By Angela Copeland
I received a text from a friend a few years ago. It said, “I spent some time today figuring out a new video software.” And, it had a link to a fun short video.
This friend doesn’t use video at work, but he and two other IT guys are creating a YouTube channel. This is the second project for the team, who also recently started a podcast, to learn about podcasting.
This occurrence isn’t an uncommon one in the technology world. Techies are creating new social work groups on Meetup.com every day. They gather together and learn how to use software like WordPress, Python, Java, Oracle and PHP. They bounce ideas off of one another about how to start a podcast, how to build video games or how to make mobile apps.
They organize breakfasts, lunches and weekend-long coding sessions called hackathons. They host events for younger generations to teach them about programming.
The thing that’s interesting is technology professionals do all of these activities in their free time. Their companies don’t sponsor these events. They aren’t compensated for participating.
But, the time they devote helps to keep their skill set up to date. Technology is a field that’s constantly evolving. In IT, if you want to keep up, you must keep learning. It creates job security.
In addition to beefing up their resume, this time builds their network. If there’s a job opening, you can bet someone will look inside these groups for candidates.
Lastly, it allows these professionals to cross-pollinate ideas with those outside their company’s four walls. They aren’t confined to the traditional thoughts on how to do things and can compare notes with others.
Although your industry may not change as often as technology, there are a number of great lessons to be learned from this group. First, don’t wait for your company to keep your skills up to date. It’s your responsibility. Be sure not to neglect your continuing education.
This may mean you may have to use some personal time, or even some of your own money. Think of it as an investment in yourself and your future value.
Once you’ve decided to give this strategy a try, you may wonder where to begin. Meetup.com is a natural place to look for special interest groups. You may also check the colleges in your area for continuing education courses. They often offer abbreviated courses at reasonable prices. Professional organizations can also be a great place to look.
Don’t have time to get out? Or can’t find anyone near you to network with? Search online. Many universities such as Harvard and MIT are placing some of their course materials online – for free. And, there are many other online resources such as LinkedIn and website forums where you can network with others in your field.
At the end of the day, in the world of work, learning is the new loyalty.
Angela Copeland, a career expert and founder of Copeland Coaching, can be reached at copelandcoaching.com.