I attended a professional conference a few weeks ago, and it was invigorating to learn from experts and peers in the areas of editing, writing, and design. An in-person conference is a great way to boost skills! Magazine Training International offers in-person conferences periodically. The next MTI conference is in French, in Côte d’Ivoire.
How can you keep learning on a continuous basis, even if you can’t attend an in-person conference?
Asking questions is a great way to keep learning new skills and techniques. Questions can be directed to people you know in your field, but don’t overlook the power of on-line questions. Through social media and commenting on blogs, you can ask questions of people you don’t know personally.
Several years ago, I was having lunch with an editor at another organization and we started talking about tools for creating memes. I was a novice at this skill and my first few attempts looked terrible. She mentioned that she liked the tool – PicMonkey (www.picmonkey.com) – which I had never used. After our lunch, I went online and tried it out. I learned a new skill. Since then, I’ve used a combination of PicMonkey and Canva (www.canva.com) for quick images to use on social media. While I may have eventually stumbled onto these tools, being open to asking questions and listening for new ways of working helped me learn.
If you aren’t physically close enough to go to lunch with a colleague, you can ask questions on social media or by commenting on blogs. Follow people in your profession and have them serve as virtual mentors, learning from their experience and interacting with their content.
Online courses and webinars offer inexpensive or even free training that is targeted to particular topics. Magazine Training International offers current courses and a library of past courses. Many other organizations offer such training.
The Poynter Institute has a News University that offers webinars on a variety of topics. Some courses have a fee for the training, but there are usually several free classes in their schedule. Check out the current listing at https://www.poynter.org/newsu/. In April 2019, the course offerings included a free 90-minute course on fact checking. https://www.poynter.org/shop/fact-checking/handson-factchecking/.
Many sites offer free social media training, although the quality of the training varies greatly. As you engage with such free courses, you will notice that some are focused mostly on selling something to you after you have finished the free course. I would suggest caution in paying for such content unless you are sure of the reputation of the source of the training.
Schedule Learning Time
Intentionality is key to continuous learning! Sometimes we learn new skills “accidently” by stumbling onto new information. But developing a lifelong habit of learning means that you are investing regular time in your skills. Whether you schedule learning time once a month, once a quarter, or once a year, put it on your calendar. Develop a list of topics that interest you and would be helpful for your professional growth. Then search out resources and make the time to invest in your growth.
Professionals who have been on the job for years are still learning, because what makes them great is their openness to new ideas, new ways of work, new technologies and new media.
When Michelangelo was 87 years old, he is reported to have said, “Ancora imparo” which means “I’m still learning.” (Fact-checking note: Some scholars dispute whether or not he actually said this.) I would love to be able to say that I’m still learning, for as many years as I have life and breath.
By Carla Foote, Fine Print Editorial