Have you ever struggled to learn something new?
People of all ages often have difficulties with learning new things.
Everyone has memories of struggling in school over their least favorite subjects, but academic struggles are definitely not the end of the road. Even many adults routinely struggle to pick up new skills at their jobs or just in daily life.
In fact, learning new things, has become a constant in the business world. You can never rest on your laurels. The business world in 2018 and beyond requires you to keep hustling & learning.
Why is learning sometimes so hard?
Why do some people seem to pick up things so easily while the rest of us toil for hours, days or years to learn the same thing?
The truth is it all comes down to how you learn.
Often, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to learning styles. The vast majority of people fit multiple styles to various degrees. It’s a lot like personality types. Nobody is 100 percent a certain way all the time. Everyone fits somewhere along a spectrum of strengths and weaknesses that may change a little over time or in certain situations.
Once you know your learning style, you can apply this knowledge whenever you’re trying to pick up a new skill.
Let’s talk about just what I mean by learning styles. The best way to discover your particular set of styles is to take an appropriate quiz such as the one found at Learning Styles Online. If you’ve ever taken a personality test, then you will be somewhat familiar with how this works. It’s not complicated, and it’s worth investing 30 minutes of time to complete
The key here is to not overthink your answers. Just choose the most natural or inital response that pops into your head.
The following infographic can be used as a quick reference whenever you feel confused about the differences between each of the seven learning styles.
Understanding your particular place on the spectrum of learning styles can greatly benefit your ability to learn new information and skills.
Now that know the basics of each style, you need to tailor the way you learn things in order to maximize your strengths andminimize your weaknesses.
Having worked in HR at a large banking corporation and in strategic HR consulting, I’ve seen the effects of learning and development on career mobility — and what leads people to let it fall by the wayside. Over time, working with users as well as learning experts, I’ve found that four crucial habits can make a tremendous difference.
Focus on emerging skills. With so many learning options available these days, people are often tempted to simply go to Google, type in some general search terms, and start one of the first courses that pops up. That’s a waste of time.
Job requirements are quickly evolving. To ensure relevance, you need to focus on learning the latest emerging skills. You can do this in a couple of ways.
First, track what skills the leaders in your industry are hiring for. Look at recent job postings from the top companies, and see which qualifications keep popping up. Second, reach out to people in your network or on LinkedIn who have the job you want. If you want to know what sales skills and technologies are becoming most important, talk to some high-level salespeople. Ask them what they’re having to learn to keep succeeding at their work and what skills they think someone needs to acquire in order to become a viable candidate.
You may feel intimidated about reaching out. But I’ve found that most of the time, people are happy to share this information. They want to see more and more capable candidates filling jobs and staying on top of trends.
As you get a sense of the most important skills to learn, ask these experts whether they can recommend specific online courses with practical value. Also take a close look at course descriptions to find content that will be useful on the job rather than provide mostly academic insight. For instance, you might seek out instructors who are leading experts in your industry or content created in conjunction with companies that you admire.
Get synchronous. In this era, micro-learning — engaging with online learning tools when and where it’s convenient — is becoming a much larger part of the training and development scene. This has its benefits, including freedom, convenience, and digestible content.
But there’s also a downside. These asynchronous experiences are often solitary. And without at least some real-time interaction, whether in person or online, many students lose motivation. Researchers have found that “the sense of isolation” for some online learners “may make the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful online learning environment.” They call for more synchronous experiences. Others have also identified interaction and collaboration as critical factors in fruitful learning.
Implement learning immediately. Research shows that performing the tasks you’ve learned is crucial, because “enactment enhances memory by serving as an elaborative encoding strategy.”
This is part of the problem many engineers face when looking for jobs straight out of college: They’ve been stuck in “theory land,” with little experience putting what they’ve learned into practice. You can run into the same issue with online learning. For example, I could spend weeks watching videos on how to set up a distributed computing system. But if I don’t go to Amazon Web Services and deploy it — soon — I’ll forget much of what I learned.
Set a golden benchmark. Just like runners in a marathon, online learners need to have a clear goal in order to stay focused. A return on investment (in terms of time and money spent) is hard to gauge in the near term. But those who persevere generally have their eye on a larger prize — a new job, a promotion, or the chance to lead a project. I encourage people to determine a specific career objective and keep it front of mind as they learn.
Of course, that benchmark will change as you develop. Learning is a career-long process. After you achieve one big goal, set your sights on the next one. That’s how you make learning a part of your normal routine. The more you do that, the less likely you are to stop.