If you want to keep your job and have any hope of moving up, mastering new skills is a requirement, not a luxury, say experts.
“In a fast-moving, competitive world, learning new skills is one of the keys to success. It’s not enough to be smart; you need to always be getting smarter,” says motivational psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson.
She and Joseph Weintraub, a professor ofand organizational behavior at Babson College, suggest a process to help make learning new things as easy as possible.
- Be realistic. You need a certain baseline ability to learn a new skill, and the time and energy available to put in the work needed to accomplish your goal.
- Evaluate the skill’s value. Focus on skills that will be valuable to your career and your employer and what return you can expect from it.
- Keep to your learning style. “Reflect on some of your past learning experiences, and make a list of good ones and another list of bad ones,” says Halvorson. “What did the good, effective experiences have in common? How about the bad ones? This can help you determine the learning environment that works best for you”—visual, auditory or hands-on.
- Enlist the best teacher available. Start with people within your organization. Don’t be afraid to look beyond your team or department.
- Start with baby steps. Choose one or two things to work on at once and break them down into smaller steps that you take one at a time.
- Make reflection part of your plan. If you just plow through without reflecting on what you’re learning, the new knowledge won’t stick. Talk about your progress with other people to get feedback and keep yourself accountable.
- Turn around and teach what you’ve learned. When you teach something it helps cement your knowledge.
- Exhibit patience. “It’s not going to happen overnight. It usually takes six months or more to develop a new skill,” says Weintraub.
— Adapted from “How to Master a New Skill,” Amy Gallo, Harvard Business Review online’s HBR Blog Network.