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Back to School, Back to Learning

The beginning of a new school year is an exciting time. Teacher’s spend the first few days discussing what skills and topics the students will be learning. Textbooks are distributed among the students and notebooks begin to be filled with information. The learning process begins, as facts and figures are absorbed by thirsty minds.

It’s never too late to hit the books yourself and learn something new. September is a great time of year to educate yourself on a new skill, discover a new team management strategy, or dive deep into a new software that will enhance your workplace performance. Below are three things you can start today to set the table for a great year in the office.

1. Take Your Seat. While not every employee has the opportunity or ability to return to college to work towards a degree to further their career, there are other options available for career learning. There are many great online learning communities that offer free or discounted courses for working professionals. Sites like Udemy or EDx offer courses on topics ranging from public speaking to web development. Choose a course that will enhance your workday productivity. Udemy offers a great smartphone app companion. The lessons are broken down into bite size chunks that make it an optimal learning experience for the busy employee. Spend a few minutes each morning or on your lunch break working through the lessons. Time spent learning something new is never a waste. These small investments of your time could pay huge dividends down the road.

2. Teamwork makes the dream work. No matter how isolated we may feel in our little corner cubicle, there are no doubt times where we will need to cooperate with our fellow co-workers. As project based teams continue to dominate professional working environments, you will no doubt need to be comfortable working in a team environment. Spend a few minutes each day learning something new about your co-workers. Grab an extra cup of coffee on the drive in and spend a few minutes of your morning catching up briefly. Ask them about their family, hobbies, or favorite restaurant recommendations. Shy away from any personal matters, but a brief episode of “small talk” around the water cooler will help ease those stressful, late night team meetings or conference calls.

3. Download now. As technology and the workplace become even more heavily integrated the ability to adapt and learn new programs becomes even more vital. Learning about new programs and software can help you get ahead of the curve before you receive a memo from an employer about a training. The rise of SaaS companies are changing the productivity and communication landscape. Slack, known in the industry as the “e-mail killer”, is changing the way companies communicate amongst teams. It offers real-time chat features, a sleek designed user-interface, and easily integrated desktop, web, and smartphone apps. Getting a head start on learning one of these new tools will give you an edge when your company finally adopts one for your communications future.

Like a student on the first day of school, it is common to feel overwhelmed. Start small. Set goals for yourself and follow through. Tell a co-worker, it helps to have someone checking in on your progress and it will keep you accountable. Remember to have fun and enjoy the experience of learning. You’ll gain knowledge and help your career at the same time.