It is important to be a self-learner, because change in the world is accelerating.
We can no longer rely on our formal education to serve us as we speed through our careers. We cannot act as if our education is a vaccination that protects us from the toils and snares of life and career.
We must become self-learners. These steps will help you increase your knowledge:
- Read. If you’re new to self-directed learning, there is no better place to start than reading. Target your learning area. Research sources for the information you seek. The Internet opens the entire world of knowledge for us. If you read just an hour a day for five days a week, you will have read 260 hours in a year, six and a half 40-hour work weeks. You can become an expert in any field in five years or less.
- Escape your comfort zone. Confront your weaknesses and work on them. If your weakness is such that you don’t know where to start, hire a tutor to help you or to show you where to start on your own. Technology can be intimidating; consult experts if you need to.
- Learn from others. You don’t have to become a monk; self-directed learning isn’t something you always do alone at a computer or with a book. Look at the social dimension by seeking other people, either experts or others at your same level to explore and discuss ideas. Many trade groups offer online resources for self-directed learning.
- Keep track. Set goals and time frames. Your learning objectives will vary with your goals. Recognize you have limited time to learn about your topic, so be disciplined.
- Use technology. Self-directed learners have dozens of ways to expand their knowledge: university courses and seminars, online tutorials, YouTube videos, podcasts. Follow experts on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook,. Read blogs from experts in your field. Subscribe to free newsletters and blogs. You have Interent access to virtually every library and archive in the world, right at your fingertips.
- Confirm. Be sure sources are reliable. Anybody can write a blog. Check multiple sources on the same topic or subject. Use your critical thinking skills. Look at what’s being said and assess its reliability. If it’s connected with a university or a reputable publication, it’s usually pretty good, but it never hurts to verify.
- Evaluate. Self-evaluation is imperative. Self-directed learners need to hone the skills of knowing when they have learned enough. You don’t need to know everything, but you need to demonstrate that you are confident enough to come to these decisions on their own.
You need to be able to identify
- What you want to learn,
- How you want to learn it,
- Who or what can help you, and
- When you have achieved their learning goals.
Learning is not a one-time thing. It must be constant and never-ending, or you’ll fall behind your peers.