If you've ever had the desire to learn a new skill, then you've likely given some thought to taking a course or going back to school. Depending on what you're interested in learning, these courses can be rather expensive. Sometimes the price tag can even be enough of a deterrent to keep you from ever pursuing your dreams.
There might be a cheaper way though. You might be able to find someone who will pay you while you learn!
Have you ever got a helping hand or a piece of advice from someone who knew a surprising amount about an unexpected topic? Maybe a friend helped you to put in a new walkway or prune a tree. Maybe a relative gave you some tips on how to set up a bookkeeping system for your new business. It could be anything.
Then, when you asked them where they learned so much, they responded, "Oh, I worked for a landscaping company for a summer in school," or "I used to help my mom do the books for her company on the weekends to make some extra money." Most of the time, this is enough to establish the person as a credible assistant or mentor.
No expensive courses. No long hours studying. These people learned by just doing a job and getting paid.
There is nothing quite like being confronted with a task and having to tackle it from beginning to end on your own. All the subtleties and nebulous aspects of a project become immediately obvious when you try to do it with your own hands. And there is nothing quite like making a mistake to teach you not to do something a second time.
We can even learn a lot just by being exposed to something. If you are just mowing lawns for a landscaping company, you'll likely also learn a lot about pruning, hardscaping and running a landscaping business. You'll be around people who are experts at what they do. You'll see how they do things and what problems they have to solve. You'll learn the industry jargon and you'll meet people who know a lot about the subject.
All this just by being exposed to something new and interesting - and of course, getting paid.
So how do we get this kind of experience? Get a job working in the industry which you want to learn more about. The closer you can get to the action the better. Easier said than done, right? Yes, maybe. But not impossible.
A lot of jobs require some previous experience or some related formal education as a prerequisite. However, a lot of times you can get an "entry level" or similar position with little more than a strong interest and some good references.
If you want to learn about carpentry, see if you can get a job with a construction company that is looking for some extra manpower. If you are interested in making your own pottery, look into a part-time job with a local artisan. If you can get an interview or even if you can get the person in charge of hiring on the phone, showing a strong interest in a subject can count for a lot.
You might not - and probably won't - get paid as much as someone with a lot of previous experience but you will be getting paid, and you'll have direct access to other people who are experts in the field. That alone is worth a lot!
The biggest benefit of finding a job in a field that you want to learn more about is the effect on your cash flow.
Not only are you not spending a lot of money to learn something, you're getting paid! Let's say a course on basic bookkeeping costs $1000. You could instead get a part-time job doing data entry at an accounting firm earning $8 per hour. After a couple of months you'll have earned $1000, made some contacts and learned the basics. That's a $2000 turnaround - $1000 saved plus $1000 earned.
Now that you've got a basic idea of how bookkeeping works, you can decide whether you want to pursue that course after all. Only now, you've earned the $1000 to cover the cost of the course. As an added bonus you'll have some experience in the field which will give you a nice head start and will help you get a lot more out of the classes.
So take a look at some of the areas that interest you to see if any would be good candidates for a get-paid-to-learn-by-doing approach. As long as you aren't looking to get into something like surgery, you might be able to find someone willing to pay you to learn.
If you've got any ideas of fields that would be especially suited to a learn-on-the-job approach leave a comment to let everyone know.