Learning and the home-based professional
Keeping up to date is important for all professionals. For the home-based
professional, whether an employee or self-employed, there are some special
issues to consider.
Often the reasons for choosing to work from home are related to productivity,
for example, saving time by not commuting, not "wasting" time
at the office with interruptions, extended meetings and chats by the coffee
machine. In an effort to focus on our productivity, we sometimes focus
on getting the golden eggs and not on looking after the goose that lays
the golden eggs. In other words, by neglecting to look after our productive
capacity, we will eventually lose our ability to produce.
One of the important aspects of our capacity to produce is learning and
keeping up to date. Time is a very real issue here, simply because it
takes time to read, communicate and learn.
Another problem with maintaining our skill level is the lack of informal
contact with others. In a traditional workplace, a lot of infomal learning
takes place just by being in the same building as others, not to mention
the on-the-job or formal training that most employees get as part of their
normal work routine. As a home-based employee, it is easy to miss out
on the informal learning. Over time, this erodes your skill and therefore
As a self-employed home-based professional, the situation is often even
more challenging. There is no one else looking after your professional
development. It is completely up to you, and it costs both time and money.
So what are the answers? While there is no one right way, below are a
few tips you might like to try. Everyone has a different learning style,
so you might find some better than others. If you haven't tried one of
them before, give it a try. Even if it sits outside your preferred learning
method, your circumstances may not allow you to stick to your comfort
zone. You may need to try something new, just to keep up.
- Subscribe to e-zines (electronic magazines) and newsletters
Short and easy to read, these often contain snippets of information
you might find useful. Don't forget to forward them to business
associates if the information is relevant. This is a great way
of keeping in touch and improving your networking.
- Seminars - both paid and free
The quality of seminars can vary, but just because it is free
doesn't mean that the quality is poor. Also, the networking is
often just as important (if not more so) than the content of the
seminar itself, so make sure you talk to people!
- Industry or professional associations
These often have programs aimed directly at professional development.
Again, make the most of any networking opportunities these present.
One of the best ways to learn is to teach. Offer to do a free
presentation, write an article, or teach at the local TAFE or
community education centre.
- Formal courses - you have a choice here between courses
that offer assessment, and those that are for information and
training only. Information is useful, but is passive. Putting
the effort into producing the required assessment tasks is active
and puts the information into context. With current assessment
standards, you can often negotiate an assessment task to be directly
relevant to your work, making it far more useful as a learning
tool, and keeping you productive as well.
- Tapes and audio CDs
For any busy professional, tapes and audio CDs are a very useful
tool, especially for motivation and inspiration. Traditionally
listened to while commuting to work, they may not seem as relevant
for the home-based professional. But what about time preparing
dinner, or putting away the washing? Not much brainpower required
for that, so there's plenty left over for listening to tips and
techniques from the experts!
- World wide web
The information available on the world wide web is astounding.
Almost every subject is covered. For general awareness and access
to thought-provoking material, the Internet is hard to beat. For
serious research, you will need to check the credibility of the
- Books, magazines, newspapers and television
Let's not forget traditional media. It is a lot more comfortable
sitting on a chair by the fire and reading the newspaper than
staying glued to the computer screen for hours on end. Traditional
media remain an important source of learning and a basis for interesting
conversation with friends, which brings us to our next point.
- Talk to people!
Don't forget to make the most of informal social contacts for
keeping current. You can even identify some of the strengths and
interest areas of your friends and colleagues that may be useful
to you. Make a conscious effort to ask them about these areas
- it's a great way of getting the condensed version from someone
who has got the time and interest to research the information.
Try to offer something in return, or offer assistance first and
see what comes back. And wherever you can, talk to the experts.
The gems of wisdom you might get from a few minutes with an expert
are often invaluable.
Most important of all, make the time to learn, expand your mind and be
open to new ideas. Working from home has some tremendous advantages, but
it is all too easy to become isolated and out of touch.
You are never too old to learn and you can never know all there is to
know. Learning is fun, motivating and helps you to keep your momentum
and professionalism. So take on the challenge and try a new way of learning