For a very long time, the business world had a fairly narrow view of knowledge and education. The average employee’s life was divided into distinct phases: you went to college or technical school to get your education, and then you went to work. That was it.
But business is not what it once was: as innovation barrels along at a breakneck pace, modern companies are constantly evolving, adapting, and integrating new technologies. Even people who are in college right now will find much of their technological skill out of date within a few years of graduation. To combat this problem, professionals are turning to the philosophy of continuous learning.
This idea seems deceptively simple in theory, but it’s harder to put into practice. With so much of our cultural association with “learning” drawn from schools and classrooms, it can be difficult to get out of the mindset of education ending with a degree.
The key to adopting this philosophy is to look for opportunities to learn. There are incredible resources out there for those willing to look. Here are some phenomenal ways to grow your expertise and nurture your career:
- Attend a conference. Whether you’re listening to a keynote from an industry expert or just chatting with your peers, you’re practically guaranteed to learn something new.
- Join a professional association. A network of other professionals can help you conquer that problem you’ve been facing, or teach you something you didn’t even know was possible. There’s almost certainly some kind of association in your area. (If not, can you start one?)
- Gain a new skill — even if it’s not directly related to your field. Your brain is like a muscle. The more you work it, the stronger it becomes. Keep your learning pathways open by trying out a new hobby or interest. Who knows, it might even provide a new perspective you can bring to your work.
- Tap into online resources. The Internet is a big, big place, and there’s a nearly infinite amount of material out there just waiting to be accessed. Some of that material is total bunk, but some of it is high-quality training from the leading experts in the world. (Did you know you can take online courses on the Microsoft Virtual Academy for free?) In the digital age, there’s no reason you can’t be building your skills all the time.
These are just a few ways that you can turn yourself into a lifelong learner. Even one of these steps can make you a more valuable employee and help you take your career to the next level.