7 Ways to learn and grow in 2020

Being a bit of a fan of learning, a new year always ushers in some new plan to learn…something. It seems I’m not alone. Why do we get the learning bug? We might want to:

  • Boost career prospects with some Continuous Professional Development (CPD)
  • Develop a skill
  • Rekindle a childhood passion
  • Deal with ‘unfinished business’ from our formal education
  • Take up a new pastime or hobby
  • Or simply want to enrich our lives a little

How can we learn? We’re spoilt for choice. If you’re lucky, your employer provides Zoomly workshops to boost your learning and development 🙂 How else can you learn? Formally (with certificates) or informally. Face to face or online. At work or beyond it. With others or alone. At the weekend, in the evening, or for a longer period of time. At home or abroad.

You can…

1. Study at universities and colleges

No, you don’t have to do another degree (unless you really, really want to). You don’t need to be on a degree course to learn through an established university or college. Many offer shorter courses delivered by their experienced tutors. The following examples are in London; some universities in other major cities also offer short courses.

  • City University of London offers short courses ranging from creative writing through languages to law and business.
  • King’s College London offers evening and Saturday language courses, from A for Arabic to U for Urdu.
  • Imperial College London offers a range of evening and lunchtime courses (I’m rather intrigued by ‘The Story of Design: from William Morris to Jony Ive’).
  • WAES could be a good place to start rekindling your creativity; they’ve got a wide range of weekend courses.
  • City Lit is where to start if you want to have a go at performing arts (acting, dancing and music). You don’t need to be a thespian to benefit from ‘Use your voice assertively’ and ‘Storytelling for business and pleasure’.

2. Go to talks and lectures

Listening to a talk can be a great way to open your mind to a different point of view, learn something new and connect with new people. The RSA hosts public events at lunchtime and in the evening; you can attend live or watch the video recording (find out more about the RSA here). You can often access free or low-cost talks at art galleries. For a wider choice of topics and locations, simply search Eventbrite with your chosen topic and nearest town.

3. Learn online

No matter where in the world you are, there’s an immense amount of learning available online. Check if your employer offers this; some now provide access to the learning available on LinkedIn.

  • OpenLearn is the free online learning available from The Open University. Different levels, durations (starting at just 2 hours) and a huge choice of courses.
  • Coursera teams with leading universities, e.g. Stanford, Imperial College London and companies such as IBM to offer courses.
  • Of course (pun intended), there’s Udemy… the only problem is the mind-boggling depth and breadth of choice – over 100,000 online courses. At time of writing they’ve got some special offers too.

4. Join a network

You may already have a professional body or Institute (for example, mine’s the CIPD) that hosts events. These are a great way to keep up with current best practice and ideas. They’re also invaluable for building your network. If you’re someone who like to learn through books, see if you can find a business book group near you.

5. Start a network

If you want to form your own PLN (Personal Learning Network. It’s a Thing), get started with your trusted contacts in your professional area. Sound out if they’d like to meet on a regular basis to share ideas and mutual support. I always take away some ideas from my PLN and enjoy catching up with fellow learning and development people.

6. Get a mentor

Your employer may have a scheme, so might your professional body. If not, you may be able to find a mentor through your network or online. Before you get started, check out my tips for working with a mentor.

7. Be a mentor

Having worked with companies to get their mentoring schemes going, it’s great to hear over time how the mentors (as well as the mentees) say they benefit from the process. Mentoring someone who’s not a direct report allows you to develop your people management skills away from the coalface of the getting the day’s work done. Read my tips for getting started as a mentor.

Top tips for learning

  • Commit the time now – block the time out in your calendar or it just won’t happen.
  • Aim for easy logistics – if it’s affordable, easy to get to and a realistic chunk of time, you’re less likely to make excuses and more likely to stick with it.
  • Go public and tell people about it – saying ‘I’ve got my new drawing class on Tuesdays’ or ‘I’m mentoring our new recruits’ is in itself a commitment and sparks enthusiasm.
  • Hold yourself accountable – you can also buddy up with someone to hold each other accountable, depending on the format and content. This can make a big difference if you’re learning exclusively online, where completion rates are much lower than face-to-face learning.

Let me know how you get on!


Dawn is the author of ‘The Feedback Book’ and ‘How to be Zoomly at work’

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