No one is perfect. Yes, you can ace that interview and land that dream job, but what happens next?
Life isn’t stagnant. It is ever evolving, and if you want to keep up, if you want to stay relevant, then you need to continuously upgrade and hone your skill set. In my experience in the corporate world over the past 10 years, one of the best ways you can stay relevant in the job market is by adopting an attitude of self-teaching.
Teaching yourself is one of the best ways you can ensure that you improve on certain basic skills that are simple but add a tremendous amount of value for you personally, as well as for your employer. The best part is, that whatever you do decide to focus on, whether it is coding, Excel, or even another language, it is likely that you would have chosen a topic that you’re passionate about. You are therefore less likely to lose interest, and more likely that to stick to this educational journey, as you are able to continue along at your own pace. There is no pressure, no deadlines, just a concerted personal effort that carries a personal reward at the end.
How Self-Teaching Helped Me
Throughout my life, I have employed self-teaching to the best of my ability and the results were amazing. The only regret I have is not deciding to learn more things, from a younger age. From learning a second language, to becoming an Excel guru, to mastering reporting on the job, every single educational mission I embarked upon was a resounding success and the rewards multiplied exponentially.
When I started learning Spanish in High School, I took it upon myself to watch Univision. With each Telenovela episode, my vocabulary and my ability to recognize spoken words improved, and I was easily, and effortlessly [at least it felt that way] at the top of my class due to this. Today, it is a skill that I still use in my professional life, and one that has helped to differentiate me from competition. This differentiation was enough to tip the scale in my favour when it came to a promotion a few years ago.
I also became an Excel guru. That was really simple for me as it just entailed Googling things I didn’t know, and committing them to memory.
I audited a few free MOOCS which provided me with valuable knowledge that makes me more efficient at work, and unfortunately, the first person called when someone doesn’t know how to do something.
I have to say, the only bad thing about having a reputation about knowing a lot, is that people will call you for simple things they could Google all by themselves. I know I hate being interrupted for simple things when I'm concentrating or when I have a good flow.
So what are some practices you can adopt if you wish to go down the self-teaching route?
Choose your subject wisely
You will want to choose a subject that you love, or that piques your interest, whose mastery has a clear personal benefit to you. It should be something that is not so difficult to learn, that you will quickly become demotivated.
Set achievable goals and expectations
Take it slowly. Do not overwhelm yourself. Have patience. This isn't a competition, there are no deadlines or grades to be achieved. Focus on your learning and success. Maybe you want to play the Piano - starting with beginner pieces and practicing for 10 minutes everyday, is much more effective than practicing an elaborate piece for 1 hour on the weekend. The latter is bound to end in frustration and the mission will be abandoned.
Read, read, read
Read a lot. Again, choose subjects that you find interesting, and subjects that will add value to your life. We are all, or we should all be on a personal quest for self improvement. At least, I know I am. Reading is a great way to improve your vocabulary, improve your writing skills, and learn valuable lessons all the time.
Make use of free online resources
Imagine if you just took 5 or 10 minutes every morning watching Excel videos, just how good you’d be after a year. It is the little things that really count. There is a plethora of free useful educational content on YouTube, Coursera, Lynda etc. that is just waiting to be consumed. Take advantage of it.
Don’t give up, you must keep practicing, keep reading, keep learning. If you do not apply your new found knowledge to your life appropriately and routinely, it is likely that you will lose it. So if you just learned a valuable shortcut, try to use it whenever you can. That's how your new found knowledge is going to stick, and that's how you'll be able to stay sharp and use your tools when you really need them.
Set unrealistic expectations.
Expect to go at your own pace. Learn a little at a time, and try to practice what you do learn and apply it to your everyday life so that your little educational gems can be committed to memory.
So there you have it. What are your life hacks when it comes to teaching yourself?
Send me an email or drop me a line in the comments, I’d love to hear all about it.