You may mistakenly believe that your education ends when you graduate from high school or college, but a person who wants to be their best personally and professionally should never stop learning and growing. Education may maximize our potential to find better, more satisfying jobs, earn more and, perhaps, become more successful in our chosen career. However, ‘schooling’ is only one type of learning. There are many other opportunities to further your knowledge and develop the skills you need throughout life. Knowledge can be acquired, and skill-sets developed anywhere – learning is unavoidable and happens all the time. However, lifelong learning is about creating and maintaining a positive attitude to learning both for personal and professional development.
The world is changing at an incredibly fast pace, and your degree is unlikely to give you all the knowledge and skills you need. To develop their careers, professionals are expected to continue gaining skills and growing professionally throughout their lives. Lifelong learning is the best tool to help professionals achieve these goals.
For example, if you work with any kind of technology (which most of us do because everything is run by computers and tablets these days) you must frequently stay updated on the latest programs, gadgets, and techniques as new products come to market. Many businesses around the world are encouraging employees to develop technology skills. Most companies these days require that you have at most minimal skills in technology and some basic knowledge of computers. Those that do not have these skills often fall in the cracks on the lower employment scale.
Librarians are an example of people geared up for success and lifelong learning. Often these people continue learning by studying, reading, and referencing. Each day the librarian collects information, organizes the text, preserves the books, and continue to supply assess to the public to gain knowledge and information. This is one of the most fulfilling missions. Librarians will preserve important records of culture, which is handed down to proceeding generations. Libraries offer a stream of communication by passing along history, future, and present knowledge and information. Librarians often govern, learn, play, and work on a balanced structure.
We can learn from the librarian by building some of these qualities. Possessing these skills and qualities will inspire professional growth on a balanced scale. Experience, learning, and success go hand in hand.
What Is Lifelong Learning
Lifelong learning is the process of gaining valuable skills and knowledge throughout your life. Many individuals choose to continue their education for personal development as they see it as a way to reach their full potential, while for others it’s a great way to take their career to the next level.
Lifelong learning is a broad definition that covers any type of learning experience which can occur at any moment. It’s flexible and shaped by how each individual wants to embrace the experience. Many people find it beneficial when they are changing careers, while others find it as a great way to gain promotions.
Lifelong learners are motivated to learn and develop because they want to: it is a deliberate and voluntary act.
Lifelong learning can enhance our understanding of the world around us, provide us with more and better opportunities and improve our quality of life.
There are two main reasons for learning throughout life: for personal development and for professional development. These reasons may not necessarily be distinct as personal development can improve your employment opportunities and professional development can enable personal growth.
Learning for its own sake brings its own advantages. For example, learning in whatever context:
- Boosts our confidence and self-esteem
- Makes us more adaptable to change
- Helps us achieve a more satisfying personal life
- Challenges our ideas and beliefs
- Can be fun
Learning for Personal Development
There does not need to be a specific reason for learning since learning for the sake of learning can in itself be a rewarding experience.
There is a common view that continuous learning and having an active mind throughout life may delay or halt the progress of some forms of dementia. Keeping the brain active can prevent you from becoming bored and thus enable a more fulfilling life at any age. Anything that you are interested in provides you with an opportunity to learn more, whether it is a hobby like knitting, or a passion like love for history, or skills required for work.
There are, of course, many reasons why people learn for personal development.
- You may want to increase your knowledge or skills around a particular hobby or pastime that you enjoy.
- Perhaps you want to develop some entirely new skill that will in some way enhance your life – take a pottery, car maintenance, or cooking course, for example.
- Perhaps you want to research a medical condition or your ancestry.
- Perhaps you’re planning a trip and want to learn more about the history and culture of your destination.
- Maybe you will decide to take a degree course later in life simply because you enjoy your chosen subject and the challenges of academic study.
Learning for Professional Development
Our capacity to earn is directly related to our willingness to learn. Being well-educated is not necessarily the key to employment. Although qualifications may get you an interview, actually getting the job can take a lot more. Employers are looking for well-balanced people with transferable skills. This includes the ability to be able to demonstrate that you are keen to learn and develop.
If you do find yourself unemployed then use the time wisely. Learning something new can pay-off with new opportunities which might not otherwise have arisen.
While you are employed, take advantage of training, coaching or mentoring opportunities and work on your continuous professional development as you will likely become better at what you do and more indispensable to your current or future employer.
Putting the time in for extra learning brings its own rewards.
It means we can get more personal satisfaction from our lives and jobs as we understand more about who we are and what we do. This can lead to better results and a more rewarding working day in turn. If you choose to learn about another complementary sector, this enables opportunities to specialize and potentially earn more or move to a connected industry. In turn this gives us wider experience on which to build our knowledge and more transferable skills in readiness for your next move.
From a financial point of view, a more highly skilled and knowledgeable worker is an asset to any company and can lead to faster promotion with associated salary increases.
Someone who can offer more expertise will be of more value not just to employers but also to customers. Expertise is also, often, a key quality of an effective leader.
If you are frustrated with your job, continuing to hone your skills will make it easier to find new ways out of a potentially stressful work situation. Keeping an open mind to learning and giving yourself room for flexibility is key to job satisfaction. Furthermore, potentially staying ahead of competitors for jobs by being more experienced or knowledgeable can give you an edge.
Lifelong Learning Benefits
Continuing your education can be very beneficial for your career whether you are doing it to advance your skills or advance your career. It’s important to carefully consider what you can and would like to do because what you learn can have an enormous impact on your career.
Some of the benefits of lifelong learning include:
- Helps You Keep Your Job: Showing an interest in the latest developments in your field won’t just make you look good, it will also help convince your employer that you know what you are doing, that you can be trusted, and that you are motivated and interested in being the best in your field.
- Advances Your Skills: Technology forever changed many professions, and as technology is frequently changing, there’s always something new to learn in your field. But, there is more than technology that you can learn. Depending on what profession you are in there are also new skills, techniques, laws, etc that you can learn.
- Motivates You: Learning new things can help you regain interest in your job and can boost your self-confidence. These are essential in helping you be a more productive and happier employee.
Types of Continuing Education
Learning for professional development can be broken down into two basic categories: going back to university and online learning courses.
If you return to college you could go for your graduate degree, but if you are thinking of changing careers you might also want to consider going back for an undergraduate degree; especially if your target career requires an entirely different skillset. Most universities now offer their degrees online as well, so you could do your degree via distant learning if physically going back to school is not an option.
Online learning courses are more specific and they generally take less time to complete. Although there are hundreds of online options, if you are the type who likes to be in a classroom when learning or requires hands on learning, the online option might not work for you.
Going Back to University
Going back to university may seem like a crazy idea, especially if you are still repaying your student loans from your first time in school. But, there’s much to be gained from advancing your skills through university education.
- Increases your earning potential
- Teaches you specialist knowledge
- Enhances your sense of accomplishment
- Increases your networking opportunities
- Helps you develop personally
How to Do It
There’s a good chance that you’ll face a few obstacles with returning to school. One is the issue of funding as postgraduate degrees can be quite costly, and the other is the issue of time; gaining a degree requires dedication and energy, and if you are working full-time it can seem impossible to combine the two. But everything can be achieved with proper planning.
If funding is your biggest concern, you may want to consider talking to your employer or taking advantage of other sponsorship opportunities. If on the other hand, time is your biggest concern you might want to consider the part-time route as although it will take longer, it won’t require your constant dedication.
Online Learning Courses
Online learning courses are a great option for professionals who continuously try to improve themselves. They are less time consuming, require less commitment and can still help you advance your career.
What’s more, online classes can teach you practical skills that can directly benefit your career as you can choose what you want to learn. If you’ve identified a few areas that you are simply not up-to-date with, you can select the appropriate class to take.
- Variety of subjects
- Lower total cost
- Learning from the comfort of your own home
- More flexible schedule
- Can help you gain lots of skills and increase your career advancement opportunities
How to Do It
Online classes can be an effective solution if you don’t have the time or the money to go back to university. There are plenty of websites that offer online courses either for free or minimal fee (ex: LinkedIn Learning). They don’t require as much commitment as generally classes have a fixed time-frame and usually only take up to a few months.
Lifelong learning is a unique way to advance your skills, and it can also assist you in becoming more motivated in the workplace. It’s important for all professionals to find a way to fit lifelong learning into their lives as it’s an essential tool in every professional’s career.
Be sure to check back with us tomorrow as we continue our Leadership and Professional Growth Series. Tomorrow’s topic is Goal Setting.
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