Does it feel like new information is coming at you all the time and you’re constantly struggling to catch up? Someone is always an expert and it’s hard to know how they manage to do it when you feel like you’re constantly one or two releases behind. Explore some ideas from our tips below to always be on top of your field:
- Identify your knowledge gaps. This feels like a pretty easy one - we know what we know and we know what we don’t. But take time to identify exactly what you’re missing. For whatever field you work in or are studying for, identify exactly which key elements leave you with question marks floating over your head. If you know what your shortcomings are, you can target those specific areas instead of looking at everything. It saves time and before you know it, you’ll be an expert in the areas you that mystified you before.
- Research and study on your own time. Set up searches so that you get all the top news on your particular subject delivered to your inbox, find the top professional books on the subject, and read as often as possible. Experts say that reading for an hour a day in your field will make you the expert in seven years. Go from just filling a knowledge gap after a few months - become an industry expert in the same subject that made you frustrated and confused and questioning your career choice in just a few more years!
- Take online trainings. Web courses are a hot trend right now. If you want to learn anything, you can probably find a course online. You’ll want to plan accordingly though - consider your own personality and schedule, and look for a course that either has a course calendar with specific due dates, or is learn at your own pace. Schedule it into your agenda so you don’t forget it. Because it’s your own accountability, you’ll have to be more conscientious with these courses. There are plenty out there and a lot of them are outstanding, so the only things standing in your way are your own drive and organizational skills!
- Take advantage of continuing education opportunities. Many of us have to take ongoing continuing education courses for our existing credentials, and we hate it. Stop looking at them as obligatory timewasters. Instead, sign up for all of them you can, especially if they’re in your area of weakness. You’ll find that even courses that aren’t exactly tailored to your knowledge gap subject will have spillovers that teach you things you didn’t realize you needed to learn!
- Patch the knowledge gaps with your personal experiences. Think of this as your own problem-solving and analytical skills. Use HTML code as an example - if you don’t know anything about HTML, just take my word for what I’m about to tell you. HTML is essentially no more than a pattern. You need to know a few commands and you need to remember to close the commands, and they’re all written with pretty much the same grammatical rules and in a particular order. You could have an HTML code you’ve never seen before, look at how it’s applied onscreen, and figure out what it’s function is just from your own reasoning and deduction skills. If you’re looking for broken code, you just look for patterns. Use your own life experience and problem-solving to draw conclusions about your particular knowledge gap - this won’t make you an expert, and you’ll still need to do a lot of research to level up, but you close small gaps or start to fill in the big ones if you just process new information little by little!
- Practice makes perfect. No matter what your knowledge gap is, if you practice it over and over, eventually you’ll get it. The first time you give it a try, you may be completely frustrated, but after a few tries you’ll see the patterns and figure out what you’ve been doing wrong. A few more and you’ll start to memorize the steps. Keep trying and you’ll be able to skip steps. Before long a process you learned as ten steps can be done in three or four and you only need a few moments to complete them.
- Involve yourself in hands-on activities. This isn’t the same thing as practice - this is getting knee-deep involved. Think about building a house - you want to become an expert in construction? Practice is small building projects around your house - if you mess it up, no one has to know and you call a real expert to fix it. Hands-on activity means you’ve volunteered at Habitat for Humanity and people are watching you! You learn through your actual mistakes but it’s a bit more serious; those mistakes have consequences that won’t remain your personal secrets! You’ll take it a lot more seriously and learn a lot more in the process.
- Build communities. Surround yourself with others in your field - build off of their strengths and let them build off of yours. Band together with those who share the same knowledge gaps so that you can work together to find solutions. You’ll find when you’re part of a community that you all constantly learn from one another.
- Cultivate relationships with experts in your field. In the age of technology, it isn’t hard to make connections with the experts. Find them on LinkedIn, follow them on Twitter, comment on their blogs, and like them on Facebook. Ask them questions and read their material. You’ll learn a lot from them and if you’re a networking pro, you’ll build a lasting relationship with a personality that it wouldn’t have been possible to in an earlier time.
- Become the teacher. You might think that you need to be the expert already to become the teacher, but it isn’t true. The research and preparation you take on while designing and implementing your classes will make you an expert before you know it - but you don’t have to be an expert to sign on for the responsibility! Something about having the responsibility for teaching other minds engages you to learn more and answer anticipated questions. You’ll learn above and beyond the subject matter just in case, and as you do research on even subjects you think you know plenty, you’ll learn more. Nothing actually helps you fill the knowledge gap faster than instilling your knowledge in others.
Engage these ten tips and you’ll rapidly fill the knowledge gaps that previously made you feel like you were being left behind. An expert in any field knows that you always keep learning - your education doesn’t stop at your graduation ceremony, and it isn’t scheduled just once a year when it’s time to renew your certifications!