling every piece of information he could find were all validated by that one speech.” The core message here is that continuous learning and a zeal to be better today than yesterday is the only thing that can propel us forward.
However, it is often hard to juggle a career and learning. For one, a job gives us a sense of assurance which in itself can be detrimental to our learning efforts- it is risky to get too comfortable! But, the pressures of a long work week can result is us wanting nothing more than to kick back and relax over the weekend.
We do, however, feel that there is a way to balance both needs- the need for growth and the need for decent downtime. This is possible by turning a workplace into the temple of learning we are so desperately looking for. Today, several organisations are already ‘learning’- they have the flexibility and the drive to use market forces and mould themselves positively. An employee within such a system often has the kind of flexibility with decisions that was rare even a generation ago. Armed with new empowerment, here are a few approaches you can try in order to learn within your company.
1. Seek Out New Opportunities: In this context, startups are truly blessed. They often have small teams and can quickly pivot from one need to the next. Often, startup companies look out for individuals with a clear sense of enthusiasm. Even in a more seasoned organisation, enthusiasm can take you a long way.
If there is a new vertical being explored or a new venture being proposed, offer to use your skills on it. There is a lot to be learnt from building something from nothing at all. For one, you stand to gain keen business insight, plus ways to communicate with different stakeholders, the nature of a new industry, a whole new set of market forces- and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You will grow individually in ways you never thought possible.
2. Find A Mentor: One of the most humbling things we can ever do is to admit that we don’t know something. It can be anything from how to code in a new tool to strategic decisions. For one, experience comes at the expense of time, and there’s a reason why older members of an organisation are also often the most experienced.
Find a mentor in an experienced professional within the organisation. This is not an easy task. In the beginning, gather learnings from any and all sources. Over time, you will find that you make an easier connection with one or two senior managers. These people are also often keen to hone your skills and to give you guidance when you need it. Convert this opportunity into a lifetime of learning, discussing ideas, sounding off troubles and so on.
If your company has a system of attaching new/ recent hires to a senior partner, make the most of the time you get with them. Don’t be afraid to ask for one-to-one time and ask as many questions as you’d like to.
3. Take Up Client-Facing Engagements: In his book on finding mentors in clients called Sponge, veteran adman Ambi Parameswaran talks about his longest clients and how each one of them had something important to teach him. Many people, if they haven’t been posted in sales, avoid speaking to the client like doomsday itself might arrive if they did. Yes, it is a scary prospect to represent the client end of the equation and ensure we don’t mess up.
However, it is safe to say that messing up, and doing it as soon as possible, is the only way to learn to do things right. Clients often bring invaluable insight into every conversation, sharing that side of the story that is often invisible yet absolutely crucial. What’s more, they can often bring our attention to the gaps in our knowledge better than anyone else in ever-so-subtle ways.
4. Sign Up For Training: Organisations offer specific training programmes throughout the year. If you are eligible to participate, sign up for these programmes. You will come away with at least one new bit of information, learning or insight that you can use.
These are just a few tips that you can start implementing from today to help you be a better version of yourself every single day. As always, never be afraid to admit that you do not know something. All learning begins with an empty space. When in doubt, always ask questions and always be willing to learn. #LoveToLearn we say!