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Be in learning mode throughout career and personal life

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It is common to come across in the workplace, especially when it concerns career development, the terms “lifelong learning,” continuous learning” and perhaps a “passion for learning” as requirements for individual success.

But what does this really mean? And why now?

Notions such as continuous learning weren’t a part of the lexicon in the workplace of earlier generations, but since the 1980s it appears more and more frequently. The need for continuous learning is now considered a given.

Emerging ideas, technology and the overall rapid pace of change mean that a person’s current total knowledge has a very short half-life.

Keeping up means keeping current of just about everything that will make you as an individual contributor a commodity worth retaining by your employer or attractive to a new suitor.

How many people will have the same job, utilizing the same processes and technology through a 30-year career? Odds are zero.

If you want to be marketable as an attractive employee, you will be in a learning mode throughout your career.

LEARNING OUTSIDE OF WORK

We can now acknowledge that lifelong learning for individuals in part will be voluntary, self-motivated and include elements of personal and professional development.

Your employer may provide some of the learning you’ll need, but a significant amount will come from you. Individuals have a responsibility to identify learning opportunities for themselves that will be transferable to the workplace.

Learning may be attending classes and conferences, reading books, social and professional interactions with others, podcasts and more. Even vacations, travel and leisure pursuits can have application to the continuous learning required by all.

It’s not uncommon to hear recruiters and others encouraging young college grads to travel and explore other parts of the world before entering the workforce to gain perspective outside academia.

INTELLECTUAL CURIOSITY

If we accept that to be successful in our working lives we must embrace continuous learning, is there such a thing as good learning vs. ineffective learning?

It’s a tough question that requires a bit of judgment.

At its heart, continuous learning implies being open to the new.

Continuous learning means embracing change and applying an intellectual curiosity to possibilities emerging or not completely known at any given point in time.

CHALLENGING IDEAS, ASSUMPTIONS

Learning is at times unlearning what we thought we knew. This is much tougher for some than for others.

Depending on how you as an individual interpret the world and make sense of your place in it, challenging existing ideas can be unsettling.

Sometimes, an entrenched point of view is the archenemy of learning. The harder that certain concepts and ideas are held as the only truth or possibility, the less probability that learning can occur.

Sometimes, learning requires us to challenge the assumptions we may have held our entire lives and have, perhaps, been a part how we’ve been successful. This is not always an easy task.

PERSONAL JOURNEY

There is no one blueprint that can be applied to every person so that he or she embraces continual learning.

Individuals will need to discover how this works for them.

However, everyone does have the capability to develop the attitude of embracing elements of continuous learning – knowing that to do otherwise will be limiting in the long run.

Marianne Chester is founder and CEO of mEnterprise Solutions LLC, a strategic services consultancy based in Stroudsburg. She can be reached at 570-460-9599 or mchester@menterprisesolutions.com.

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