Never stop learning: these words are truer than ever before. The fast-changing demands of today's workplace mean that the ability to adapt and learn things quickly is an indispensable skill to have.
To remain competitive, you need to keep a level of self-education which is entirely your responsibility.
However, to learn effectively you first need to make an honest evaluation of your skills. Identify areas where you're strongest, those which need improvement, as well as a new set of skills you'd like to learn. To help you start on the exciting journey of learning, here are four practical ways to keep your work skills fresh and up to date.
Utilize online resources
If learning in your preferred time at your pace and spending next to nothing is what you want, then the internet is a godsend. It's a treasure trove of free educational resources and you just have to know how and where to look. Treat Google as your best friend by knowing how to search and use search operators. If you learn more by way of videos, then knowing YouTube search tricks and using it like a pro will get you far.
The internet has also revolutionized the field of education. Online courses taught by world-class experts and teachers from ivy league universities worldwide are literally free for you to access. Explore Class Central and find the best online courses from the world's top universities.
The best thing about using online resources is that most of them are optimized for mobile consumption. Just download and save them on your phone, and turn a boring commute to productive study time. If you haven’t already, set up an RSS feed using apps like Feedly or Flipboard on your phone and get regular updates on the industry news sites, blogs, and topics you follow.
Take professional development courses
Taking professional development courses where you earn credits or certifications are another way to freshen up your skills. If you prefer the structure of a traditional classroom setting, then enrolling in short courses, or even immersive courses offered by training institutes and universities is a good idea.
If you like the convenience and flexibility of online training courses, check out MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) available on these platforms: Coursera, edX, Udacity, Lynda.com, Pluralsight, Udemy, Skillshare. Following them on social media can keep you updated on their occasional promos of free access to premium courses.
As a form of training where you gain credits or certifications, be prepared to invest not just time but also money. The sheer number of available courses can be overwhelming and confusing so remember to do your homework: check out the class syllabus, instructor bio/s, and course reviews. This ensures that you get what you pay for.
Attend meetups, join a learning community
Are you the type who enjoys learning in the company of other people in a community? If so, attending meetups, professional events, and joining a learning community might be your thing. While learning online has its joys, you’re likely to experience a different kind of learning in meeting new people in person, interacting and exchanging ideas with them.
If you haven't already, sign up for a Meetup account and meet people based on your shared interests. It's an excellent way to connect with like-minded people in your local area. From visual arts, book clubs, investing, to startup pitching, gourmet cooking, and computer gaming, you can find all kinds of meetup groups. Many of them offer talks, study groups, and activities where you can acquire the new skills you want to learn. Take the time to explore. Join and enjoy.
Do freelance/side projects
Nothing teaches better than experience. This is especially true if you’re the type of person who learns more by doing. Taking on projects is one of the best ways to keep your skills fresh. The idea is that the project is a channel where you practice what you know. Doing a project is also a great way of getting true feedback on your current capabilities and areas for improvement.
With projects, you can choose to work on them for free or get paid doing them. Ask your network of friends if they know someone who can use your skills. Know of any NPOs (non-profit organizations) where you can volunteer your skills? Go ahead.
Check out freelancing platforms like Upwork, Freelancer, 99designs, peopleperhour, and Guru. Keep an eye out for projects that you think are especially challenging as they are great opportunities for learning and growth. With each successful project done, you then build a professional portfolio that easily showcases your skills.