One of my favorite questions to ask job applicants is, “How do you learn new things?” For anyone whom I have ever interviewed or will ever interview, there isn’t a right or wrong answer, but it does tell me a lot about the person. Their answer tells me something about the type of learner they are and how they will tackle their first few weeks on the job. How much time will someone else need to invest in them or will they prefer to be left alone in a room playing with the software while reading the online help.
Arguably there are many ways to learn something new and each person will approach learning differently based upon their learning style. But I think that for someone to be a successful learner and to get the job done they have to first have the desire to learn – that voice inside that says, “I wonder how this works”. Second, they have to be aware of and use all the possible resources available. I believe this is where many people fail. They don’t know what resources are available or always use their “preferred” method of learning.
There are many ways to learn new things and many resources available to us. One tried and true method is to try it until you get it right. Many a bicycle has been successfully put together late Christmas Eve using this method. Many software applications have been deciphered with this method as well. You may not discover exactly what you were looking for or find the most expedient method of doing it – but you eventually accomplish what you set out to do.
Another possible method for learning is reading what others have to say. In the bicycle analogy there is typically an instruction manual that tells you to put tab A in slot B. Reading it ahead might have saved you a few hours and a few choice words. Most software applications also have manuals or online help to assist you. I am often surprised by something I find in an online help system when I am looking around. Additionally, most Windows applications have F1 capability or a help button to access help immediately for the window you are working with. This feature has saved me countless of hours by getting the answer I need right when I need it!
Videos or Training
Another option that I often employ is watching training videos produced by a company or others who use the software or tool I am working with. It allows me to quickly see how to use a feature without investing a lot of time. I have also attended training sessions or webinars put on by the company that produced the software I am using. This requires a bit of a time commitment on my part but it typically provides great rewards to help me use features I was curious about or didn’t know existed.
Online forums and blog postings
Another relatively new but very effective method of getting information is online user forums and blog postings. I have bookmarked a few user forums that I frequently visit on my web browser. Since these folks are using the same products I am they have real-life answers on how to use them. Additionally, there are several blogs I follow on a regular basis both for my specific field and my specific industry. I use a blog reader that allows me to have all my blogs on one webpage where I can check in every couple days and catch up on what is going on in areas that interest me. It keeps me current on what’s new in my specific field and industry at a quick glance.
Even newer and more dynamic are the many social media options available. If I choose I can be fed information moment by moment from any number of different social community sites that I choose to follow almost effortlessly.
Bottom line – we all learn differently but there are an abundance of resources available at our fingertips. Try a new method today and you might be surprised what you learn!
Henry Ford said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.”
Latest posts by Nita O'Neal (see all)
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