If you’re lucky, you work for a company where the higher-ups are willing to pay for conferences and trainings and things that make you a better employee. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, but it doesn’t mean you can’t do it yourself and amass smarts and skills along the way.
As Amanda Elliott writes in a Daily Muse post titled “6 Ways You Can Build Skills Without Asking Anyone for Help,” there are at least a half-dozen methods for DIY professional learning. First up, she says, is good old-fashioned reading, and even if you don’t think you have time, you probably do.
Elliott recommends starting with just 30 minutes a day and perusing books, mags, blogs, or websites relevant to your industry. It pays to follow key figures on Twitter and LinkedIn, just to see when they’re publishing online articles, and if you truly can’t spare a half-hour of your time, try listening to podcasts.
Next up: “Join a professional organization.” You’ll get access to training and conferences and possibly even mentors, and as Elliott says, you might come away with “a bit of validation in your field to boot.” There are also groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, and since these are less formal, they sometimes make people feel more comfortable about participating.
Another option: “take classes.” Elliott is a fan of the online platform Coursera, which allowed her to enroll in something called “Understanding Media by Understanding Google,” but there’s also Apple’s iTunes U and other online services like Lynda, Udemy, and Skillshare. Elliott’s one word of caution is to fight the urge to study everything and anything and “try to start with one area of emphasis.”
Not into sitting still and taking notes? Use sites like Meetup or Eventbrite to attend industry events, such as panels and lectures. As Elliott says, the Chicago web-design company Astek hosts regular “Think-n-Drink” get-togethers, which let you enjoy some beverages while bolstering the brain.
While many of Elliott’s tips involve going out and meeting new people, she says you can also “look around your office” and draw on the expertise of coworkers. Check with other departments to see if there’s anything you can do to help out, and going a step further, you might even shadow folks with roles that interest you.
Lastly, Elliott suggests volunteering. While it’s possible your company won’t be super supportive of you helping out in areas where you lack experience, nonprofits are generally grateful for the help and willing to work with volunteers on developing skills. And then there’s the added bonus of helping the community — never a bad thing.