It's back to school time, and as people agonize over jeans washes, the coolest color of Tom's shoes and de rigueur data appliances, I thought about all the unemployed people and all the under-employed people.
I got to wondering if many of us believe, because we have a certain degree, training or specific on-the-job experience, we are fully educated. Maybe we assume, degree or certificate in hand, that we have met all the requirements, and have no need to do more. We are all employable.
What if this assumption is exactly wrong? Who are we kidding?
I would argue, instead, that quick-changing economic and global times like these, when there are more lawyers than laws, more managers than products to be managed, more English and History degrees than anyone knows what to do with, is the time for more learning.
I'm not talking about conventional course and subject-focused education, but rather about becoming a Constant Learner – an explorer of ideas and methods, a tester of new things that can enhance your current career or assist you in finding a new one.
The central idea behind becoming a Constant Learner is to keep yourself fresh, open and passionate to help your career. Many people have read Who Moved My Cheese; a Constant Learner can chuckle at the memory, having moved his or her own cheese any number of times, at some risk to self, but with much benefit.
What is a Constant Learner? It's someone who:
- Always tries to do 15 – 25% more than what is required to get the job done
- Looks beyond the task to understand the context in which the task is meaningful
- Sees that he or she needs to acquire additional skills, open the mind to new ways of thinking, in order to stay fresh and keep ahead of expectations
- Realizes that what he or she has learned or experienced is a mere drop in the ocean of human experience – and hungers for more
The Constant Learner isn't described by a syllabus or curriculum. Instead, that person is marked by a constant curiosity, a need to understand the right and wrong in a situation and find an alternate path. He or she has the creativity to find the alternate path, and the strength of will to prevail when there is little indication that it is the right path.
Here are a few suggestions that might help you become a Constant Learner:
Join a Book Club. Yes, really. You will learn two things minimum: how to read and appreciate books you might not otherwise care to read, and how to socialize and communicate your understanding of new material within a group you might not otherwise encounter.
Take up a Form of Exercise You've Never Done. Take fencing lessons and learn precision, balance and restraint; take yoga and learn mindfulness and how to be quiet; take horseback riding and learn you can control a creature five+ times your size/weight and mass with a subtle nudge.
Take Metal-Smithing. Learn the release of bashing a piece of metal, and the awe of creating something of beauty out of a sheet of dull metal.
Take a Foreign Language. You will learn that, although you still don't have an ear for accents, you have the memory for grammar and syntax and a love of reading literature in its native tongue.
Take a Cooking Class. You will learn that baking is chemistry and cooking is intuition.
Become an Office Whiz. Take Excel or PowerPoint lessons and learn to master essential work tools. The idea is to stretch beyond your comfort zone and find, in that outer fringe, the ability to be a different, larger person, more nuanced and more open to new things.
New Classes, New Insight. Take a clinical psychology class, or a history class – something you never did as an undergraduate.
Expand your mind, refresh and hone your skills, discover there is always something new to learn, and joy in the knowing.
What will this get you? You will find a new energy, a passion to do new things, openness. The next time you interview for a job the hiring team will meet a person attuned to the possible, alive to new things, responsible for his or her own satisfaction, and most importantly, a person able to relate the value of what they have done and learned to the next job, and the next.
Make the investment in yourself, and let us know us what you learn.
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