In our first #MyNextSteps blog we are talking about the ability… no, AGILITY to learn! You might be a fast learner, but are you an adaptive learner? Read on to discover what Career Consultant Leslie Parsons has to say about this essential workplace skill. #MyNextSteps is our event and blog series all about reassurance, getting students feeling confident about your next steps and addressing Covid-19 changes for industries and ways of working.
Learning has many layers
Do you pick up things quickly? Do you absorb information quickly and pull out the important bits that will improve your performance? If you answered yes, you are a rapid learner. With work and technology changing at a record pace, organisations need people that can keep up. But putting ‘fast learner’ or ‘quick learner’ on your CV won’t differentiate you.
So, what does differentiate students in their ability to learn? Sometimes called agile learning, reflective learning, or adaptive learning, it describes a mindset that is curious and open to new insights, combined with the ability to extract skills and learning from your experiences (both successes and failures!) and then adapt and apply these into new situations.
What makes agile learning so essential?
While repetition is great for building expertise-style knowledge, agile learning has a broader and longer impact – it targets your self-development. An agile learning mindset is essential for realising your potential, for finding new ways of building skills and applying your strengths. It is a mindset that helps you make key career moves and adapt to life changes and major changes in the world of work.
Still don’t believe it’s relevant for you? Check this out: The Centre for Creative Leadership identifies Agile Learning ability as a key factor in career longevity and a common trait of successful leaders.
How to build your Learning Agility
The good news is that we can all build our learning agility. Here are top three tips to get started.
1: Reflect, reflect, reflect
The first step is reflection. This may sound fluffy, but it is actually critical thinking applied to your own experience. Stop and evaluate a key learning experience – one where there was real pressure, real consequence to your actions and visibility of your performance. Shift the focus away from the process or outcome. Instead, hone-in on the context – what was going on? Who was involved? How did you approach the task/situation? Why did you take that approach and not others? How did others react to your approach? What was your main takeaway from the experience?
2: So what?
Now the next step is vital – ask yourself “so what”. This is the critical eye on the experience. Why was this important to you, what was really impacting your decision-making? The answer to this is likely to give you a real insight into the context, your skills, strengths AND your values and motivations. This is the power of learning agility. It helps you identify the contexts where you can transfer skills and strengths either in preparation for a career move or reacting to a new first-time experience.
3: Demonstrate it – boldly!
Employers differentiate candidates based on this ability. But how do you demonstrate it? It is not something you list on a CV. At the interview, you may be asked to describe a time when you used a competency or strength. Demonstrate your learning agility by reflecting on what you learned from that situation and an example of how you applied it afterwards. In an assessment centre, reflect on your own performance. Describe why you took the approach you did, both positive and negative impacts and what you might change or do differently in future.
So, in the end, learning agility is fundamentally about adaptability. It is our ability to learn, adapt, unlearn, and relearn to keep up with constantly changing conditions. How can you practice learning agility in your own setting?