You may be starting a new job or you might have been given a great deal more responsibility in your current role. Working at a startup is quite different to working for a large corporate organisation. In smaller companies, you often have to learn on the job, teaching yourself and developing your skills independently. So here, I will share with you the best ways to teach yourself your job and also how to self train and develop yourself further. If you work in a small business, formal training might not be available and in smaller structures, you'll certainly have to teach yourself.

Ask Questions

Ok, so it may sound fairly obvious, but many people shy away from questions in case they are deemed incapable. If you work in a startup/small business, any good business leader will encourage it. I would say anytime is a good time to ask questions.  If you have been given a project and don’t understand something, or if you are unsure – ask away. If you  don’t understand the direction of things – ask away. You don’t know how to do something  – ask away. The worst case, and I have had these a few times, is the answer is ‘I don’t know, research it’. Which is fine, it just means that they currently don’t possess that knowledge either.

Google is your friend (other search engines are available). Now, when you ask try to be specific about what you want to know as that way you will get the best articles and sources of knowledge. So, for example, don’t ask “how do I measure performance on social? ” but instead “what are the key performance indicators on twitter that your audience is engaged with?”

Have a go – best way to teach yourself

Literally the first few months of a job are all about trial and error. It is the best way to learn. It’s better to fail early and learn what you did wrong than cruise by for months and learn lessons too late. So if this means you need to go back to your boss and say: 'look I am going to try this', that is ok. It may fail, but we need to find out what works, just explain that in order to learn what is needed. You will have to try lots of things to discover what works.

It’s important to embrace risk early on. The bigger you grow the more difficult risk becomes. It can feel disheartening to try so many things and to see so little progress. However, trial and error suits if you need to teach yourself your job because there is no formal training.  It’s the best way to test out the things you have read or watched or heard.

We have tried many campaigns that didn’t work, that I had put hours into but they taught us vital lessons. If you are worried about the amount of failure you will encounter then have an honest chat with your boss. Outline exactly what you want to try and what the possible outcomes could be. Then after your ‘tests’ sit down and discuss your learning. You can not be seen as damaging the business if your failed tests are providing the business with vital lessons for the future. Obviously, before you try something make sure you do a bit of research so you’re not just doing it off-the-fly.

Be Proactive

The best way to get better at your job quicker is to be proactive in your desire to learn. So this could be a range of things, from adding more channels to your profile and attending events.  It can be overwhelming sometimes to see the number of things you don't know and your team either.  A proactive approach could lead you to listen to relevant podcasts on the tube to work.

Events are also a great thing to attend, you can network, learn more and get a fresh perspective on something you might be struggling with.  You can look for free events to attend that are in your area and are on topic areas related to your job or about things you want to get better at. As you don’t have an official path of progression, it can be difficult to find training that will aid you in your development. Therefore, seek out courses you can take or events you can attend.  Your leadership team will be pleased you are taking charge of your own development. Most of the time, they will even be happy to fund this depending on the need of the business and the relevance to your role.

Join communities in your field

Through joining a community, you are going to learn a lot from each other and teach yourself a lot in the process. This could be direct helpful comments,  relevant articles/ podcasts or courses. Some of the best thing I find has been to follow thought leaders on Linkedin for example who post relevant content regularly and realised that this was a great source of knowledge. Depending on your role, you might find that networking events and attending them regularly is a great way to discuss practices, tips and tricks. You might even be able to join their closed groups afterwards too (i.e. on Slack). 

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