Make work more meaningful with a learning plan

knowledge is power

In my last post in my series on how to make work more meaningful, I talked about what learning has to contribute to the mix.

If you want to make the most of its potential, try taking a more intentional approach by creating a learning plan. A learning plan explores four primary questions.

  1. What do I want to learn?
  2. Why do I want to learn it?
  3. Where are the opportunities to learn it?
  4. When do I want to learn it?

What do I want to learn? 

To start with, try thinking about your learning from multiple angles.

From a present moment perspective, you can ask questions like:

  • What skills would help me do my job better?
  • What knowledge would make me more effective?
  • What personal development work would I benefit from?
  • What big goal / self-challenge am I focused on (or want to take on), and what do I need to learn in order to achieve it?
  • What do I want to master?

You can also take a long-term view. One of the upcoming ways I’ll be writing on to make work more meaningful is to put it in the context of a big picture vision for what you want to achieve, who you want to be, what impact you want to make, etc. (See my post on finding your 10-year vision.)

When you have a 10-year vision to work towards, it opens up a different set of learning opportunities. Many of the questions you ask would be the same as for learning aimed at the here-and-now, but the focus would be different (e.g., what skills would help me achieve that vision?).

Even if your current job isn’t in alignment with that long-term vision, building a picture of the kind of learning that would support that vision can help you move towards it and give your current work a way to matter in the bigger picture

All functional purposes aside, it’s also worth looking at learning opportunities purely from a personal perspective. You can ask questions like:

  • What fascinates me?
  • What do I feel called to learn?
  • What inspires me?

This might be something you can apply in your current job. It might be something that helps your long-term vision. Or it might be an area of personal development that allows you to feel better/be more flexible/navigate challenges/communicate better/etc.

Why do I want to learn it?

This will be largely taken care of in the process of exploring what you want to learn, but it’s worth specifically identifying it. Understanding the why of your learning program can help you both stay on track and apply it as your career evolves.

Where are the opportunities to learn it?

Think of these next two parts as developing a curriculum. Once you have your subjects mapped out (what you want to learn), you can explore how you’re going to learn it, and when.

Some possible learning sources include:

  • Work-sponsored workshops and training programs.
  • Mentors
  • Books and audiobooks
  • Talks by subject matter experts
  • Classes
  • Online videos
  • Podcasts

You can start out by brainstorming and researching learning resources for each of the topics in “what you want to learn.” If your learning list is long, you can prioritize the topics and focus on the most immediate, most important, or most interesting ones first.

When do I want to learn it?

Once you have your preliminary list of learning resources (which you can continue adding to over time), you can tie it all together with this last part of the process.

You can do this as formally or informally as you want. You can give structure to your learning by mapping out what resources you want to work through in the next year and create a timeline. Or you can take a less timeline-driven approach, saying, “Here’s what’s in front of me. First I’m going to do this, then this, and then this.”

Bonus question: Who can I learn this with?

One final thought as you look at the possibilities for learning. Wherever you can, look for opportunities to learn with others.

Maybe that group aspect is inherent to the learning medium, like in a class.

Or maybe it’s something you create. Let’s say you’re interested in developing your management skills. You could instigate a weekly lunchtime book discussion group where each month you discuss a different book and how you can apply what you’re learning.

Or it could simply be a learning partner that you get together with on a regular basis and share some key insights that each of you has been learning.

Learning with others creates a way to engage around what you’re learning, as well as creating an external accountability.

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

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