It sounds stupid telling someone you’re learning how to learn. But I believe this is an underappreciated skill and one that I am actively and aggressively trying to get better at.

Just like any fresh graduate thrown out into the “real world”, we’re a clean slate with endless possibilities on where to take our careers. And regardless of which field we ultimately decide to enter, learning how to learn is something that is absolutely essential if you want to be faster than the rest.

Learning how to learn and being the fastest to execute those learnings will let you travel faster.

Starting off my career in an E-commerce startup and hired to do “regional expansion stuff”, I have transitioned many times into new and challending roles. Yes, it may sound like a very millenial thing to do but in a startup, wearing multiple hats is a common thing and one gets assigned to where he/she is needed the most. And along the way, I have developed (through the help of mentors) my own way of learning when thrusted into a new and challenging fields. In general, I think there are 2 kinds of learnings at the start of one’s career.

Industry-specific Learning

How do you learn about the industry? That question transalates to how can you become better than 90% of outsiders in terms of understanding the backend of a particular company operating in a particular industry.

One can read industry news, subscribe to leading publications, or talk to industry leaders but it’s actually doing real world projects related to that particular industry that gets maximum exposure to all aspects of the business.

By chance, I started a table tennis online store that’s with backing by a family business (meaning I got a head start with inventory and logistics) as well as a lifting equipment store built from scratch. Building up those 2 stores made me understand the core features that fellow merchants would care about as well as the painpoints specific to an E-commerce business. Although aggressively consuming industry reports or news can also get one to that stage of understanding about the industry, doing real world projects is the easiest way to quickly and deeply learn about that industry.

Channel-specific Learning

I call the second type of learning channel-speccific learning since I was deeply exposed to online marketing channels. It means picking up the hard skills or tools that will help you succeed in the industry that you’re in. Quite different from industry-specific learning, channel-specific learning is all about the hard skillsets that will allow you to do your job in the industry.

For someone into E-commerce, channel-specific learning will be on channels such as seargh engine marketing, social media marketing, analytics, coversion rate optimization, etc. These are the specific hard skills that will help me in building a profitable e-commerce store.

And what’s the best way to learn channel-specific skills? Reading and doing. The iterative process of going through “reading and doing” is the single best way for me to quickly pick up the skill and get from 0 to 1. Every time I get assigned to a new channel to help out with, first thing I do is google the most authoritative books and figures on that subject. Then I will devour those books and it literally becomes my top priority for that period of time.

Connecting that iterative learning flow to a startup, since a lot of things are not yet built out, it reqires one to build things from 0 to 1 quickly and effectively. The mindset I adopted is:

Learn > Craft Plan > Execute > Review > Revise & Optimize

That’s literally how we built SHOPLINE’s content marketing and SEO channels.

  1. Learn as much as possible about content marketing and SEO during spare time
  2. Craft out a plan specific to SHOPLINE
  3. Set a quarterly goal and execute
  4. Review results at the end of the quarter
  5. Revise the strategy and optimize.

I’m quite certain there are other ways and processes in “learning” that are more efficient and effective than the process I subscribe to. But this is something that worked truly well for me and one that fits my personality particular circumstances.

Aside from subscribing to the best blogs in each space, here are some of the books I consumed before planning for a new marketing channel:

Search Engine Optimization:

  • SEO 2017: Learn search engine optimization with smart internet marketing strategies
  • How Google Works

Content Marketing:

  • Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less
  • Email Persuasion: Captivate and Engage Your Audience, Build Authority and Generate More Sales With Email Marketing
  • On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
  • Content Inc.: How Entrepreneurs Use Content to Build Massive Audiences and Create Radically Successful Businesses