Everyone pursuing a career knows how important it is to progress at a steady pace. When thinking of what you may or may not need to do to help you move up the ladder in your chosen field, there is one important question you must continuously ask yourself: what are employers looking out for? What are those skills which they place a high premium on?

The market place values and seeks people who are self-starters. That is, people who do not always wait to be told what to do. This highly valued trait usually leads to success in business and in the work place. These people are called Independent Learners.

What makes Independent Learners so valuable?

As an employee, you will often be required to handle some responsibilities on your own. How successful you are in handling those tasks will often have a bearing on your integration into the organization as well as your overall success in the workplace.

To develop yourself as an independent learner, you will have to develop three important traits which are: ability to motivate yourself to learn continuously, ability to manage your learning process, and ability to reflect upon, and apply what you have learned.

You are probably familiar with the feeling of satisfaction that comes from the successful completion of a task. If you reflect on the tasks you have succeeded at, you might notice that there were certain methods or strategies you employed that ensured your success. It is important that you identify what these strategies were and be ready to acquire some new ones.

The first lesson to note in developing oneself as an independent learner is to remember that you are ultimately responsible for your own learning. Often times, the independent learner assumes greater responsibility for his or her own learning compared to the dependent learner who mostly sees learning as a means to an end and does just the barest minimum required.

If you choose to undertake a task, set challenging, yet attainable goals. One of the major setbacks faced whenever a task or project has to be undertaken is setting goals that are not feasible. Be realistic about your current abilities with a view to improving on them. Note that your supervisor or manager may tell you the goals you are required to achieve, but they do not necessarily have to tell you how to go about achieving them.

Often when faced with difficult or challenging tasks, the natural reaction for most people is to put it off for as long as possible. This is because people usually see work as cumbersome, thus procrastination sets in. When you find yourself shirking responsibilities and leaving things to the last minute, it is time to confront those responsibilities.

One of the most effective strategies you could use to develop your ability to learn independently is proper time management. At the most basic level, time management involves analysing the job you have to do and how you will perform within a given period. However, proper time management goes beyond focusing on one single task. Remember that while you are at work, your attention will be drawn to many different issues, some urgent and some not so urgent. It is important that you develop a way of allocating time between different tasks.

Different people have different ways by which they learn. Some people learn better by watching or listening to audio/visuals, others learn better by reading text, some by working closely with other people. Becoming an effective independent learner entails understanding the peculiar way through which you derive optimum learning experience. Knowing what works best for you ensure that you absorb the most information in the shortest possible time.

What Type of IL are You?

There are four different types of learners. They are: activists, reflectors, theorists, and pragmatists. The activists learn best on high visibility task such as giving presentations and leading discussions. They also enjoy short-term tasks that involve problem-solving and competitive team work. They always look forward to new experience and challenges. The reflectors on the other hand learn best by engaging in a lot of thinking and pondering. They also carry out careful and detailed research through which the produce carefully developed analyses and reports. In addition, they enjoy making decision without pressures of deadlines and tight schedules. In contrast, the theorists learn best while being intellectually stretched. They enjoy being able to question and probe the basic methodology of task they are involved in and always want to know the why of whatever they are involved in. Lastly, the pragmatists learn best when there is a connection between what is being learned and real-life problems. They always seek for immediate opportunities to apply what is learned.

In conclusion, understanding how you learn is important as it can affect the quality of the work you produce, your job satisfaction, and ultimately the type of career you choose.