According to Inside Higher Ed, “’State of the art’ is changing month by month in many fields. Not only are technologies changing, but applications are proliferating, industries are emerging, new consumer markets are sprouting and the road map for the future is clear only for the near term.”
That’s why upskilling, continuing education, and other forms of lifelong learning are so important. With the way technology is advancing, you can’t graduate high school or college and expect to stay current on everything you need to know for your future career.
Pierre Vandergheynst and Isabelle Voneche in an article for Aeon (and republished by Fast Company) posit the idea that universities and other institutions should invest in the new realities of lifelong learning by subsidizing or at least aiding the workforce with reskilling, upskilling or continuing education. “Universities must realize that learning in your 20s won’t be enough. If technological diffusion and implementation develop faster, workers will have to constantly refresh their skills,” Vandergheynst and Voneche argue.
In my role in marketing, I am constantly pursuing new avenues to do my job better. From watching informational videos on social media strategy to earning a certification from Google, I am often exploring new things for my job. So, how do you learn to embrace a way of life where learning happens continuously through school, your career, and beyond. There are several strategies to embrace a continuous learning mindset. Here are my top 5:
Don’t be afraid of a challenge. This is probably THE most important tip I can give. Nothing encourages you to learn a new skill like tackling a new challenge or taking on a project with skills you don’t already have in your toolbelt. So many of us shy away from projects involving new skills but if you keep an open mind and you have a supportive team, then you can accomplish new things! If you work in an industry that’s stagnant and you want a reason to adopt new skills, consider volunteering or taking a freelance gig that will introduce you to learning opportunities. Or use your continuing education mindset to learn a new skill or hobby. Part of the reason this works so well is that it forces you to commit to a new skill to accomplish your goals. Just be sure to choose skills that align with your current knowledge level. For example, it may not be wise to don’t to learning a programming language if you haven’t yet mastered replying to email. Otherwise, you might be setting yourself up for failure.
Stay focused. According to John Boitnott for Inc.com, “The human brain possesses amazing computing abilities, but, like all processors, it can only do so much. To maximize learning time, prioritize what goals you have in learning and knock those out first before moving on to others. I have found this to be true in my own life. When learning a new skill, it helps to maintain an extended focus on that skill as much as possible. It gives your brain the time and energy to adopt that skill more fully so your better able to incorporate it into future projects. In other words, you’ll have a long-term skill you retain rather than just a skill you perform for the project at hand and then forget it for the future.
Make a SMART Plan. You have probably heard various theories around goal setting and achievement. There’s so much information floating around because it’s universally important no matter where you are or where you want to go in life. Achieving goals around your education are no different. To make it a priority, it’s best to establish it as a goal and make a concreate plan to Get. It. Done. When dealing with larger, more unwieldy or ambiguous goals like “continue my education” it can be helpful to use SMART goal setting techniques to quantify and map out your goals. Here’s how it works:
SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Bound. It’s a well-established system for goal setting in a clear and actionable way. First, you need to make your educational goal Specific. According to Kat Boogaard for software company, Atlassian’s blog. “A specific goal answers questions like: What objective needs to be accomplished?” When thinking through your specific goal, it’s best to work through the details so you can be specific enough to really get a handle on your goal.
Next, make sure your goal is Measurable. That means it must be something that can be quantified. If you’re going for a certification, that’s easy. Earning the certification is a way to measure whether you’ve achieved your goal. If your goal is something around learning management skills it could be a little more difficult to quantify. But, maybe there is a management course you could take or a certain number of management books you could read. Think of a way you can make your goal measurable so you can easily chart your progress towards completion.
Achievable. “This is the point in the process when you give yourself a serious reality check,” says Boogaard. “Is the goal you’ve outlined attainable?” Don’t give yourself an impossible task or set yourself up for failure.
Relevant. Be sure the goal you choose has real world implications. It’s best if you pick something that you can use or that helps you in your work or in your personal life. Those are the goals you’re most likely to stick with and achieve in the long run.
Time bound. Give yourself a deadline. This works best if it’s an external deadline (which, of course, you’re more likely to stick to). But, if there really is no external deadline you can create, then create a self-imposed limit. It helps you to map out your time and give yourself some parameters to work within.
Regard it as an investment. An investment in continuing your education is an investment in yourself. Whether it’s a certificate, learning a new skill or getting a degree online, taking time to further your education is a wonderful way to gain confidence, learn new skills, further your career and just maybe make more money. So, regard education as the investment it is! Are you looking to invest in college courses? Then Accelerated Pathways can help! Learn more about how we supply personal degree pathways and student advising for online college.
Reward Yourself. Taking the time to learn something new, while rewarding in its own right, still requires a level of dedication that isn’t always present in our day-to-day life. So, celebrate little milestones and small wins along the way. Go for pizza, take an afternoon at the pool, or do something else to reward yourself for a job well done. Try to program time to reward yourself for that 5-hour study session. Or take a day off family or work obligations after a certification course. You deserve to celebrate the big wins and the little wins too!
A mindset of continuous learning is growing essential to staying ahead in many industries. By adopting these practices, you can learn new skills, keep your brain sharp, and set yourself up for future success.
Mariel is a writer, content strategist and marketer. Besides educational topics, she's also covered content on consumer trends, healthcare and wellness. Mariel has a knack for booking cheap travel and when she's not working, you just might find her searching for the best flights to Europe.