Yahoo Finance: A guide to upskilling over the summer break - Michelle Gibbings

Michelle suggests to use the summer break to upskill. In this article for Yahoo Finance, Michelle explains how to do this.

Summer evokes images of sun, sand, surf and fun; however, it is also the perfect time to learn new skills and upgrade your existing skillset to ready your career for 2021.

As the world of work changes, so too do the roles that are in demand. Consequently, a successful career is much less defined and structured than in the past and having a sustainable and dynamic career requires more effort, focus and deliberation.

If you want to get a head start on next year, here are five ways to fill your summer holiday with learning.

Audit yourself
Learning starts with awareness, and not just what you know about your field of expertise, but self-awareness as to your readiness to learn and your openness to challenge.

Do a quick check by reflecting on your most recent learning experience, and ask yourself:

  1. Did you embrace the learning with eagerness, or did you see it as a chore and something to be endured?
  2. Did you play safe with the learning and target a course or activity that was easy, or did you challenge yourself?

You may find in your answers, that the first step forward is the need to discover your learning edge.

Find your learning edge
Your learning edge is the point at which you feel uncomfortable when trying or learning something new.

A certain amount of pressure is good for us because it helps motivate us to act and keeps us focused. When we experience the right amount of challenge and interest, chemicals are released in our brain (noradrenaline and dopamine), which make us more alert, motivated and ready to learn.

Researchers and educators often refer to this as the Goldilocks zone. It’s the optimal performance zone where we are working on a task or learning something that is neither too hard, nor too easy. Just like the children’s story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, it is ‘just right’.

Check your skills
To find your learning edge there is a simple exercise to do, and it can be fun.

Step 1 – Find a quiet location and somewhere that you find relaxing. Write down all the current skills and knowledge you have. These skills should cover your technical, functional and behavioural skills.

Step 2 – Imagine your ideal job. What would it be? What would it involve? Don’t limit your thoughts or ideas.

Step 3 – Consider what new skills you would need to land that job. Once again, these should cover technical, functional and behavioural skills.

Step 4 – Look at the gap between the skills you have and the skills you will need. For each skill, rate yourself on a scale of 1 – 4, where:

  1. No current skill
  2. Some skill or knowledge, but not proficient
  3. Competent at the skill
  4. Expert with a high degree of skill

With those insights to hand, you can then identify the opportunities to learn and do more.

Plan it out
People learn most rapidly when the learning is relevant to them, and when they take responsibility for it.

Take time to identify the activities and courses you can undertake to close the gap between your current skill level and your desired skill level. Next, determine the actions you will prioritise. Make sure you stretch yourself and have a balance of activities that will be challenging and fun.

Broaden the range
The list of avenues for skill acquisition and learning is vast. Some will be time-consuming and cost money, and others less so. So pick items that suit your timeframe and budget.

For example, you could buy a book on a topic that you have always wanted to know about and is different from your day job.

Watch YouTube videos on how to do something you’ve never done before: a craft, learning how to use new technology or speak a new language.

Enrol in an online course on a topic to broaden your field of view or deepen your understanding, or subscribe to online news to get current information and knowledge from around the world.

Use curating sites such as Google Alerts, Flipboard and Pocket to get a daily dose of relevant insights sent to your inbox. If you want to get quick snapshots of ideas, then consider tools such as Blinkist and the Big Idea Club.

Above all, look for opportunities to learn broadly and deeply.

In doing this, remember the statement for Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States: “If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.”

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