Dive on in to a New Skill

Tips for trying something new.

Wendy Ruyle 2.18.2014

Sometimes the best way to learn a new skill is to just dive in and do it. It can be a bit nerve-wracking in the beginning, but ultimately you will emerge with a working knowledge about the subject that sticks with you. Here are a few tips to keep in mind along the way.

Make it real

Use a real life project to apply a new skill. Learning on a real project ups the stakes and makes you figure things out instead of changing the deliverable to meet your skill level. Many of us have had the experience of taking a computer class using hypothetical projects to try out new software. We end up a few months later scratching our heads when we are trying to accomplish the same task and can’t remember how it’s done. Working on something real gives you an emotional attachment to it, which makes you more likely to remember the steps you took.

Practice regularly

You have to use a skill regularly to be able to remember it. Be consistent about practicing and it will become second nature that much more quickly. For example, if you are learning a new content management system (CMS) for your website, make a point to log in at least once or twice a week and perform a task. You’ll save yourself frustration, time, and money in the long run if you don’t have to pay to be retrained.

Apply and adapt

Once you’ve become proficient, change it up and use the skill again but with different parameters. Say you are working on your public speaking skills. Try them out with different audiences or in different venues. Can you speak loud enough to be heard over clinking lunch plates? Can you speak extemporaneously? Adding new challenges will keep you energized and hone your skill even more.

So go ahead and dive in. Expand your expertise, learn from your mistakes, and always strive to do it better the next time.

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