If there’s one thing that you need to start investing in for the sake of your career (and even for your quality of life), it’s lifelong learning. It may seem obvious, but lifelong learning is rarely considered by most because it sounds like it takes a lot of additional time and energy. When you’re off the clock, you want to be off the clock, right? You don’t want to continue to work or study for the sake of your employer.
However, the fact is that not only is lifelong learning the best way you can invest in your career, but it can also be incredibly rewarding for you personally. Most who are daunted by the concept of lifelong learning are thinking of being forced to learn topics they didn’t care for by an uninspired and generalized system that doesn’t make learning fun.
Learning can be a lot of fun, but only when you’re interested. The good news is that, simply by investing time and energy into what you find interesting, you can actually direct your career into a role that lets you focus on those interests and passions.
You aren’t shackled by what you learn on the job. You can take your career into your own hands. Sometimes you may want to focus on topics you’re interested in just because you find them fun and exciting. Other times you may want to invest in training for the sake of your career because you believe the bottom line is worthwhile.
What is Lifelong Learning?
Lifelong learning is an approach that puts curiosity at the forefront of everything that you do. How you learn should be varied, and it shouldn’t solely be about furthering your career. You can learn by watching documentaries, listening to podcasts, reading, going to museums, and so on. People learn every day, but lifelong learning is taking an active approach to seeking out information. Sometimes people do it for the joy of it, while others like doing it to further expertise in careers. Mixing it up and finding a balance is essential to feel fulfilled in your personal life and your job.
How Can Lifelong Learning Help Your Career?
Lifelong learning can help your career in so many ways, and not all of the benefits will immediately be obvious. This is because soft skills can be hard to qualify, and yet they end up being the most valuable skills of all. If you can think creatively out of the box to come up with unique and effective solutions to the problem at hand, this is going to be far more valuable than someone who uses the same strategies they were taught because they don’t know how to do anything differently.
It Keeps Your Knowledge at the Forefront of the Field
If you invest in staying updated on the latest news, theories, and trends going on in your industry, you’re already doing so much for the sake of your career. Being knowledgeable and also being able to communicate that knowledge to employees, clients, and even coworkers does wonders. You want to know what you’re talking about and be able to communicate confidently to others about your role, the industry as a whole, and your ideas.
It Expands Your Idea Baseline
You cannot imagine a color you have never seen. You don’t have the baseline information to create new information without linking it to ideas you’ve had or things that you have seen. That’s why it’s important to learn. By learning, especially from a wide range of sources, you expand your baseline knowledge. This will help you think more outside of the box, come up with unique solutions, and in general, be able to think more critically about the bigger picture. If you shelter your knowledge, you are blocking yourself from coming up with better solutions in the future.
This is why it’s important to not just learn about your industry. Learn about anything and everything. If you watch a history documentary about a different culture, you’ll know more about the world and how it works than you did before. You can then use that information, even tangentially, to inspire better, more inclusive ideas and strategies.
It Helps You Take Charge of Your Career
There is only so much you can learn on the job. In fact, most opportunities to learn on the job start and finish with teaching you how to do that single job alone. If you want to learn and prepare yourself for a different role, then you should never rely on your employer alone. They don’t have to let you train in a new field or let you shadow those in a different department. These are great perks, but they’re not guarantees.
Your learning and training are not solely in the hands of your employer. You can learn elsewhere and then use that knowledge to help you get new and exciting jobs. You can even start your own career.
There are more ways to prove your skillset to potential employers or even investors than just your work experience. Showing that you take an active role in expanding your knowledge and skillset is a great way to really prove your initiative and passion for your field. While not every employer will recognize the value in that, those who do are better for your career advancement.
It Helps You Easily Evolve Your Approach
Many professionals struggled with the advent of the Internet when it first arrived. There are still workers today who struggle to use computers efficiently. As a result, their value in their company has diminished. You need to be adaptable and flexible in your career to roll with innovation and embrace it. When you constantly challenge your knowledge and skills by learning even just a little every day, you keep your mind sharp. You’ll likely find that it’s easier to pick up on skills and embrace new ways of thinking and doing than your peers. This is because you’ve trained your brain to accept new information and be happy to adapt. You’ve taught yourself that learning is a great, exciting thing and that you can change when needed. Having that baseline alone can help you stay at the forefront of your field, even later on in life.
How to Adopt a Lifelong Learning Approach
Lifelong learning is a way of life. Though you don’t need to learn something new every day, you should honestly try. You don’t have to actively learn in order to come away with a new perspective in life. Going on a different route to work can help you learn more about the city you live in and what’s in it. Talking to others and asking more about them can help you learn more about people as a whole. Watching, listening, and engaging is how you get out of your fixed box and start to see the wider world.
That being said, there are certainly some approaches toward lifelong learning that will help your career more than others. If your goal is to give your career a big boost, then use these methods starting today:
Earn a Degree
If there are hard skills that you want to add to your repertoire as fast and efficiently as possible, then look at earning a degree. Not only can a degree help you by expanding your skillset, but it can also be the go-to tool if you want to make a career change. Sometimes you may end up making a career change without even noticing it. For example, if you work as a manager and earn a degree that gives you a foundation in data analysis, then you may end up seeing more opportunities working as a consultant than in management.
These are natural changes and nothing to worry about. In fact, they showcase just how valuable a degree can be when it comes to expanding your options.
There are some degrees that are almost universally helpful, regardless of the industry you work in. That data analysis example is one of them. When you learn more about the online MSBA, you start to realize that it’s a master’s degree option for everyone. The world is built on data, and everything people do nowadays is quantified in one way or another. With an MSBA, you’ll learn how to collect, organize, and analyze data so that you can draw meaningful conclusions from it. This way, you can help make better business decisions.
Degrees like this teach you valuable skills that can be applied in many different ways. Ignoring data and trying things blind is expensive, and how companies fail. If you know how to analyze data, then you can solve problems better, no matter the context.
You’ll want to look into master’s programs rather than earn a second undergrade because master’s programs are often designed with professionals in mind. They tend to be more career-focused. They also take far less time to complete. With the rise in online education, more professionals are turning to degrees to retrain or expand their expertise.
If you aren’t reading often, it’s time to start. Technically, you don’t even need to physically read to do it. If you are someone who finds it difficult to sit still and read through a document, try audiobooks, podcasts, video talks, and even using text-to-speak tools so that you can learn on the go. Opening up your “reading” to listening can be incredibly freeing for many.
The point isn’t how you consume the information but that you consume it. You’ll want to stay updated on the news, on the latest trends and ideas, and with industry reports. So many smart and talented people are giving away great ideas for next to nothing.
Buy those big industry reports and subscribe to an industry-specific magazine or news publication. Keep abreast of any academic journals that apply to your job role or industry. There are so many different ways that you can learn and boost your career. You will be grateful that you take the time to do this in time to come.
There will be industry-relevant events near you. If you’re in a large city, don’t be surprised if there’s something you could benefit from attending every week. Universities and museums host talks and lectures (often for free), organizations put together panels and workshops, and, of course, there are big conferences that people from all over the country, if not the world, will travel to attend.
Not only is attending these events a great place to learn and really engage with the discourse of the day, but it’s also how you can meet and get to know the leading thought leaders in your industry. If you’ve been seeking a mentor, what better place to network and find a potential option?
Put Your Own Ideas Out There
You are not a vacuum. You’ll have your own opinions and ideas, and the best way to workshop these ideas is to put them out there. You can do this on your own website or by even trying to get your work published. If you’re a working professional, then write something. To increase your chances of getting it published, you may want to hire a freelance editor to go over it with you or to have some coworkers help you.
Either way, it doesn’t hurt to put your own thoughts forward. Not only can this help you by putting your own thoughts forward for debate, but it can also actually help you establish your name as a leading expert in your field. If you stick with this, you may even be invited as a guest speaker or panelist.
In some cases, you may even be able to transition your career to focus entirely on this angle. Instead of working for someone else, you’ll find yourself working as a speaker and consultant.
Regardless of how your career takes off, know that learning is going to help. It will give you new ideas to work with and the experience (and network) necessary to really make your career your own.