Keep learning while working
“Learning never exhausts the mind”
After we graduate, we think that we are done with studying for good. However, a first job, as any following ones, is actually a way to continue learning, but in a practical situation. Furthermore, you may be interested in developing new skills that will help and support you in your professional career. So, here are three categories of skills you may want to keep developing, even after graduation: professional skills at work; professional content and additional skills.
Professional skills at work
The professional skills you will need in any job are mostly two: technical and communication skills.
With “technical skills” we refer, as an example, to the basic use of the Office Package, i.e. Word, Excel and Power Point – which may be the nightmare of many young professionals. Everyone can use basic functions of Word, but you may not be that experienced with Excel and PowerPoint if you do not have practised them before. However, developing a basic knowledge of some of the Excel functionalities and the PowerPoint templates could help you fastening you in arranging data or making calculations. There are two ways to get acquainted to Excel and PowerPoint, if you need them in your daily work – and even if you don’t, the day you will have to use them, you will be happy if you can easily set up some functions or make a smooth presentation template.
The first one is, as for any substantial work-related topic, ask help from one of your colleagues who uses them. If you can dedicate one hour to have a kind of mentoring or introduction to basic functionalities, this will avoid you getting stuck every time you have to manipulate those files and your colleagues to do the work for you. It is always better to ask some explanations at first to be able to complete the work on your own at a later stage, than asking someone else to do it for you. The other way is to learn on your own, with a book or specific dedicated classes. The weakness of a book is that if you do not have someone showing you what to do, it may be less efficient. And attending a class will require you to have time and money to do so – but that could be valuable at a later stage if you regularly have to use those tools.
Another important professional skill needed in the workplace is communication: sending emails; preparing letters or memos; summarising content or being able to make presentations. Each sector and each company have their own requirements, habits and specific needs. Your colleagues are the best teachers you can have on those points and you can learn a lot from them. You can keep a notebook or a “template folder” with examples of emails/presentations/replies you regularly make or that are regularly used in your workplace.
A new position or a first position are full of learning possibilities: learning about the company, the way to achieve your tasks, and the industry. Your daily work will be source of new knowledge and you will learn through it how to spread messages, summarise content, find information and progress on a specific task.
On top of your daily tasks, you can develop additional knowledge of your field through attendance of seminars, workshops or conferences. Furthermore, you can develop new knowledge by staying regularly updated on the evolutions in your field through blogs, newspapers, specific websites or journals, press releases, or even Linkedin. Finally, asking questions to your colleagues and being supported by a mentor who will help you develop new skills can help you getting more informed about your sector.
Other ways to continue learning while working
While your workplace is a source of development of new skills and knowledge, you may want to have additional, complementary or more advanced knowledge of a specific sector. One opportunity to do so is to do an additional training, such as a LLM or a MBA in the evening. Such a choice requires time, financial resources, willingness and commitment. But this may an opportunity to consider after a few years if you want to progress in another sector.
Another additional knowledge that may help you progress in your career or climb up the professional ladder is your language skills. If you know a few, do not forget to practice them regularly. But learning a new language may also open you new opportunities in-house, in another company or abroad. Depending on your preferred learning method, there are plenty of ways to learn a new language (classes, books, series, discussions with native speakers)… It is up to you to choose what works best for you.
We often consider university as the last learning step, but life is a learning process in itself. We will learn throughout our careers and we can speed up or smooth the process on our own.
by Marie Barani