Ask yourself a key question: Who is more interested in me learning than myself? In most professions a future employer, a guild, professional organization or even a company with certification needs wants you to learn sometime more than even you. Finding someone to sponsor, guide and give you a framework for learning is a great alternative to going at it alone. As products and specific needs in the market zoom quickly in random directions, there are shortages of experienced workers. The situation is the driving force in semi-formal training programs. These provide experience or exposure to fields which are not taught or mastered in training programs.
Academic Degree Without Specific Skills
You can learn Computer Science and Applied Mathematics in a university. But for the most part you will not come out as a programmer, architect or IT operations professional. Yet in programming, IT and many sub-specialties there is a desperate need for skilled workers. There is also a need for certified (proven skills) workers. In most fields going through a shift to digital, mobile and highly automated operation there is a shortage of skilled workers. In most fields there is also a demand for certified professionals with both formal certification and proven experience such as portfolio or project examples. In writing, editing, publishing, promotion and related technical positions (SEO, PPC, SEM, SMM) the need for real experience usually gives non-academically trained workers an advantage. The companies providing tools and services, from Microsoft and Cisco to Google and Salesforce, this has lead to both training and certification programs. Even formally trained engineers and scientists with university degrees find these programs a useful first step.
Mentors & Masters: The Personal Trainer
There are a few experienced professionals who are willing to take you on as an apprentice without a formal agreement or program. You need to seek them out and convince them you are worth the effort. Most skilled professionals have put in the time and effort to achieve their mastery. They will take you on to pass their skills. Sometimes they will take on an apprentice for altruistic reasons: just to contribute to someone’s career. Individuals like this will give you personal attention so you can push yourself as much as you want. I have seen this in marketing and programming as well as in hardware developers.
After the Learning Phase
Once we go through the learning phase, even partially, comes the practice phase. Moving from one phase to the next is difficult. So there is another way to move by combining the two. Apprenticeship and internship programs are new in the internet sector. Some large companies focus only on their core needs (Google on programming). Yet some give students and fresh graduates the opportunity to learn from experienced professionals marketing, management and business skills. Actually today, we learn and practice at the same time. But blabbing with a blog and commenting on social media sites is not enough to become a professional writer, editor or publisher. Regardless how much you know a domain area (market segment, profession or even excellent writing ability) or how strong the motivation, learning from an experience professional is valuable. The “Just Doing It” approach, as the famous Nike tag line goes, may put us at a long road of frustrating results and trial and error loops. Here is where apprentice programs can get you up and going smoothly.