When you were still in school, people spoke to you about every aspect of getting your degree. We received advice from guidance counselors, cousins, siblings and the too-involved next-door neighbors on exactly what to do to be a successful undergraduate.
In contrast, no one really talks about post-grad life. Suddenly you are handed free nights and weekends that were previously occupied with highlighters and quality time with Aristotle and Pavlov’s dogs, which is great. Yet people rarely vocalize that, after 8+ hours of work, along comes a tempting desire to fill that newfound time with Hell’s Kitchen and Netflix. It’s arguably even more imperative, however, to continue learning and improving after college because this is real life. That said, here are three avenues that can help you fight off intellectual laziness and keep learning in these critical early career years:
1) Read (a book) daily.
Always being “connected” works wonders on productivity. However, 24/7 connectivity can stifle your creative voice; when you have 25 tabs open at once, there aren’t many gigs left to run Photoshop. Reading a book before bed is how I mentally recharge my i-person. It doesn’t matter the genre (although I’d recommend reading all of those “classics” we never appreciated in high school); just take some time to wind down and end your day reading a story. A novel will engage your mind through plot twists and proper sentence structures and improve your writing through simple exposure. I think you’ll be surprised to see how impactful 30+ minutes of ringtone-free time will be on your creative thinking and brainstorming sessions the next day.
2) Participate in webinars and LinkedIn groups.
Webinars are often a free resource that organizations produce for the public, created by highly respected individuals in the field. It is not often in life that people hand you something free that is also useful (flashback to mail-in shampoo and conditioner packets large enough to wash an eyebrow); take advantage of this gift!
Join LinkedIn groups on subjects you’d like to learn more about, such as PRSA New Professionals Section, PR Daily and Social Media Today. They send emails with helpful articles related to their field, as well as information on upcoming webinars. Most employers, when asked, encourage tuning in to webinars during your workday because it increases your knowledge and shows initiative and forward thinking. To those who work full-time and are unable to listen in while the webinar is live, still sign up for the webinar; the organizations will send out a recorded session (along with the presentation slides) after the webinar aired so that you can watch it from home. Don’t forget to take notes throughout the lesson so you can refer back to them later!
3) Travel, and meet people along the way.
This may sound a little out of place, but let me explain. I had the amazing opportunity to study abroad in Granada, Spain and it was the most incredible learning experience of my life. The world is much larger than the local bubble we get accustomed to, and it’s all too easy to get bogged down in a work-gym-sleep routine and forget what else is out there. So set aside some time (and money) to travel and experience the world firsthand. Try new foods, visit that Hindu temple and meet people along the way. I guarantee that their life stories will offer you perspective that you never would have contemplated, and your world and understanding will be broadened because of it.
4) Stay intellectually curious.
In our generation of tweeters, instagrammers and status updaters, we have plenty of opinionated speakers but a scarcity of unguarded listeners. Above all, to learn in life after college, I challenge you to be open-minded. Take the time to hear new ideas or constructive criticism. Don’t be afraid of change, and take chances!
Post-grad life gives us the luxury of no longer being “graded” on our every move. We should use this for all it’s worth, because in reality, the best way to learn how to do something right, is to fail at it first. So do the homework (webinars) and the reading, and take every opportunity that presents itself, especially those outside of your comfort zone. Whether it’s visiting your friend who moved out to the boonies known as Arizona, taking on a new project at work that you’ve never tried before, or even as small as volunteering at a local charity/non-profit organization, it is worth the experience. You will be expanding your repertoire of various skillsets and growing as a person, which ultimately is the end goal. Because learning is really just another word for growing.
Stay curious, my friends.
How do you keep learning post graduation?
Megan O’Neal graduated from UCLA in 2011 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies, emphasizing in mass communications. A self-proclaimed coffee addict and professional multi-tasker, she currently works as marketing and communications coordinator for SDA Security and volunteers with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, freelancing for the public relations department. Connect with her on Twitter @megannenicole.