If you want to improve your professional skills this year but don’t have the time or resources to travel or attend costly conferences or workshops, you can achieve your goals without ever leaving the office.
How? Think about the skills you’d like to improve. Maybe you’d like to be a better time manager. Maybe you’d like to develop better analytical thinking. Maybe you wish you had a fresh outlook on old subjects.
Now look around your office. Which of your colleagues excel in the area where you’d like to improve? Pick one (or two, if they’re willing) and get learning. You can’t expect anyone to drop everything to help you, but you can talk to a colleague or supervisor about your interest in improving your own skills based on theirs and suggest one or more of the following:
1. Have a lunch meeting. While you’re not going to make any massive, life-altering changes in just an hour or two, you can start to get a feel for the information you’re looking for--without taking up too much of your colleague’s time--over lunch. Ask questions. Get advice. Learn about his/her process for achieving certain tasks. You may find that one lunch leads to two, two leads to three, etc.
2. Request collaboration on a project. Seeing your mentor in action will help you better hone the skill you’re trying to improve. It will also give your mentor insight into your approaches and habits, making it easier for him or her to offer suggestions and guidance.
3. If appropriate and possible, review his/her past projects, reports, etc. Study them. Learn from them. See how they differ from your own.
4. Be a shadow. See if you can follow your mentor around for a day or two. Study how the individual manages his/her time, prioritizes tasks, handles complications, interacts with others, etc.
Even if your colleagues/mentors of choice can’t help you right now, don’t give up. Most likely they’ll be flattered that you’ve taken interest in their strengths and want to help you in one way or another when they can. Be patient. Be observant. And most of all, be grateful