It’s back-to-school season! Which makes this the perfect time for a quick self-reflection: when was the last time you learned something new at work?
If you’re struggling to remember, it might be time to bump growth up to a top priority. Continually seeking opportunities to develop your skill-set has oh-so-many benefits: it can counteract anxiety (research suggests learning might be a better stress buster than relaxing), clue you in to the parts of your job you enjoy most, and make you value and enjoy your work more.
But we get it. Carving out time for development when you’re fielding a steady stream of emails and your to-do list is a mile long can feel like a luxury. Luckily, there are small steps you can take to fit acquiring new abilities into even your busiest days. Here are three scientifically-backed nudges to help you make learning a habit.
Try something new
To build new skills, step out of your comfort zone by committing to trying one thing you’ve never done before each week—no matter where you are on the career ladder. If you can, join a meeting about a different team’s project, or volunteer to help someone with a small task. The more you experience, the better you’ll be able to problem-solve. Bonus: your fresh perspective might help others find new solutions to old problems.
Ask for specific feedback
The next time you feel you could have done a better job, make it a point to ask a coworker for specific tips on how you can improve. Avoid saying, “Do you have any feedback?” and instead try, “What is one thing I could do differently in the future?” By proactively asking colleagues how to level up, you can develop closer relationships at work—it feels good to be asked for advice!—and start to see mistakes as learning opportunities.
Suggest a skills swap
Sharing knowledge is a great way to make learning fun—and to get to know your colleagues better. Ask a coworker if they’d be willing to teach you about something in their area of expertise—and offer to return the favor. If they’re excited about the idea, schedule a 30-minute “skills swap.” You each get 15 minutes to help the other person develop a new ability.
Try it the Humu way
Here are a few things we do to make sure we’re continually developing:
After she finishes a project, Des Caballero, who leads our product marketing efforts, writes down what went well, and what she wants to do differently next time.
IT and security engineer Lynn Chikasuye keeps an “I-want-to-do” list. Recently she was able to cross off “make a Slackbot” after asking a colleague for a tutorial.
People Scientist Tom Skiba prioritizes building relationships and asking lots of questions. The more you get to know someone, the more you’ll learn what they know.
You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers
Each month, we pick a question from a reader and offer tactical tips on how to handle their particularly thorny work-related issue. (If you’d like advice, let us know by replying to this email!) Marina wrote in to ask: I’m on a distributed team and feel we could do a better job communicating. Do you have any recommendations for remote workers?
Our People Scientist Rachel Callan advises: “Document discussions and share notes. Among virtual teams, careful documentation is especially important in boosting performance and trust.” More from Rachel, including a list of activities to help remote colleagues have fun together, up on our blog.
What’s happening at Humu:
Our mission is to make work better for everyone, which is why we were delighted to host three incredible high school interns this summer. Check out the highlight reel!
It might be the end of summer, but we’re just getting started. Our engineering team released their first open-source contribution, a versatile and high-performance heap profiling package for Python 3, our CEO Laszlo Bock’s Work Rules! was listed as a top leadership book, our Chief Privacy Officer Lea Kissner spoke to Wired about differential privacy, Marieke McCloskey, who leads our UX research efforts, walked through her top UX research insights on the Women Talk Tech podcast, and I (Liz Fosslien) shared a few ways to get unstuck with The New York Times.
On the speaking front, Laszlo will be at the upcoming Evanta Global CHRO Exec Summit, Lea will be speaking about privacy at Facebook’s 2019 @Scale conference, I (Liz) will be filming a video for TED’s The Way We Work series, and several of our engineers are excited to head to this year’s Grace Hopper Celebration (email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’ll be there and would like to meet!).