Did you know that the average timespan of a job in the U.S. is only 4.2 years? That means that every four years, you either fall, tread water or climb. If you're the top pro in the room, and the room happens to be a group interview for your dream job, you know which direction you'll be heading.
The truth is, it's not as hard as you might think to become that top pro. Once you understand how to find your blind-spots using forums and Facebook groups, and how to dig up the hidden treasure on YouTube, you're already doing better than 90% of the people in your imaginary room. If you then take consistent action in self-education, well, you're a top one-percenter. Let's jump straight in.
Step 1: Learn what you don't know and grow
The first step to becoming the top professional in the room is to find out what you don't know about your industry. This is achieved by:
- Questioning 'just how we do it' mindsets
- Breaking out of isolation
- Stepping fearlessly onto the cutting edge
This example shows the power of discovering what you don't know. Luckily, you can achieve the same results without endless conventions. Seek out forums and Facebook groups for your industry and browse through the posts and topics. This will break you through your pockets of isolation and put you in the right place to learn from experts, thought-leaders and even your competition.
Make a list of the areas that you need to learn more about. Now you've identified your blind-spots, it's time to find illumination.
Step 2: Choose your weapon (of learning)
First up, let's dispel a myth: being the top pro in the room doesn't necessarily mean having the best qualifications. Have you ever spoken to someone who's extremely well-read on a topic? They're undeniably impressive and effective. With that said, the next step is to decide whether entering formal education or learning on-the-fly is right for you.
Let's briefly consider the formal route:
On-campus tertiary education is a wonderful thing. Who doesn't love the idea of being a student? At the same time, do you have three years to burn when you've already entered your career of choice? Often the answer is no.
How about a traditional University course taken online? The fact is online degrees have come a long way in recent years. You can now expect live sessions, real student camaraderie and content that's custom designed to draw on the strengths of the online format. If this fits into your work life, it's a fantastic opportunity, but if not, then you need to learn on-the-fly... and I have just the thing for you.
Step 3: Get onto the cutting edge and become well-read... in two months
In this step you'll learn two little-known YouTube tips. The first will expose you to the foremost minds in your industry and the second will allow you to become 'well-read' in a matter of months.
YouTube Tip One: Opening the treasure trove
YouTube has the largest library of videos online, yet few people realise that along with its cat videos and basketball long-shots are hundreds of interviews and lectures by industry leaders and the world's top professors. Here's how to find them:
Start on the official YouTube #Education channel and select the University grade level, then choose a subject area covering one of your blind-spots. From there you'll not only access top videos that cover your area of learning, but also the Channels of applicable University Departments with other great videos not listed on the #Education channel.
By watching these interviews and lectures, you'll get up to speed with the thought-leaders in your industry without leaving home.
YouTube Tip Two: Absorbing 2 books a day
What's really in a non-fiction book? When it boils down to it, a book is a handful of useful lessons surrounded by a load of proof and stories. A growing trend is to consume the lessons that books contain rapidly by stripping them down to their key takeaways.
There are methods of reading physical books which allow you to do this, one of the prominent techniques was created by entrepreneur Tai Lopez. There are also apps dedicated to consuming book summaries such as Blinkist. What most people don't know however is that many popular non-fiction books have already been summarised by people on YouTube.
The best are well written and often include animated explainer videos, while the worst are off-the-cuff and can come across as a bit of a ramble. If you encounter the latter it's a good idea to watch an alternative summary to ensure that you're getting all the key takeaways.
To find books that answer your needs, search on Amazon for the bestselling books about your topic, then search YouTube for the book name plus the words 'book summary'.
By doing this you'll be able to learn the key lessons from two or more books in about 20 minutes per day, instead of the weeks or even months it normally takes. By extension, if you put aside 20 minutes a day for this type of rapid learning, you'll be able to get through about 60 books on your industry in two months. That would make you well-read on the topic by just about any measure.
This technique is the closest thing we currently have to that scene in The Matrix where Neo uploads everything there is to know about Kung Fu, directly into his brain, in about 10 seconds. I love that idea.
In closing, I thought I'd throw in a bonus tip instead of a standard conclusion. Obviously, the conclusion would have been that by applying the steps above, your knowledge will grow at a rapid pace and, before you know it, you'll be the top professional in the room... but I'm sure you gathered that already.
The bonus tip is that you can find handy sources of learning specific to your industry via Google. If you search for your industry plus the words 'online courses', then you'll find blog posts and articles with lists of courses for your particular niche. Here's an example for the oil industry. This is a great way to quickly address all three of the steps above and, since the courses are being personally recommended by influencers in your industry, you know they're high quality.
Oliver Braithwaite is the author of Edtech & Co, a blog about rapid learning via education technology, and the Founder of Stars & Catz, a private tuition company.