Learning on the Job and Making It Last

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Posted by The Editors on November 18, 2011
Learning on the Job and Making It Last

I’ve recently heard recruiters talking about how their company fosters a culture that promotes continuous learning. Students probably feel that’s something they have down pat: What else are they doing for four years of college, not to mention the twelve years of schooling before that? What these recruiters are talking about, though, isn’t guided by anything as formal as a syllabus. It’s more about being immersed in new knowledge and trying to soak it up like a sponge.

You’ll learn a lot in your first days or weeks on the job, but what if you’re really being bombarded with new information—not just trivial stuff, but things that are vital to your work—all the time? It’s one thing to learn on the job, but it’s something else entirely to retain all that information. 

If you’re worried that the things you’re learning on the job are going in one ear and out the other, consider a few of these tools or strategies.

Make a development plan
It’s something I’ve heard interns are required to come up with before starting their internships: a set of expectations that detail what you hope to learn on the job. Something similar might work for the start of a new job, a new rotation in a different office or role, or even the start of a new year. The time for resolutions will be here before you know it…

Keep a diary or glossary
Start with a simple prompt—“What did I learn today?”—and write something every day. It could be something small, like an acronym or just a word you’d never heard before, but if you can really identify something that you’ve learned and articulate it to yourself, it’ll stay with you. It’s even something you could pass along to a new employee when they come on board.

Use flashcards
Sounds pretty basic, but if repetition works for you, the classic study method of flashcards could be just the ticket. Especially good for acronyms, shorthand, or remembering people’s names and what department they work in.

Create or find an app
If you’re like me and you were amazed by Jeopardy champ Roger Craig’s computer application that he designed to help him study for the show, you could try making one of your own. Craig has a PhD in computer science, though, which probably helped. His systematic approach in identifying the categories that came up most frequently and which ones he needed to study more is still an inspiration.

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