The first day of work is overwhelming for most of us — many things to learn, new people to meet, and processes to understand. If you’re lucky, you’ll have that cool colleague that will teach you everything about the office (what you can do, what you can’t do, what you’re supposed to do but no one cares if you don’t do it, etc.). Instead of competing to become the best at the office, learning from your peers at work is far more valuable. You’ll always have someone to count on when problems arise. Plus work becomes more enjoyable and fun.
I remember my first day at work. I was nervous because it was my first real job, and it was fully remote. There were many things I had to learn, and I was so nervous because I felt inexperienced. But I was fortunate enough to have great colleagues that helped me (and still do) through it all. And not only that, but I also cultivated relationships with some of them that I now consider my close friends.
5 Ways You Can Learn From Your Peers at Work
What’s the easiest way to learn a new skill? Surprisingly, not Google. We tend to Google everything but most of the time it’s easier to understand a concept if we ask the person beside us. A study conducted by Degreed revealed that 55% first ask for help from their peers - second their bosses.
Peer-to-peer learning becomes a powerful strategy at work. However, you must be careful. Not all your teammates have good intentions, and sometimes, they may interfere with your results. So, another way of learning from your peers is by understanding how to deal with toxic coworkers.
1. Don’t Be Afraid of Looking Dumb
Or, in other words: Ask questions.
Autonomy, independence, self-reliance are great traits that most leaders value in employees. If you consider yourself as someone who wants to do everything ‘’on your own’’ asking for help will seem like an impossible task for you.
However, keep in mind that while we all have strengths and feel expert in some areas, we are also simply dumb in other areas. You could be a great software developer and a terrible singer or dancer.
In the workplace, learning from our peers is about not being afraid of asking stupid questions every now and then and also asking for help when you really can’t do something.
2. Connect with Your Coworkers
Learning comes in different sizes and shapes. It's not only about interrogating your peers about a specific topic or asking for their help that you get to learn from them. It's also about connecting with them.
If you're in a virtual environment, you can connect with them in a virtual water cooler scenario and talk about things that don't have to do with work. If you go to a physical office, why not go out for lunch? Or for a beer after work?
The more you get to know your coworkers, the more you learn from them. And it's easier to build stronger relationships when you get the time to know each other. Sometimes we get so distracted with our endless to-do list and deadlines that we forget about the importance of establishing and cultivating relationships in the workplace.
3. Be Open to Criticism
Learning isn't a linear path where everything is perfect and easy. Most of the time, it involves people telling you, "Hey, you're wrong about this."
You won't learn anything from your peers at work if you think you're doing everything right. Learning requires you to acknowledge that you’re not a perfect genius and that probably the feedback given by your colleagues is because they are things and areas you need to improve.
Instead of taking it personally, be open to constructive criticism that will eventually make you a better professional. It will also help you realize those blind spots and weaknesses you need to improve.
4. Learn from Other’s Mistakes
If someone dips their hands in boiling water and screams out of pain, will you go and dip your hand to see if it's hot? Of course not!
We all make mistakes. And mistakes aren't necessarily a bad thing; they are an opportunity to help us improve. One thing that happened to me when I started working remotely was that I struggled a lot with organizing my time. I wasted time doing tasks that weren't important, and I took the time to observe my experienced coworkers and ask them how they organized their time. Many of them told me their past mistakes and took me through their journey, giving me tips like creating a work-from-home schedule, taking breaks, having time for myself, etc.
This is just an example. But observing and learning from your colleague's mistakes will help you avoid making them.
5. Embrace Different Points of View
Have you ever seen someone dressed up in the street with a weird color combination and made an instant assumption about it? It has happened to all of us in different ways. It's called having an unconscious bias where we have prejudices or unsupported judgments in favor or against a thing/person/group.
Usually, at work and overall in life, we tend to get along with people that like the same things as us, have the same hobbies, or like the same food. However, learning from your peers at work is also about embracing different points of view. Getting to know each of them and understanding their background, why they think the way they think, and being more empathetic towards diversity.
Inclusive organizations have more power than any other organization as they focus on new ideas and perspectives. If you want to learn, you need to get out of your comfort zone and ask for different opinions.
Being vulnerable and asking for help is difficult for most of us. If you're in a remote environment, you have many different options to connect with your colleagues and learn from them. From virtual water cooler activities to simple video calls, there's an infinite number of possibilities. It's all about taking the first step.
In a physical environment, the connection and interaction are easier as you're in the same place. Engage with your colleagues in casual conversations, seek their help when you're struggling with something, and don't be afraid to look dumb! These are all great ways to learn valuable things from your peers who, in most cases, will always be willing to help you succeed.