12 Steps to Lifelong Learning

Lifelong Learning

The world’s information doubles every 12 months. Americans change careers 7 times over a lifetime. And your toddler or teen still doesn’t come with instructions.

With ever-present change, how can you learn what you need to know in a new situation?

1. Set goals. Decide what you need to learn. Determine what problem you are solving for.

2. Make a plan. Think about how you could best go about learning what you need to know. Identify a few learning sources and draft a brief plan.

3. Talk to people. Ask questions. How did they learn what they know? Would they be willing to sit down with you and walk you through a new task or explain a process?

4. Read. Check out blog posts, articles and books.

On my Kindle reader is What To Do When You’re New. We’re “new” more of then than we think we are. It could be a new job or a new class we’re taking.

If you’re starting a new job, The First 90 Days gives an invaluable road map. It’s worthwhile to do the exercises and answer the question prompts.

5. Stretch. See if there’s a new project you could take on at work that will give you an opportunity to accelerate your learning objectives.

6. Take a class. Go back to school, with MOOCs, your company, local adult education, community college or university extension.

7. Watch a video. Check out TED talks and YouTube videos. Download the apps so you can watch a short video whenever you have a few extra minutes.

8. Make connections. Think about how what you already know relates to what you’re learning. See if there are enough similarities to accelerate your learning.

9. Learn by doing. Put your learning into practice. Adopt the Cal Poly San Luis Obsipo mantra of “learning by doing.”

That’s why I’m on Instagram. I wanted to experiment with communicating through images rather than words.

10. Make your own internship. Take inspiration from Robert De Niro’s character in The Intern. Figure out what needs to be done and go do it.

At my new company, there’s even an app for that. Leaders with projects needing extra help load them into the app. Team members pick a project, learning new skills and getting to know colleagues in the process.

11. Ask for feedback. Ask people what they see that’s going well with your learning plan and where you could do better. Make course corrections based on what they say.

12. Be fearless. A few years ago we introduced social collaboration into our workplace. It represented a new way to work, and it wasn’t one I was familiar – or comfortable – with.

However, I pushed through uncomfortable feelings. I asked questions, even if I thought they might be viewed as stupid. And I was willing to make mistakes.

That’s why I started my first blog, internally, a few years before this one. I needed to “learn by doing” so I could help other leaders do the same.

And a few years later, nearly 90% of employees had adopted a new way to work with social business. That was worth all the awkwardness and the errors along the way.

How are you becoming a lifelong learner?

Published by

Caroline Leach

Hi, I'm Caroline Leach. I help people and organizations tell their stories. I'm a Marketing VP at AT&T, a former Communications VP at DIRECTV and an alum of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. This blog, How to Build Your Career through Social Media, shows you how to build your personal brand, advance your career and embrace your future. It helps you promote your employer and your network too. Opinions expressed in this blog are my own. Your comments are welcomed and encouraged. I'd love to hear from you!

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