Pre-pandemic, the most popular method of learning and obtaining professional development was through conferences. COVID-19 put an acute and unexpected halt to professional meetings but the need for professional development and growth has never been greater. While in-person meetings may resume at some point, the future of work will likely demand a more hybrid format. There are many informal learning methods you could leverage to develop professionally to fill in the gaps between these professional meetings.
Learning does not require a formal classroom, expensive tuition or enrollment in a degree-granting program. There are flexible options you can partake in from the comfort of your own home. The critical issue is to constantly keep your mind open to everything around you and absorb any new knowledge that you can. Learning is not about a certificate or diploma. It is about constantly being open to the transfer of new knowledge. Some ways you can continue learning include:
Read in Your Preferred Format
Billionaires Mark Cuban, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are known for reading many hours every day. What they read is as diverse as the format. Read books, articles and blogs to gain insight on a new topic. Do not just read about issues in your industry, as you will quickly get tunnel vision. Expand your horizons by reading about other subjects.
Be the Least Interesting Person in the Room
Surround yourself with interesting people and listen to what they are sharing. Stories of joy and pain points will present themselves. Hear what they are saying and remember it. You do not need to know everything but surround yourself with people who can serve as advisors. Do yourself a favor and listen to what they are saying.
Watch what everyone around you is doing. Look for gaps and opportunities. Consider the challenges being faced by those who are one and two steps up the chain of command. Identify ways you can help alleviate that challenge, and offer your expertise.
Listen to Podcasts
Podcasts are on the rise and are a wealth of information on every conceivable topic. Interviews with luminaries and deep discussions about topics of interest can be heard while you multitask, such as during your commute or while making dinner.
YouTube is the second most popular search engine after Google. Millions of videos are available to learn about any topic you might find interesting and wish to learn more about. TED, TEDx and random YouTube videos serve as a rich source of learning.
Engage on Social Media
Social media is here to stay. There is an endless hive of information on various platforms. Join some of the groups you identify with, read posts to learn what topics are important to people and engage with their posts. Shut off notifications so that it does not become a distraction and carve out time to read the latest posts.
Participate in Webinars
Like videos, webinars offer content and interviews, which often you would have to pay thousands of dollars if you attended them in person. The difference is that the webinars are usually live and you can ask the speakers questions via the chat function. This converts your learning from being passive to active.
Talk to Everyone
Talking to people is a great way to learn more about them, what they value and strategic information which might be helpful in the future. Talk to everyone around you, including those who are senior and junior to you and your peers. Everyone has something important to share.
In-person, hybrid or virtual conferences can learn from curated luminaries who are subject matter experts. Keynotes and workshops provide excellent opportunities to learn new things or a new application of something old, thereby making it new again.
Read Your Emails
Although emails flood our inbox, they can also provide helpful information, which many people overlook. Most people do not read broadcast messages. When you do, look for patterns about challenges and opportunities. You might find information about a job opportunity, grant, call for papers or request for award nominations.
In the comment section below, let us know if you have some other tips that we did not share.