One thing has become clear in today’s modern context: lifelong learning is an imperative if you’re looking to invest in your career. Countless articles coming out of think-tanks and influencers across the globe confirm that the days of relying on your university degree from your twenties are over; continued education is necessary to stay competitive, relevant, and at the top of your game in our current marketplace.
Our most recent class at Labs, a nine-week intensive course covering everything from social media, photo and video marketing, and website building with WordPress, taught me a lot. Of course, I learned a HUGE amount of valuable and tangible information to help become a better marketer and how to utilize some key digital tools for brand-building.
What I didn’t expect to learn, however, is how difficult learning really is.
It’s been a long time since most of us (including myself) who are in the workforce have been in “traditional” school: most of us haven’t sat in a classroom since university days. Sitting in school years later, one thing became clear to me: learning is itself truly a skill, a habit, and a discipline all wrapped into one. And even if you sit in class, it doesn’t mean you’ll learn anything.
If you’re investing in some extended learning, here are a few tips to make sure that you get the most out of your educational experience.
- Do your research. While all learning is valuable (no question in that), the point is to ensure the school or class you’re spending time in is worth your time and effort. Get to know the school well: audit them on social media, speak to their founders or administrators to understand their values, know the target market for the courses to make sure you’re a fit, and be sure to audit their instructors as well. Instructors play a huge part in how your learning experience will go: a good teacher is a game-changer, always. Be sure you know what a “typical” or “ideal” student looks like for that particular school, and be sure to know what kind of instructors and teaching-styles they utilize. It’s hugely important for your success in the school or course.
- Come in with goals. The number-one mistake people make when enrolling in an extra-curricular program is not being sure what they actually want to achieve with it. One of the main reasons a course, program or educational experience ends up being lackluster is if the course is a wrong fit for your goals and needs from the get-go. Think hard about what your tangible goals are. Want to be able to confidently launch your side-business once the course is complete? Want to be fully comfortable using social media? Want to learn how to build a website? Once your goals are clear, you’ll be able to direct your learning throughout the duration of the course to make sure you end up achieving those goals. Be clear with what you want to learn from the outset – it’ll make a huge difference.
- Be present. Yes, it’s that simple. Don’t skip class: if you are enrolled in the right program, every class session provides value, insight, and tangible take-aways that will benefit you. Of course, life happens: kids get sick, your car doesn’t start, your in-laws show up to your house unannounced, etc. If you can’t show up, know what you missed, catch up on it, speak to fellow students or chat with the instructors. Showing up is important (and often half the battle), but being present is a whole other ballgame. Put your phone away, stop checking Instagram, leave your emails for later; listen intently, take notes during class, and ask questions. If you don’t understand something clearly, ask: it’s what you’re there for. Participate, engage, commit. The rewards will be enormous.
The downright necessity of learning has also become clear. Last week, I sat in a presentation by Edelman, a prominent global PR firm specializing in market research. One statistic jumped out at me: the highest source of “fear” Canadian employees have in regards to their job (regardless of industry) is due to the lack of skills development and training to stay competitive or risk being replaced. Indeed, almost 60% of Canadians felt that way. Incredible.
If we’re going to be investing in lifelong learning and development of new skills (or sharpening existing skills), modern education forms must be taken up. But remember: just because you take a class doesn’t mean you’ll learn anything. Learning how to learn is the first skill to acquire – after that, the sky is truly the limit in regards to what you can learn to grow your career.