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Do not ignore on-the-job training

Glenford Smith
Career Writer

A manager was once furiously confronted by a worker who had been with the company for six years, about being bypassed in favour of a junior employee. "That's unfair! I have six years of experience. How could you promote someone else who has been here only three years?" she demanded.

The manager responded calmly, but firmly, "The truth is, you have been here six years, but you don't have six years of experience. You have one year of experience repeated six times. She actually has more experience than you; she has three years of learning, growing and mastering new skills. That's real experience."

What about you? Are you simply repeating the same experience year after year, or are you actually becoming more experienced every year? It's the difference between being a growing worker, or a 'going worker'. Here are four powerful strategies for gaining life-changing experience on the job.

Learn from Mistakes

The only person who never makes mistakes is someone who never does anything. Rather than try to hide your mistakes, learn from them and do better next time. This is what transforms mistakes into valuable experience. Management legend Peter Drucker asserts: "The better a man is, the more mistakes he will make, for the more new things he will try. I would never promote into a top-level job a man who was not making mistakes; otherwise he is sure to be mediocre."

Learn from Failures

Despite your most ardent efforts, you will sometimes fail. The patron saint of successful failures must be the great United States inventor Thomas Edison. Edison failed 10,000 times in his quest to discover a filament that could give sustained light when electricity was passed through it, without burning out. Asked how he could persist through so many failures, he responded, "I never failed; I only found 999 ways that couldn't work." The key to your success is knowing how to benefit from failure.

Learn from others

Everyone around you is a potential teacher. Your managers and senior colleagues are an awesome source of knowledge. There are things you cannot learn about succeeding at a company from books, or at school. Seasoned workers, managers, and senior executives can provide valuable access to detailed knowledge of the company culture - attitudes, values, symbols, quirks - that you would miss. Find a mentor, a wise and trusted counsellor who is willing to share these insights with you. This is one of the fastest and most effective ways to grow and empower yourself. The key is to be open and teachable, and to demonstrate a willingness to apply what you learn.

Your peers and junior colleagues also have knowledge, experience and insights different from yours. Observe, listen, and ask questions, while being willing to share and support others yourself.

Learn by going beyond

Go beyond your comfort zone and job description. Make learning and mastery your goal. Growth comes by extending beyond what you have already mastered. Embrace and support change and new initiatives.

*Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and personal achievement strategist.
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