Monday, March 14, 2016

Upskilling your upskilling skills. Part 4: The Goal

Working in an industry that is moving at the speed of light requires a lot from us. We need to stay updated on current technology, while at the same time foreseeing what the next big thing will be and making sure we learn what is needed to join the fun. Not an easy task when you have a full time job, a family and a social life.

I've spent the past three years fine tuning my upskilling skills, figuring out which ways of learning suit me best, looking at the available tools out there and creating a schedule and a set of goals that will fit my daily routine. In this blog series, I want to share my thoughts and findings with you, hoping you'll become as addicted to learning as I am.

The ultimate goal
Continously setting yourself goals throughout your learning experience and altering them as you move along is how you keep track of your progress. What your ultimate goal is, that's up to you. Maybe you want to land a new job or become unstoppable at the pub quiz? My goal has always been to maintain happiness through accomplishments. Ever since I was a child, I've had an urge to learn new things. If I don't develop and challenge myself, I become unhappy. I pretty much become a real pain in the arse if I don't upskill, so my ultimate goal is to keep myself (and those around me) satisfied.

You might not have one almighty goal for your upskilling, but you should have separate goals for each topic you dig into. Knowing why you want to learn something helps you determine when you've learnt enough and are ready to move on to a new topic. 

When can you move on?
When have you learned enough about a topic to move onto another one? This is a difficult question to answer as you could keep going forever and ever, ultimately becoming the expert in the topic you're covering. But most of us don't want or need that. Most of us wants to go from the beginners to the intermediate level, so that you know all the basics and the outline of the more advanced topics.

When I first began upskilling, I thought it would be hard to know when to consider myself finished with a topic. I was surprised to realize it all came quite naturally though. Imagine you're eating a meal, and after a while you can feel yourself becoming full. I feel the same sensation when upskilling. After focusing on a topic for a while, I feel full. I reach a point where I know that focusing further on the topic wouldn't leave me with anything extra. I've learnt enough to reach my goal and I'm not hungry for more. There are times I'm not quite sure though, and that's when I put my newly gained knowledge up to the ultimate test: Can you teach it to someone else?

The responsibility of learning
In my opinion, upskilling is not just a matter of improving yourself. It's also a matter of helping those around you improve by spreading your knowledge and the motivation you gain from it. And let's face it, there's no better way of learning something or proving that you've learned something, than teaching that topic to someone else.

You can start by casualy telling a friend about the topic over dinner: "I read something really interesting the other day...". You don't have to reveal that you've spent weeks learning about this topic, simply bring it up as if it's something you've come across in a newspaper. Are you able to outline the basics in a way that your friend easily understands? Are there parts you're unsure of? If so, make a mental note of it so you can look into that later on. Also make a note of your friends reaction, are you able to portray why this topic is so interesting? Do they seem intrigued or are they just waiting for you to change the subject?

You can repeat this exercise with more friends, preferably adding more and more as you go along. After a while, when you're able to discuss this topic with a group of friends and spark their interest, you know that you've most likely moved past the beginners level. If you're up to it, this is where you can go big! Can you present this topic as a talk to your colleagues? Or at a local meetup or a conference? Can you write a blog post about it?

Reaching the level where you are able to teach it so someone else is usually where the fun begins, in my opinion. Suddenly your boss is willing to let you spend time upskilling at work, because she knows that it's an investment not only for you, but for the whole team. You become a learning asset, someone your colleagues will go to for help because they know you're alway eager to share what you know. This is ultimately how you find motivation and inspiration through knowledge: You share it with others.

Wrapping it up
Setting yourself goals while upskilling is important as you'll be able to track your progress and determine when you're ready to move on to a different topic. Teaching someone else what you've learnt is often a great way of seeing how much you actually know, and this way you're also living up to the responsibility of learning. You're spreading your knowledge and inspiring other along the way.

I hope you've enjoyed reading this blog series as much as I have enjoyed writing it. I'm grateful for all the feedback I've received, please get in touch if you want to share your upskilling tips! 

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