I’ve just finished listening to a series of webinars as part of an online community of Women Entrepreneurs. As I listened and watched, I took notes on how I can improve, ideas I need to investigate further and action I need to take. This led me to think about how varied and self-paced my personal and professional development is. More importantly, how critical continual education is for challenging yourself and greater innovation.

Whatever your career path or industry, irrespective of your role, improving your knowledge base is key to progressing to the ‘next level’. The next level for you could be a new position in the company you work for, or greater success in your own business. It could be your opportunity to shine above your peers.

So how do you improve your knowledge base, test yourself and grow. Remembering that people learn at different speeds and in varied ways, here are my top 9 ways I like to learn.

1. Books. A traditional means to growing your knowledge base. There are so many wonderful business books these days on a variety of subjects that you will always find a resource on the topic you are looking to grow your knowledge with.
Learning from books can be inexpensive, particularly if you borrow from friends or your local library. Don’t forget eBooks from your favourite industry specialists.

Related: Book Review, Ready to Soar by Naomi Simson
Related: 10 Business books you should read this Summer

2. Articles. Blog posts and published articles are great ways to digest great content in bite size chunks. Just like this article, you can find valuable publications on every topic you can imagine via social media, newsletters or just by searching online. Although these articles are shorter than books, they can be just as helpful.

3. Workshops & Seminars. Face-to-Face conferences, workshops and seminars are great ways to increase your knowledge. Take care to review the speakers or presenters and the topics they will be sharing, but generally speaking, you will find valuable lessons from experts in their field. An additional benefit of face-to-face events is the opportunity to network at the same time.

Related: 8 tips Sir Richard Branson told me!

4. Online Summits & Seminars. Along the same lines as face to face seminars, but with the additional benefit of participating and learning from your own home, often at a time that suits you. Stay in touch with experts in your industry or topic of interest and register when they host an online event. As a member of IVAA, I have twice participated in their Online Summit. While the time zone doesn’t match well, the recordings are still valuable.

5. Podcasts. Podcasts are generally interviews or conversations that have been recorded and can be accessed at a time convenient to you. Topics, presenters and interviewees vary, but if you are keen to maximise your time, podcasts can be great to listen to when exercising or travelling.

My favourite podcasts are

· herBusiness – Insights for Women in Business. Suzi Dafnis interviews well known and successful business women (and sometimes men).

· Mamamia, I don’t know how she does it! This is sometimes hilarious, but always insightful looks into busy “Mumpreneurs” and how they juggle kids, business and everything else that makes them tick.

· The Honest CEO Show. Caroline Kennedy interviews some successful business owners and entrepreneurs who share their knowledge with the listeners.

6. Networking. People often think of networking as an opportunity to add to their collection of connections or worse – a chance to sell their business/product or service. Really, the true benefit in networking is building relationships and learning. If you are walking into networking event looking to sell or collect business cards, it’s time you changed your mindset. Ask other attendees about their business, talk to them genuinely and I guarantee you will learn something new – a small tip, better perspective or something more valuable.

Related: 7 tips to improve your Networking

7. Mastermind Groups. Mastermind groups are a wonderful way to informally grow your knowledge and overcome hurdles in your business. Think about bouncing your problem or idea to a handful of respected, trusted and motivated business professionals who have a wealth of experience that you can tap into.

Related: Mastermind Group; More than a Networking Group!

8. Mentoring or Coaching. While the difference between the two is obvious, being coached or mentored by someone who has achieved the results you are looking for, makes sense. A coach will guide you, strategize and challenge you to better success. They will teach you skills to move you to the next level, where as a mentor will guide you based on their own experience. Both are valuable to your development, perhaps at different stages in your career or business progression.

9. Watch TV. I don’t mean the Bachelor or the Block. Instead programs such as Shark Tank and Kochies Business Builder are great programs that share tips, story and ideas that can help shape greater success in your business. Again, it is an opportunity to learn from experts in their field.

Related: Why you should be watching Shark Tank!

I believe innovation is a direct result of applying a new perspective, skill or greater knowledge. When you reflect on your new knowledge, consider how it can be applied to your own circumstances and wonderful things begin to unfold.

So, no matter your preferred method of personal & professional growth, there are opportunities every day to learn new skills and challenge yourself to become a better business owner, leader or team member.

It’s up to you how.

By Sam SpenceFounder & Principal Executive Assistant, Executive Virtual Associate.

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