"Once you stop learning, you start dying." – Albert Einstein
Congratulations on successfully completing your undergraduate/graduate programme. Time to heave a sigh of relief and throw away pack up your books. Not so fast, people. Not so fast. Learning is a life-long process and the earlier you embrace, the easier it becomes.
The world is advancing faster than you think and it is important to keep up with developments in your field. For accountants, I have heard that accounting principles change from time to time. For legal practitioners, judicial/regulatory pronouncements are key to effectively discharging your duties. You don’t want your client informing you about recent developments and low-key questioning your competency. It’s okay to fall short once in a while, because to be honest, it is virtually impossible to keep up with everything. Nevertheless, don’t be a slacker.
So how do you stay abreast of these recent developments and enhance your person? The methods listed below are meant to serve as a guide so feel free to identify other methods in your comments. The identified methods are also applicable to people interested in exploring other opportunities beyond their immediate career path.
1. News: When people say they do not care for the news, I often think it is because they fail to understand the concept of ‘news’. News simply means information about recent events or happenings, especially as reported by means of newspapers, websites, radio, television, and other forms of media. That said, this is your best bet in acquiring knowledge. If you are reading this, then it means you have access to the internet, which means you can access online versions of most newspapers if you do not wish to buy hard copies. A major advantage of online media is real-time updates, which means you are informed of developments as they occur. On the flipside, some adverts and communiques are not published online, which means you may be missing out on some useful information if you do not buy hard copies of newspapers.
You don’t need to read every article in a newspaper. Skim through the headlines and decide on which is most relevant to you. Sometimes, the headlines provide sufficient information if they are not being sensational. In which case, you need to read the entire article. Also note that some media houses are biased in their news reporting, so always aim to compare as many sources as possible. In due time, you’ll get a hang of it and have established your preferences.
Some offices buy newspapers so you can always grab one during your lunch break and skim through, or catch up on the previous day’s news when you arrive in the morning. The struggle for newspapers is reduced then. If you have to buy newspapers, you can always sell old copies to your Suya guy or the Akara seller and get some money back.
Personally, I find it difficult to sit still and watch the news with undivided attention so I prefer to read the papers and listen to news on the radio when I’m driving. I leave home at about 7am, when the news broadcast comes up on Rhythm FM so I tune in to that. Same thing when I close work at about 6pm. That way, I catch the news in the morning and in the evening without it interfering with my other activities of the day. Find what works for you and stick to it.
A simpler way to read news online is to subscribe to RSS feeds if your mobile device supports it.
2. Websites: This is closely related to online media. Websites of professional associations you belong to as well as regulatory agencies you interface withoften contain relevant updates to your field. Don’t limit yourself to national associations/agencies, but also look at what similar international associations/agencies are doing or saying. I know that not all associations/agencies update their websites regularly, but it’s always worth taking a look from time to time just in case they do.
Identify the websites you’re interested in, bookmark the pages on your mobile device and set apart a specific time to look through even if it’s once a week. You could open a separate tab just as you’re reading TTB.
3. Newsletters: Some of the websites you would have identified above send out daily/weekly/monthly newsletters. You can sign up to this as an alternative to visiting their websites. Some even offer you an additional option to subscribe to specific newsletters that may be of interest to you.
4. If you effectively utilise methods 1 – 3, you should come across seminars/programmes in your chosen field that you can attend. Unfortunately, not all employers will give you time off to attend so you may just have to use some of your leave days for this.
If you happen to school abroad, please take advantage of your position as a ‘student’. There are usually concessionary rates for students, which often means free. I attended loads of conferences/seminars during my graduate studies and rubbed shoulders with highly place executives, some of whom I am in touch with till this day. Some organisers also circulate a list of attendees and their contact information. You know what that means.
Don’t just attend. Participate and mingle with participants. While it provides a good opportunity to network, it’s not always about selling yourself. Don’t spend your time trying to inquire about job openings.You may come across as a nuisance after some time. Discuss intelligently – it could be about what you’ve just listened to or any news affecting the industry. It could also be a simple complement. The goal is to create an impression like Daks.
5. Take professional exams, but be deliberate in your choices. Be guided by your career path and the advantages of such qualifications to you. For instance, I read adverts for positions I aspire to and make notes of the professional qualifications required. That guides my choice of professional exams. Also, discuss with seniors in your field and ask for their advice. Some may try to dissuade you, because in their time …, but be discerning in the advice you internalise.
6. In similar vein, also take advantage of online courses, which are often free and can be done at your convenience. I have only taken courses at FutureLearn and what I love most is that their videos come with transcripts, which I can read as opposed to streaming the videos. Professional certification should not be your only goal with this method. There is a lot to be learned so take advantage of it. For instance, I signed up for a beginner’s course in English and found it instructive. No knowledge gained is lost.
7. Colleagues: Even if you do all of the above, you may still miss out on some things or your interpretation of information may be incorrect. Discuss with your colleagues, pick their brains, get their views on certain things that are of interest to you and also share your knowledge with them. No man is an island.
8. Mentors: If you have a mentor, discuss your career plans with him/her from time to time. Keep them informed of new developments and I’m not talking about your love life unless y’all are close like that. Don’t expect them to tell you what to do. You have to rub minds. Lay out your options and your preferred choice, let them know what informed your choice and then ask for their opinion.
This post is coming on the heels of Chrisyinks’ request for a post on ‘Personal Development’.
(PS: I have fallen in love with Adaku of ThirdWorldProfashional in recent times even after reading her blog for yonks. She recently moved to Equatorial Guinea and has been gracious to share some useful insights on career growth here, here and here.)