Learning on the job - four key steps you can take today

Career advice, Career development

Are you looking for a new job, or recently been successful in securing a new one? Maybe you're in a role where you need to up-skill yourself to be able to do your job well? 

If the answer is yes, you will be considering how to make sure you can take on all the learning information you need, but at the same time perform to your maximum during the period of change. Learning on the job can not only improve your way of working, as you develop news skills and experiences, it also shows your employer a commitment to your job and to constantly improve. There are four key areas to focus on when starting your learning journey at work.

Choose a learning style

The first step is to think about how you best process information and how you learn best. Using a learning style framework can help you plan your future learning and take in information more efficiently. An example is the framework developed by Honey and Mumford, and looks at four different styles of learning; Activist, Theorist, Pragmatist and Reflector.

Never Stop Learning

It is our responsibility to continually improve, as the world of work never stands still, and as a minimum we need to keep up with it! Creating a Personal Development Plan (PDP) is a great way of setting out your objectives and planning how you are going to meet them. You can structure your PDP using a three-stage cycle, to keep it focused and pertinent to your role and career.

  • Stage 1 – Competence – Objectives should be steered solely towards getting you fully competent in the role. Initially that may include things like induction training, online modules, and understanding the ins and outs f the business you’re in.
  • Stage 2 – Adding Value – Once you are competent in the role, add objectives that allow you to add value to the role, for example buddy-up with new staff, become the service champion, chair meetings, or become the minute taker for meetings.
  • Stage 3 – Next Role – Now start to build your PDP towards your preferred new role. Make sure you understand what you would need to do to meet the requirements of the role you have in mind and build activities around achieving this, as this will give you evidence for your CV and provide you with anecdotal examples if you were to interview in the future.
Diary Management

Time will always be your most valuable recourse, so manage it carefully, especially when you are learning a new or changing role. Set aside realistic chunks of time so that you can focus on your learning, and book it into your diary. That’s the easy bit… now you need to keep to it! Be strict with yourself and others to make sure that the time is used as planned. If you were out of the office for 2 hours things would wait for your return, because this is learning time shouldn’t make any difference. Make sure your Line Manager agrees with this approach and engage any key workers who are impacted by your being ‘absent’ for a few hours so that they are aware and ready to support you.

Regular Reviews and Feedback

It is important to make sure you understand how you are progressing, not just in your learning, but in the overall role, and this is especially key when in the induction/probation period. Take the lead with this by agreeing with your Line Manager how often you need to meet and take responsibility to book this time in their diary. Use this time wisely:

  • Get any non-urgent questions answered
  • Highlight key achievements since you last met
  • Seek agreement to what you are planning to do over the coming days or weeks
  • Confirm time to be set aside for Learning (as discussed in section above)
  • Request feedback on how your Line Manager feels you are doing. Do they have any ideas on how you might improve/do things differently?

When seeking feedback, don’t limit that to just your Line Manager, consider others: your colleagues for examples, or external stakeholders like your clients. Be prepared for their feedback, it may not always be what you’re expecting. Take time to reflect on it and identify what you might have been able to do differently, and add into your planning.

The above will provide a solid framework from which to start your learning journey. No doubt you will make tweaks here and there, but the key principles will remain, and if used effectively, they will help you ensure your journey is a positive one. We continually learn from the first to the last day of our careers, so make the most of it, and enjoy it!

Written by Gyln Pardoe, from our Newcastle branch