13 years ago, content marketing didn’t really exist. Now it’s the top hiring area in the creative job market, with 25% of executives planning to grow their team this year.
If you work in content marketing, you probably know that its booming growth and ever-evolving ecosystem forces us to learn new skills quickly, and constantly be on the lookout for the next big thing. One day we’re creating pillar pages and topic clusters to please the Google gods, and then the next, we’re overhauling our entire social strategy because another Facebook algorithm update will flatten our organic reach even more than before.
That’s why adaptability is arguably the most important skill for marketers to possess. If you know how to learn how to learn and get comfortable with being uncomfortable, you’ll be the expert generalist on your team who can tackle almost any task and take on the many new challenges coming our way.
Adaptability is key to success in the digital marketing world, so read on to learn six exercises that’ll keep you learning forever, making you a marketing superstar.
How to Be More Adaptable at Work: 6 Exercises to Try
1. Read one blog post from different industry thought leaders everyday
You can learn almost anything online today. So if you want to master new skills, the quickest way to start is by reading content from industry leaders everyday. I’m an economics major at a liberal arts school, so, naturally, when I stumbled upon my first digital marketing internship, I had no idea what content marketing was. I decided to Google it, and that’s when I found HubSpot’s marketing blog.
Two years later, after reading blog posts about the digital marketing industry everyday, I learned enough skills to land an inbound marketing internship at HubSpot. I’m lucky enough to be returning to HubSpot as a junior staff writer, and I owe it all to my habit of reading one marketing blog post everyday for the last two and half years.
If you just take one hour out of your day to learn something new, you can eventually master it in the long-run. My story is proof.
2. Read books outside of your core discipline.
Reading is one of the best ways to grasp new concepts and ideas. And the reason why Elon Musk is the most adaptable executive on the planet is because he reads -- a lot. When he was a teenager, Musk would read two books a day in various disciplines like science fiction, philosophy, religion, programming, science, engineering, and entrepreneurship. That’s 730 books a year.
When he got older, his reading genres spanned to physics, product design, business, technology, and energy. His hunger for knowledge and voracious reading habits exposed him to information that he never learned in school. And he applied concepts from each disciple to each other, crystallizing every discipline in his mind. This enables him to run wildly successful companies in five different industries.
You don’t have to finish two books per day to reach peak adaptability, but it’s important to consistently read and learn new things. If you discipline yourself, you can read one book per week. And it’ll only take you 45 minutes each day.
3. Shadow colleagues on other teams.
One of the best ways to immerse yourself in a new discipline is by going into the field and seeing what your colleagues actually do. You’ll learn what skills they use and how they use them to produce excellent work.
You’ll also learn if you’re actually interested in working for that team, which can help you get a head start on learning the skills required for a job. Shadowing other teams also helps you understand how each department affects each other and needs to work together to achieve company goals. This’ll help you improve your team’s collaboration efforts with others too.
4. Take classes.
It’s simple: if you want to hone a certain skill, you need to put in the reps. Classes have a distinct advantage over reading and shadowing -- not only do you have to learn new material, but you have to apply your learnings to real world situations. Practicing something is always a better teacher than just thinking about how to do it. Real world application better solidifies your grasp of new learnings and teaches you even more about the subject.
For instance, if you want to hone your Excel skills, you could spend all your time reading and acquiring as much knowledge as possible on the subject, which will improve your skills. But doing an excel project that covers the same concepts as your reading will force you to actually operate excel and apply your learnings to a real case. Through your practice, you’ll also learn even more about excel, which will further enhance your skills.
To successfully learn new skills, you usually need two traits: 1) an optimistic outlook on life that drives a strong belief in yourself, and 2) mental ability that allows you to learn new skills.
Meditation can develop both traits. Studies show that people who meditated for 30-60 minutes everyday for 8 weeks had increased grey matter density in their hippocampus, which boosts learning and memory capabilities, and decreased grey matter density in the amygdala, which lowers anxiety and fear of psychological threats, like failure and rejection. These people also experienced more optimistic thoughts and less intrusive, negative thoughts.
By meditating consistently, you can rewire your brain to boost your self-confidence and believe that you will succeed in mastering new skills, curb the negative thoughts and fear of failure that can cripple you from trying new things, and sharpen your mental acuity enough to actually learn new skills.
6. When you get the opportunity, travel.
Not only is traveling fun and exciting, but it can also help you grow into a more adaptable worker. According to Psychology Today, traveling pushes you out of your comfort zone. And to adapt to your new environment, you need to engage with new people and cultural practices. This make you more open to new experiences, which increases your willingness to try new things in the future.
Traveling also improves your brain’s reaction to change. When you travel, the stress of navigating a novel and complex place sprouts dendrites in your brain. These dangling extensions increase your brain’s capacity and attentiveness in future situations that are new and challenging.
In a nutshell, traveling strengthens your desire and ability to learn new skills.