It isn’t the ability to code like a champ or your beastly social media savvy (although those are increasingly attractive attributes for many positions) – what employers really want from you is ‘teachability’. They want to be able to teach you how to do the job their way quickly and efficiently. To accomplish this, you will need to prove to them your ability to learn things very quickly.
Were you praised for picking things up quickly, ever since you were a child? Great! Now do better! There’s always room for improvement and little more satisfying than being able to tell your boss that you finished the job perfectly- and in a fraction of the allotted time. It would be great to be able to train yourself to become a more efficient learner so you can pick things up faster on the job, but learning velocity is largely inherent. Luckily, the trick here isn’t to increase your learning ability. Instead, the focus should be on preparation.
If you need to write business plans as a part of your job, for example, you should learn how to write a standard business plan on your own first and spend office hours recognizing your company’s unique twist instead of spending extra time to learn from step one all over again. . Now the job is easier and will get done faster – and you can show off to your supervisor how quickly you picked up their way of doing things.
You are your own Yoda.
It’s true – you know yourself better than anyone else. Why not take advantage of this fact and teach yourself a thing or two about the skills you know you will need for your job? If you arm your mind with the basics, picking up your company’s twist on things will be easier (and quicker!).
You can learn awesome stuff from all over the internet now – from tutorials on Lydia or YouTube to full blown free Ivy League classes from Coursera, teaching yourself is the thing to do!
The first step is to narrow down the skills you should master for your industry. A visual designer, for example, might benefit from learning HTML basics while a marketer could take their work to the next level by building solid creative writing and copywriting skills.
Figuring out what exactly you need to learn is the hard part – now, you can just Google it and decide which resource (tutorial, class, article, e-book) you like best and get started!
Be the Tortoise.
Remember that story about the tortoise and hare where the hare gets really arrogant and ends up losing a race to the tortoise? It actually applies to your career progression really well. The worst thing you can do is to come off as being full of yourself to your co-workers or boss. Not only does that essentially flash a bright neon sign saying ‘Not Willing to Learn’ above your head, it also sets you up for a whole lot of lost opportunities.
Learning can come in the form of actively seeking knowledge by studying or taking a class, but it can also happen simply on the job if a good mentor takes a liking to you. A mentor at work can provide important insight, fast-tracking tips, and invaluable feedback – but no potential mentor is going to take interest in the new kid who thinks she knows everything. Remember to project the humble student within!
Being able to pick things up quickly, having great tech skills, and busting through assignments are obviously amazing achievements to have under your belt – but keep in mind that everyone on your team will try to display these things. Going out of your way to add value even when you weren’t specifically instructed to do so shows that you care about the team’s performance as a whole, not just your own. If you are a copywriter at a startup and you know about an upcoming feature-release or company re-branding, offer up your ideas right away and even provide samples to show that you’ve really thought about it.
Of course, it is always important to keep in mind that your ideas are suggestions that your supervisors can choose not to take and you shouldn’t overload them either. Imposing on someone else’s pet project can become annoying, even though you’re really just trying to help. Just remember, be humble and realize that you are the student. Soak up the experience of your co-workers and throw in some of your own fresher ideas without overdoing it. You will have impressed your boss before you know it!