I don’t think we realise just how fortunate we are in the modern world when it comes to access to knowledge and information. Answers to almost any fact or piece of information you’d like to know are accessible within seconds on our mobile devices. It presents a great opportunity for personal and career acceleration for young employees.
The most impressive people I’ve come across in my ten years of work have had one major thing in common – they displayed an incredible depth of knowledge within their field. They had inquiring minds which allowed them to be at the forefront of what was happening in their industries and consequently could confidently navigate ways forward for their respective companies. These were people who could sit in a meeting with potential clients and could rattle off an incredible insight or piece of knowledge off the top of their head, which clearly made the client know they were dealing with someone reputable. How did they become like this? Simple. An mindset of endless learning.
As the great Albert Einstein said “Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” I fear a major problem with millennials freshly out of college or university is the thinking that the learning is completed, when in fact, it is only beginning. Like previous generations, Millennials new to the workplace will have to learn some things the hard way – by experience, by failure and by trial and error. However, Millennials have the major advantage over previous generations by the fact that they have the world’s information at their fingertips. Becoming a knowledge expert within their field is now a matter of choice. Everything they need to know to grow their knowledge in their role is online, free and accessible immediately. Many millennials are taking advantage of this. Not all of them do. Perhaps they need reminding of how profound this really is.
It took approximately two decades for television to move over from black and white to colour TV. Yet it’s taken less than a decade for cellular phones to become more powerful than the combined strength all the computers that sent man to the moon for the first time. In 1956 about six men were needed to move a 5mb hard drive. Now 64 gigs sit comfortably in your pocket. It took nearly 100 years for traditional film cameras to move over to digital cameras. In contrast it’s taken just 10 years for small cameras to be obsolete, due to your smartphone being an even better option.
If you rewind a hundred years to 1917, consider for a second the trouble you’d have to go through to ascertain a simple fact, such as the land size of Switzerland. If you didn’t have an encyclopedia in your home, you’d probably have to travel (sometimes a long way) to a library to search out a book which had this information. The ordeal could take an entire day. I’ve just done this, and it took me 11 seconds.
So while experience will remain life’s greatest teacher, knowledge is a cornerstone of career growth, and the best way to set yourself apart. To young people reading this, here are four simple things to incorporate into your daily routines to grow you and your knowledge of any field of interest to you, not merely your career field.
Get on Twitter
Twitter tends to carry a bad reputation – perceived as a hub of outrage, political fighting, anger and insults. Yes, all of this is true, if you choose to follow accounts that deal in that. Your Twitter experience is ultimately determined by you, and how you use it. Start by following what you’re interested in. For example, if you’re in marketing like me and want to progress your knowledge and stay up to date, go seek out the accounts of marketing publications, prominent ad agencies or marketing writers. Before you know it, you’ll be following people you didn’t even know existed.
Once you’re following these account, they’ll come up on your timeline, often retweeting other interesting tweets or articles that they have decide to share. I can guarantee that you’ll learn infinitely more from Twitter than your closed circuit of Facebook.
Being on Twitter doesn’t necessarily mean you have to tweet. I know many people who are only on Twitter to observe and learn. The choice is yours.
Start Listening to Podcasts
Like Twitter, Podcasts are what you make of it. You find podcasts on literally anything you’d like to know more about or get into. I even saw the other day that a podcast performing particularly well in the downloads charts was one with two guys who sit and discuss the Gilmore Girls. Yes, really. Podcasts can range from 5 minutes, to 3 hours per episode, depending on who you listen to. You can typically search hot topics or content categories to find what you’re interested in.
The first step is downloading a podcast app. Podcast apps will aggregate all the podcasts out there and make them available for download. Examples of podcast apps are Podcast Addict, Podcast Republic, Podbean or Castbox, to name a few. Once you’ve got the app on your phone, it really is just a case of trial and error through search, to find things you enjoy or want to know more about. If you like a particular podcast, you subscribe to it. The app will then typically notify you once new episodes are uploaded of that particular podcast.
It is worth noting that this is all free. The only thing you need is a wifi connection to download the episode/s you want. You can then listen to them later on wherever you are with no connection required.
You’ll find more thorough podcast debates and interviews than you ever will on TV news. You can listen to what you’re interested in, unlike TV and radio programming. You’ll get opinions and programming that hasn’t had to be censored through the filter of mainstream media. You’ll also generally find much more authenticity on podcasting than traditional media.
Yes, most of us do this already to varying degrees. However, what people don’t realise is that Youtube is probably the single greatest educational resource in the world.
Want to know how to boil an egg? There will be countless Youtube tutorials on this
Want to know how to use a drill? There will be countless Youtube tutorials on this
Want interview tips? There will be countless Youtube tutorials on this
Want to know how to do better presentations? There will be countless Youtube tutorials on this
And so on, and so forth
Aside from skills, Youtube is also an incredible resource for understanding the world. There are fantastic channels on aspects such as Space, History, Politics or Philosophy.
If you’re using Youtube solely to watch funny cat videos or music videos, you’re doing it wrong. Treat it as an education resource, subscribe to channels that add value to you and watch yourself grow.
Read Great Books
This is the one point which isn’t free. You obviously have to pay to read great books, but how you approach this depends on your mindset. You can view books as an expense, or you can view books as an investment in yourself.
When I say read great books, I’m referring to non-fiction as well as fiction. While great non-fiction teaches us about the world, great fiction often has the ability to teach us about ourselves and humanity. Learning and education isn’t limited to the outside world, a great deal should be learning about yourself.
Once I’ve identified books I’m interested in, I search for them on goodreads.com. Goodreads is a huge community of online readers who rate books they have read. Therefore you’re getting actual ratings and reviews of people who’ve read the book you’re interested in. This is an excellent barometer on the quality and helpfulness of the book in question.
When it comes to buying books, South Africa isn’t blessed with great book physical retailers. Even Exclusive Books outlets are hard to find – and Exclusive Books are generally quite pricey. I usually shop online at Loot.co.za – they always have what I’m looking for. I’m impatient though, so waiting a week for my purchases is tough.
If finding time to read is a problem for you, consider using Audible.com. Audible is a sub-brand of Amazon.com, and is basically a large online Audiobook store. Most books of any relevance have been converted into at least one Audiobook. You sign up for a package which allows you to access and buy the books. For example, I have a package that gets me one book per month. However, I can purchase additional books over and above the package. Purchasing a book is literally one click, and you then download it onto the app. File sizes are surprisingly small. It’s not like the old days when an audiobook was a whole bunch of CD’s. The app allows you to sample the voice artist first, before purchasing. You don’t want to buy an audiobook if the voice artist’s voice annoys you.
I’ve been using Audible for around two years. If I’m not listening to podcasts I listen to my latest Audiobook download in my car every morning and afternoon drive to and from work. I find I no longer complain about traffic. Even if a drive home takes an hour and a half, the time is being used productively and I’m learning. It beats the hell out of modern commercial radio in terms of both entertainment and substance. Believe me.
I hope this information helps to some degree. My best advice is to just get into habits, and build a lot of this into daily routine. You’ll be amazed at how much you can learn in just one year.