Learning new career skills not only keeps life interesting, it also gives you more job stability and opens up the opportunity for promotions. However, whether it's due to career schedules or personal lives, finding the time to learn a new skill can be hard to come by. Limits due to time constraints can leave you wondering if its worth it (hint: it is).
I used to get frustrated at how inconsistent my schedule is, not leaving me room to continue learning. Coordinating meetings and speaking with people during normal business hours was often a nightmare. While my schedule still requires more prep than spontaneity, I've found a few strategies that allow me to keep learning while still maintaining my career.
1. Commit to learning
Take a realistic view at your schedule. Is there something that you can move to give yourself time to learn? Or is there room to multitask somewhere like during your drive to work or while waiting in line for coffee? Analyze your schedule and commit to adding in one element that you can learn from everyday.
For instance, I like to take advantage of the time spent flying and commuting places. Those times usually mean bad internet service which gives me the opportunity to read, review an online course, and listen to podcasts. My schedule constantly changes so designating travel time as learning time, regardless of when that happens to be, helps me stay on track.
2. Ask about educational opportunities
There may be seminars or classes that are open to your workplace that you are unaware of. If there aren't, talk about the benefits of bringing one to your company or about enrolling in an online program. Sites like Coursera and Udemy offer courses for a reasonable price (though some are free).
I find that sometimes going down a YouTube spiral of TED Talks and marketing and business videos helps. I appreciate that I can visit them on my own time, put them in a playlist, and refer to them when I need to. Plus, they are free resources to watch and learn from.
3. Get with the right crowd
If you want to expand on your existing skills or learn something completely new, consider joining social groups that consist of people who do the things you want to do. It can be as simple as subscribing to blogs and newsletters from industry leaders and influencers. If you prefer in-person experiences, consider starting a Meetup group or contacting community services like your Chamber of Commerce for information.
I've joined a few Facebook groups with people who I want to learn from. I also follow people on Twitter and read magazines and books from industries that I wouldn't normally look at. LinkedIn is also a good source to join a discussion and see what other people have to say.
4. Disrupt the monotony
If you aren't learning at a pace you'd like to but still want to make the workday more interesting, change your routine. Download a podcast and go for a walk during your lunch break. Visit a museum another day. Meet with a mentor for coffee biweekly.
One thing I've found is that inspiration can strike in the most random of places. However, in order to get into that mindset that allows me to feel inspired, it helps to change things up from time to time. My most recent bout of inspiration came about while I was waiting for my car to be serviced. Go figure.
5. Volunteer to help on a project
Volunteer to test out a new system or review the data on a project you are collaborating on. Come up with innovative communication approaches with a difficult client. Or take it even further and volunteer your time by helping a non-profit or community organization that could benefit from your knowledge and skills.
Be careful not to overstep your boundaries but do consider finding a solution to a problem that you normally wouldn't work on. I find that working with groups I normally don't work with helps both me and them to understand (and appreciate) each other better. You may even land a promotion or spark a career change.
If you feel guilty taking time away from work to learn, consider your perspective. By investing in yourself, you further your opportunities and can make an impact on the company. Being proactive in making yourself more valuable can lead down new roads and/or reignite your current one.