Being great at our jobs is all about continuous improvement across every dimension. But the coronavirus lockdown means that many of our usual professional development avenues are closed off to us. But it's not all bad news. Even when we're sheltering in place, most of the world's knowledge is just a Google search or app download away.
Here are some tips for building your on-the-job skills and smarts while out of the office.
Lend us Your Ears (and Eyes)
We're all podcast people these days. (In fact, there are an estimated 30 million episodes out there waiting to be streamed.) If your listening habits have dropped off now that you're no longer commuting, it's time to get back on the wagon. Try podcasts that are specific to your industry, or get inspired with more general listening such as Code Story, How I Built This, the TED Radio Hour, or even How to Fail.
If you're after audio in a different format, consider going the audiobook route. Audible or its independent bookshop-supporting alternative Libro.fm has a huge variety of material to listen to. Prefer your audio with visuals? Browse recorded lectures, speeches, and more. OpenCulture is a great source for speeches, while Kanopy, available to anyone with a library card, features The Great Courses, along with hundreds of documentaries that will inspire you to keep on learning.
Become a Reader (or Scroller)
As the HBR says, those who want to lead, read. Online is the place to be for incredible thought leadership. Browse for high-quality blog posts or articles in your industry, or scour Medium or Longreads for quality think pieces. Try setting up lists on Twitter featuring your top smart tweeps, and save the links they share to a reading aggregator like Pocket.
You can also go the analog route with good old paper books. (There's no better time to support your local bookshop, after all.) Now is a great time to catch up on those business books you never got a chance to read, or even some mind-expanding fiction containing lessons you'll be able to put to good use in the office.
Learn Something Useful (or Just Interesting)
Humans are innately curious. If you can manage it between the demands of your day job and the responsibilities of wrangling kids or pets, try your hand at a new skill. Apps like Duolingo or Memrise are great for learning human languages, while Google's Grasshopper is a good starting point for computer languages - and MIT's Open Courseware is great for more experienced coders. edX, FutureLearn, and Coursera are college-backed options for more structured learning, while YouTube is an incredible rabbit hole bursting with tips, tricks, and info.
While learning for its own sake is invaluable, it won't hurt to come out of quarantine with a new certificate. If you're a marketer, try getting certified in Google Analytics, Google Ads, or Hubspot. If you're in IT, level up your skills with project management or design certificate. Get strategic about it, and check what skills are in high demand in your field before committing to a certification.
It's Time to Get Learning
If you get started now, you'll be able to return to the office with a new skill or certification (or even just handy trivia knowledge) under your belt. Whether your preference is practical learning, personal development, or just personal interest, it's hard to go wrong with applying yourself to learning something new. Stay safe, be well, and get learning!