Is learning ‘on-the-job’ really the best way to progress in your career?

With the majority of my working skill-set self-taught, I have always been a huge fan of ‘learning on the job’. However, I don’t mean learning whilst working at your 9–5 day job. No — instead I mean learning something new by working on something outside of work, for free.

“Free!?” you might ask? Yes… Free.

I have learnt more from working on projects for myself and with friends than I have ever learnt at work. When I was 13 I learnt how to design, build and host websites all from working on a small gaming forum project. I still use those skills professionally today, and I was never taught this during my education, and certainly not whilst at any job.

In fact, some jobs I have had in the past have had a negative impact on my personal growth. Picking up bad habits from incompetent bosses can have a lasting effect on other job roles you might have in the future (I still shudder when I hear the words ‘quick-win’ ). In order to branch out and learn a new skill, you can’t just read theory in a book or watch a few videos — you have to just go out there and give it a try.

My latest hobby/classroom is a small web app that I started with a couple of old colleagues. I wanted to buff up on my growth-marketing, so I decided there was no better way than to grow something myself. In fact, this very article is a growth experiment — checking to see if Medium could be a relevant channel for my product blog.

I’ve had great jobs, and awful jobs, but the one true constant that has allowed me to progress further and further in my career has been my ability to self-learn. If you can manage to push yourself outside of your day-job, you will always give yourself a chance to grow within it. Like my Grandad always said “Don’t dress for the job you have, dress for the job you want”. Pretty sound advice.

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