width=250Congratulations, you've done it! You landed your first job. You bought new clothes, printed some business cards, and even decorated your cubicle. But, what comes next? No matter how excited you are for that first paycheck, it's important to keep learning beyond what's required in your job description. Here's how:

1. Find a mentor: Sometimes, the best resources are sitting in a desk nearby. Reach out to a new co-worker(s) and find out their story. At one point, they were sitting where you are now and probably have a few tips to pass on. Also, it doesn't help to make friends!

2. Volunteer: Offer your services to nonprofits in your area. Reaching out not only makes you feel good, but can help you learn how to solve new problems you haven't faced yet. It can also help you generate ideas for your day job!

3. Take advantage of company discounts: Sometimes companies offer discounts to industry publications and professional associations to help you stay involved with and up-to-date about your profession. Find out if your company offers any and subscribe to/join your favorites to stay in the loop.

4. Join LinkedIn groups and Twitter chats: LinkedIn and Twitter have endless opportunities to keep you learning. On LinkedIn, find a few groups you like and tune into news items and discussions. On Twitter, use Web sites like hashtags.org to find live discussions going on about your area of interest. This will help you reach people outside of your network and connect with new and experienced professionals.

5. Set up Google alerts: Think of subjects concerned with your profession you'd like to know more about and set up alerts for the latest news. This will help you stay up-to-date on your areas of interest without having to sort through multiple Web sites yourself.

6. Stay humble: Don't think just because you've finally landed your dream job you can call yourself an expert. No matter what industry you are in, there is always so much more to learn. Stay open-minded, and you'll be surprised how many opportunities come your way.

But why?

When you're in the middle of learning the ropes of your new employer, outside learning can fall to the wayside. It may seem understandable while you get acclimated, but it can really do a disservice to your future career goals.

  • It may not be Scantron, but at some point you'll definitely be tested again. If you go to a company mixer or a conference, your peers will be talking about unfolding events. You need to have something to bring to the table, whether or not you're sitting at your desk. Continuing to learn will help you feel confident about your contributions.
  • It's not your manager's responsibility to teach you everything you'll ever learn about your industry. Your manager will teach you a lot while you are under his or her supervision, but you can't rely on them for everything. Take the initiative to learn more, and you will undoubtedly impress your employer.
  • You'll improve the skills you already had and gain a few more. No doubt everyone could use a little improvement. By continuing to learn, you can add new skills to your basket and you can sharpen the ones you already had. It will give you much more reason to tout those skills when you need to.
  • Don't be 'that guy.' You know the type. The know-it-all who is actually really outdated. If you aren't continuing to learn with the rest of us, your peers and managers won't have confidence in your input.
  • Stay out of the dark. You don't want to be caught off guard by news in your industry that could affect your job status.

The very beginning of your career is the perfect time to get in the habit of staying in tune with your industry so you aren't facing a mountain of information later. Congratulations on your new beginning and good luck!