Learn to Learn While Learning. A Perspective.

After nearly 15 years with the same employer, I took the plunge and found a new job. It was a change that I desperately needed, both personally and professionally.  As with most things, I didn’t simply take a few steps to the left or right – I dove headfirst into a brand new, profession- Learning and Development.

The office environment and the people felt like a great fit right away, and leaving my second interview, I was filled with hope that Friesen, Kaye and Associates would be my new “home”. With a few weeks to myself before starting my new job, I managed to work myself into an absolute frenzy of self-doubt.

Starting my new role was a little extra terrifying because of the industry.  These people train adults and evaluate learning for living! They’re going to know when I’m not catching on quickly! They’re going to know that might be totally faking it! I’m going to blow it! What was I thinking!? Is it too late to get my old job back…? Oh, the abject terror!

To my surprise, it was quite the opposite. Because they facilitate, design and evaluate learning initiatives for a living, I was in good hands. Over the course of the last (almost) year in working for Friesen, Kaye and Associates, I’ve come to several realizations:

It’s less complicated than I thought. 

When I came to FKA I really didn’t know what they did. I reviewed their website but as a novice to L&D, it went right over my head. I researched the competition online to see if I could gain any insights there. Nope. (cue the crescendo of self-doubt)

One day, I was chatting with our President Michael Nolan and I admitted I felt like I was struggling to really “get” what we do. So, he helped me out and this is what I refer to whenever I feel overwhelmed. Mike said “If I tell you we’re about to take notes…. you grab your pen, slide your paper in front of you, take the pen cap off, or sharpen your pencil…. all the little things that you do when you’re preparing to take notes. Now, imagine you’ve never held a pen before. If I say to you “now we’re going to take notes” you don’t know what the next step(s) are. You need someone to break-up the task and show and tell you how to pick up the pen; how to hold it; show you how to click it or take the cap off, and so on. What FKA does is teach people how to present information by chunking or breaking it down that makes sense to the learner. You get the learners to practice or apply the knowledge or skill. You get them to think about what success looks like and to plan how to handle challenges when they’re teaching a group or an individual.  This analogy made the difference for me! I finally knew what we were doing; Knowledge Transfer. Sure, you can make it complicated, but you don’t always have to.

It’s WAY more fun than I thought it would be.

After I had been here for a few months, I had an opportunity to attend one of our public programs. In this case, it was our Instructional Techniques Workshop. I had no idea what to expect, but I knew what I was dreading; a boring, long, dry 3-days. Once again, there I sat, surprised to learn that learning can be a HOOT! It doesn’t matter that we’re taking learning professionals and putting them in a classroom to show them how to be great at their jobs, it can still be FUN.  There was a Koosh ball flying through the air during one question and answer exercise. There were small group activities that allowed us to share some best practices. There were practice sessions that let us demonstrate our new skill sets. The group was fully engaged and ended up having a great learning experience.

Well, because this was my J-O-B, I had to go sit down with the big boss afterwards and discuss my experience in the classroom. The first thing out of my unpredictable mouth was “It was so much fun!” I’m used to the way I blurt things out, but sometimes they catch other people off guard.  As soon as I said it, I thought maybe I should have been a bit more reserved in my assessment. To my delight, my boss’s reply was “GOOD! It should be fun. If it isn’t, we aren’t doing our job well”.  Being professional and being a learning professional doesn’t mean being boring. It doesn’t mean standing in front of a classroom and spewing out information like a rogue water fountain with a bad attitude. I can tell you, that realization came as a relief to me; I would shrivel up and die if I couldn’t have fun at work. It keeps me focused and is often in short supply during the “universal” 9-5 drudgery.

Always Keep Learning

With the rise of social media has come the rise of attempted self-awareness, and with it, more self-awareness/self-help/self-success books than you can shake a stick at.  I’ve definitely become more interested in bettering myself professionally since joining FKA, but I’ve also come to realize that I don’t have to keep it to a professional level. I don’t even have to keep it on a “self-help/awareness” level. I just need to actively seek out new opportunities to learn and take the ones that come my way.

For instance, my husband and I purchased a fishing boat this year for our lake front cottage. Unfortunately, the cabin, the running water etc. are all about 50’ up from the water front, and it’s a steep drop. Each weekend, we must tie up the boat and just leave it in the water.  This made me uncomfortable, so I wanted to learn how to tie the “right” knot. And, although I didn’t have any particular reason to, I decided I was going to learn all about knots. I’m up to 6 knots so far, that I can tie without referencing back to my book. Okay, it’s not a lifesaving technique; it’s not going to bring me “enlightenment” or make my marriage stronger, but it’s something. And I enjoy learning about them.

Whatever the case may be, I’ve learned to embrace learning in a way that I never had before, and you know, it’s actually awesome.

When I was asked to write this blog, I felt that old feeling of dread rise up. But I replied to the request and heartily agreed to give it a shot, provided no one would let me embarrass myself publicly, should we realize that I’m not good at writing. They promised. I wrote. Thanks to this industry, and FKA in particular, for wholly embodying the principles of learning. I’m doing new things, and loving every minute of it!

Tara Hay
Workshop Coordinator