Learning is an essential part of job security. Expanding your skills makes you more valuable to your customers, and also keeps your thinking flexible and agile. It’s obvious the self-employed need to keep growing, but those in traditional environments also need to push themselves to add value to their organizations.
There are several ways to learn new skills, both within and outside your current profession. Here are a few key ones to consider:
Join an online course. It’s been an option for years, but now the tenor, breadth and variety of choices is truly outstanding. Short-burst email courses — often called “boot camps” or “mini-classes” — send you a brief message every day over a couple of weeks. Each message has a course of action to take and, if you follow the strategy, you’ll be able to level-up your skills in that particular field.
Equally valuable are the variety of online multimedia platforms. Most of them combine audio, video and text to create an immersive, classroom-like experience — often with access to the course creator and fellow students for questions. The biggest benefit is the courses are self-guided and time-independent. That means you can go at your own pace and squeeze in a session before or after your day job.
Take on a mentor. This is another smart way to beef up your skillset. You can go the traditional route and ask to be under someone’s wing or, in these days of social media, simply follow the smart advice of someone you look up to through the Internet. There are literally thousands of thought leaders, experienced businesspeople and wise sages available to you, and many have a treasure trove of information available through videos, books and speeches.
Do a side hustle. This can be one of the best choices to expand your toolkit. Slang for a self-started business you do in addition to your main career, a side hustle can help you build your entrepreneurial acumen, learn more about marketing, and serve as a healthy outlet for creativity outside of your day job. At best, a side hustle can transform your thinking and creativity inside your day job, as any lessons you learn on the side will influence your strategy throughout your career.
Volunteer. This is a wise approach to building new skills for many reasons. First, your access to hidden learning opportunities is higher because you’re often taking on work others have dismissed. Second, since you’re usually not financially compensated, volunteer organizers will usually make a significant effort to compensate you in other ways, such as giving you access to rare insights or thoroughly answering your questions about the job. Third, it’s a keen chance to expand your network with people who have deep knowledge in your field.
Consider finding volunteer opportunities through your current job — it may be your best network to discover work that is close to your chosen profession. It also can create a lasting impact on your company culture, setting a precedent for giving back to the community at large.