Learning the Skills I Need
By William Long
Most of us need to take time to learn new skills, abilities, and even ways to describe the professional tracks that we set ourselves upon. With any field of work, there are going to be specifics that you simply can’t know until you get in there and learn them. To complicate that matter, for every one thing a new employee needs to learn, there seem to be a hundred different ways to teach it, and unfortunately, a learning style that works for one student may be completely disastrous for another. Mass gatherings in a lecture hall will leave people disconnected and may put them to sleep. On the other hand, personalized, one-on-one tutoring sessions will burn down both time and money. So, with regard to the Millennial generation, what seem to be the most effective strategies in teaching new skills to a generation of new professionals just now coming into the spheres of professional influence in the workforce?
As a Millennial myself, and as someone who has had a wide array of work experience, I have been to and participated in my fair share of conferences, webinars, pre-service orientations, lecture series, and workshops. Couple with all my years as a student, I have been exposed to most — if not all — of the methodologies of instruction that exist. I’d like to detail some of the styles of instruction that have worked best for me, but as previously mentioned, what worked best for me might not work for you.
So, you can talk at me for weeks at a time, but in the end, the simplest, most effective way to learn something new is to get in there and learn it with your hands, with your eyes on it, with your feet right there on the ground. You have to actually do the job you are going to do to learn the most from it, you have to make real, practical errors and learn from them. However, if you have a new employee come in on the first day, it will be tremendously daunting for them to simply be told, “Alright, go on out there and work and everything. See you at five o’clock.” If that isn’t a recipe for disaster, it certainly is a recipe for one confused, distraught individual.
In learning a new job hands-on, it is best to be coached at fifty percent, and what I mean by that is to have supervision but to be allowed to learn on your own and by the course of your own actions, instead of being shown how to do something. Having someone watching over your shoulder, someone who can be used as a resource if needed, will allow the student to figure things out at their own speed. This can be thought of in the same way that people learn how to swim: there is an lifeguard or an instructor right there, but the fact of the matter is that you are going to have to be the one who actually learns how to swim.
Something to Reference
Some aspects of the work environment are going to be more abstract: instances that you can prepare for, but cannot physically ‘practice.’ In situations like this, I have always found that it is invaluable to have a resource at hand (in your locker, wallet, desk-drawer) that you can use to reference any particular contingency that a new employee might find themselves in. The key to this reference being worthwhile, as opposed to going unused for a decade in the gloomy darkness of a cabinet, is for it to be highly-visual, explicit yet casual in its descriptions, and able to be navigated through without any emotional drain.
When making a resource like this, I’ve always found that it’s best to cover only the most necessary of items; people are going to want to leaf through something with the thickness of a phonebook.
Of course, there will be a time in every job training when everyone simply needs to be rounded up and lectured at. I have never really minded learning this way, as it a crucial part of communication: one person has information that everyone else needs to know.
As with any form of public speaking, a lot can be said — or ignored — about presentation. To younger adults such as myself, the Powerpoint presentation has come to represent the dull anonymity of darkened board rooms and droning monotones. Next slide, please. No, if you’re going to teach me something by having me watch another stand around with visual aids, it has to be dynamic. It has to be engaging. You will have to convoke me that what you’re trying to teach me is actually worth learning, and crucial to my success. Any graph, whether they be bar, pie, or box-and-whisker, even, is likely to induce coma.
So, all in all, in learning the ins and outs of any new work environment, the most crucial aspect of learning is to be connected to the subject that you’re learning about. The self is the most powerful teacher, and when employers learn to utilize that principle, tailored to the specifics of whichever facet of the workplace they need to teach, the results will be positive.
For Additional Consideration and Reference
Millennials are the generation at the forefront of all of these advances and represent a demographic 7 percent larger than that of the baby boomers. I don’t understand why our education system doesn’t reflect the new needs for students at a higher level. Until that happens, millennials will have to continue to “hustle” if they want to be successful.
The Kids Are Alright – From Hogan
There are more than 80 million Millenials in the US; about 1 million more than there are Baby Boomers. Experts predict that individuals born between 1980 and the early 2000’s will make up more than 40% of the labor force by 2020. That’s a lot of high potential Millennials stuck working as individual contributors, and that’s a big problem.
Canwell and his colleagues write: “Companies face new leadership challenges, including developing Millenials and multiple generations of leaders, meeting the demand for leaders with global fluency and flexibility, building the ability to innovate and inspire others to perform, and acquiring new levels of understanding of rapidly changing technologies and new disciplines and fields.” No wonder organizations are coming up short.