How continuous learning can accelerate your career

James Harvey teaching on an Agile Course

Whether it’s technology, industry trends, or customer attitudes, the world is driven by constant change. And quite easily, the things that are relevant today might not be tomorrow.

To stay ahead of the curve and respond to change effectively, continuous learning is key. This is the idea that you take active steps to expand your skillset and knowledge through learning and collaborating with those around you.

In this blog post, I’ll explain why continuous learning is crucial and how it can help accelerate your career. Then, I’ll provide nine ways you can boost your learning and leverage the expertise of those around you.

The why

The simple fact is, you can’t be expert in something unless you have a desire to learn and acquire more knowledge constantly. Learning is not about having a finite capacity to fill, and regardless of how experienced you are, you never stop learning.

In the Agile and DevOps space, we talk a lot about how teams can become high performers. And while there are lots of teams that get to a certain level where they feel competent, very few achieve excellence in what they do and are high performing.

The only way you can get to that point, and get out of your comfort zone, is by striving to improve and continually learn. You should always be looking for new ways to hone your skills and accelerate your career, while supporting your peers along the way.

Nowadays, organisations are shifting away from specialisms and are looking for a broader range of skills to increase their competitive advantage. That’s where the T-shaped skills concept becomes paramount. Although you may be an expert in one area, the ability to cross disciplines and collaborate with other experts will set you apart.

On the whole, continuous learning will help you identify new opportunities, adapt to change, become more confident at what you do, come up with innovative ideas, boost your reputation, and view things from a different perspective.

Mastering continuous learning

It’s clear that continuous learning is important, but the big question is: how do you actually embrace it on a daily basis? You’ll be happy to know that it doesn’t need to be hard – here are nine tips to get you started.

  1. When it comes to learning new things, the default way of thinking is that you must take a structured training course. While that’s a great path, it’s easy to overlook the learning that happens every day. You can easily hone your skills and knowledge by reading blogs, listening to podcasts, and going to conferences.
  2. Sharing is an important part of this process. If you’re learning something, chances are you can help the person sitting next to you. And vice versa, you’ll be amazed at how much you can learn by collaborating with your peers and asking them all the burning questions.
  3. Make sure you have a good balance of learning sources, ranging from certified courses to speaking to your colleagues and friends. This will allow you to tap into a diverse range of expertise and knowledge.
  4. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out of your comfort zone and learn things from other areas.  By being open-minded, you’ll be surprised what you come across. You could find an answer to a frustrating problem or a new skill that’ll accelerate your career progression. More than anything, you’ll become a more rounded individual.
  5. Definitely attend as many conferences and meets-ups as you can, because passive learning really is underestimated. There are a lot of things you’ll pick up by just going to these events, being in the presence of experts in your field, and networking with them.
  6. My biggest advice is never being precious about one particular thing. For example, if you’re passionate about a specific type of Agile, you almost forget about any other type because you only focus on that one. Sometimes, it’s just as important to learn about topics and practices that you may not adopt yourself. You’ll then be able to objectively compare and better understand your options.
  7. Get actively involved in your community. If you put yourself in a position where you’re sharing your experience with others, you’ll learn a lot of things and build your reputation. Whether it’s simply networking or speaking at a conference, you will see things from a different perspective.
  8. On this journey, it helps to set yourself objectives. Don’t sit on a training course because it just looks good; do it because you know it’ll help you achieve your objectives and get to the next stage in your career. Rather than saying you want to learn a specific thing, think about how you want to better yourself and find training material that helps.
  9. Finally, humility is key. You have to approach learning with the understanding that you won’t become an expert overnight and that there are lots of things you don’t know yet. It’s a journey and takes a lot of hard work, but it’ll pay off.

By now, you should have a better understanding of continuous learning and how to implement it in your day-to-day activities. However, if you’d like further insight, you can follow me on Twitter and find some great articles on our blog.

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